Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Did You Go Out to See

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As these men went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind?
Matthew 11:7 (HCSB)
Jesus as you recall had just responded to John's disciples about whether he was the one. He now turns his attention to the crowd. He asks three rhetorical questions. "Did you go to see a reed swaying in the wind? Dis you go to see a man dress in fine clothes? Or did you go to see a prophet?"

Did you go to see a reed swaying in the wind?
There is a strong possibility that this was a political comment intended to mean Herod Antipas. Antipas built his palace on the sea of Galilee. He called the town he built Tiberius. He had one problem though. He built the town over an old graveyard. This made the town ritually unclean. He then settled the town with foreigners and slaves that had gained their freedom. In commemoration of the completion of the town he had coins minted. On the coin he had Lural Leaves on the reverse side of the coin celebrating Caesar Tiberius. On the obverse side has a reed. It was custom to put one's own likeness on the coin=, but Antipas knew that the Jews disliked the image of men on coins (thinking it was a form of idolatry) so he opted to put the reed out of respect. You can notice the coins here.
So the people that Jesus was talking to would have recognized the reed as referring to Antipas. But was does it mean a reed swaying? The image is one of instability. A reed moves based on the direction the wind happens to be blowing. Antipas was a political king. He moved based on what others thought about him and his kingship.
Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
Ephesians 4:14 (HCSB)
We can fall into being moved by the winds of the moment. I want to share with you Christian fads that have driven the Church to and fro over the recent pass. As a read this bear in mind that I am not saying these are all bad. Many are quite good and I have been a part of them myself. But they become poor substitutes when we do not allow them to point us toward Christ and His word. Maybe you will recognize them as well. Here is my list of "Christian Fads"
Christian Fads
Prayer of Jabez
Purpose Driven Life
Life Coaching
Emergent Church
True Love Waits
Experiencing God
Promise Keepers
Woman of Faith
Left Behind
Becoming a Contagious Christian
Bill Gothard Seminar
Love and respect
Bondage Breakers
Spiritual Gifts inventory
Every man's battle
Love Dare
90 Minutes in Heaven
CS Lewis
Five Love Languages
Celebrate Recovery
Bible Study Fellowship
FAITH Evangelism
Operation Multiplication
Theophostic Prayer
Strong willed child
Sacred Marriage
Search for Significance
Survival Kit
Christian Tattoos
Predicting the second coming
The Jesus Film
Weigh down workshop
High Tech Worship
Altar Call
Sinners Prayer
Here's Hope Jesus Cares for you
My goal was to offend everyone equally. So if I missed your favorite fad then just imagine that I put it up there. My point is this: we human beings tend to be moved by the winds of the time. If we are not careful even things that are designed for our good can leave us tossed about without any solid footing. We look for replacement spirituality when God wants to give use redeemed spirituality.
From a political perspective we can also be led astray. We are entering a political season. We as Christians ought to be informed, thoughtful , and aware of the values of the candidates that we are voting office. Voting in our country is not only a priviledge but a responsibility. We can easily lose it if we do not exercise it. That being said we have to be on guard that we do not get caught up in the political winds that we might be tossed about. Our political leaders do not save us. They do not save our country. They often will tell us one thing to get in office and then enact their agenda once they are in. It does not matter if you are Republican or Democrat if you are looking to our political system (as marvelous as it is) to solve issues of the human condition then you will be tossed about and very disappointed. There is only one cure for what spiritually troubles mankind and that is Jesus Christ.
Did you go to see people in fine clothes?
Jesus moved on from Antipas to the courtiers that surrounded him.
What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings' palaces.
Matthew 11:8 (HCSB)
It would seem that Antipas surrounded himself with people of wealth and position. He was not surrounded by the common people of his day (though he did fear them). One group of note was the Herodians. The Herodians were a group that were in support of the Herod family Dynasty. They were a political and religious group closely aligned with Sadducees. Like the Sadducees they did not believe in the afterlife nor in the resurrection. They share an interesting history with the Herod family. It started with a man named Boethus. He was an influential religious leader and both the Herodians and Sadducees can trace their origin back to his teaching. Boethus had a son Simon that was a Priest. Simon had a very attractive Daughter. Herod the Great saw his daughter and determined to have her. He did not want to just take her so he decided to marry her (keep in mind he had other wives). However Simon was not in a position of prestige worthy of having a King marry his daughter. So he repaced the High Priest of the Jews and made Simon High Priest in his place. Her name was Marriamne. Recall she is the mother of Philip who married Herodias. And recall that Antipas later married Herodias. This family would make a good miniseries with all the intrigue and connections. Keeping up with the Herodians. Kind of has a ring to it.
Back to the Herodians the political and religious group. This group tended to be most followed by the wealthy and affluent part of the culture. In fact they tended to live it up because this was the only life we have in their belief. They had very little pull with the common people. The Pharisees had more influence with the general public. So the political power of the Herodians was that they were in the kings palace. They had direct influence based on their position with the king.
This is an interesting contrast with John the Baptist. These people in soft fine clothes lived in the place with all the privileges of life. John on the other hand lived in the wilderness eating locusts wearing camel hair garments (a very rough and inexpensive garment). And now while they are living it up in the palace, John is languishing in the jail.
As I have mentioned before we can fall into being tossed about by fads or political endevors. We can also fall short when wealth and position is our greatest aim. We can also fall into idolizing the wealthy and those of high position if we are not on guard. Trusting in the rich and famous is a poor substitute for genuine faith in Jesus Christ.
Did you go to see a Prophet?
Jesus announced a resounding yes, but that is not all.
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the one it is written about: Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You; he will prepare Your way before You.
Matthew 11:9-10 (HCSB)
The people thought of John the Baptist as a prophet. John the Baptist was more than a prophet. He was the prophet that was to usher in the Kingdom of God. All other prophets were sharing the Word of God in the hope of His coming. John on the other hand was to announce His coming.
"See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming," says the LORD of Hosts.
Malachi 3:1 (HCSB)
John was the messenger that was told of in Malachi. He was the one that was to clear the way before another messenger. This passage is clearly messianic. Jesus by pointing to this passage was subtly saying that he was the messenger of the new covenant.
A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the LORD in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
Isaiah 40:3 (HCSB)
John was the prophet of prophets. That is why Jesus says of John the Baptist:
"I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared,
Matthew 11:11 (HCSB)
John is the greatest of Old Testament prophets. He is the one that others looked for and hoped for. But he was not everything. In fact Jesus continues by saying, "but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
Why would Jesus say that John was below the least in the kingdom. This seems a very confusing statement. I believe that Jesus is say that John's message in inferior to the message of Christ. John the Baptist preached repentance and righteousness. He also preached the coming Savior. His was a very important message. However his message did not save souls.
A Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was powerful in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught the things about Jesus accurately, although he knew only John's baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately. When he wanted to cross over to Achaia, the brothers wrote to the disciples urging them to welcome him. After he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating through the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.
Acts 18:24-28 (HCSB)
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" "No," they told him, "we haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." "Then what baptism were you baptized with?" he asked them. "With John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the One who would come after him, that is, in Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in other languages and to prophesy. Now there were about 12 men in all.
Acts 19:1-7 (HCSB)
So here were Twelve Disciples of John that were faithfully following his teaching, but still had missed the most important message of all. They had not herd the message of Christ. That is they had not heard and received the gift of salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
Do we have on inferior gospel? Sometimes I worry that we might. I started earlier talking about Christian Fads. More than that we can often get very excited about the teachings of Godly Men and become their followers. We buy all their books, listen to their sermons, attend their conferences. But are we putting our trust in an inferior Gospel. It is one of turning your life around and living a righteous and upright life to be sure, but is it like these poor fellows who with great zeal preached repentance, but never learned about the One who would come after him.
Even in our own witness do we preach repentance without a savior. I think we do sometimes when we do not give credit where credit is due. Consider these lyrics:
I'm scared to wander outside major keys
So I sing a song that I wrote just to please
The fools and the fakes afraid just like me to be...honest

So I play pretend with my smile painted on
At best I'm a clown and at worst I'm a con
Convincing the crowd and myself nothing's wrong to be...honest

My soul is trembling
Knowing they're listening
But all that I need to be
Is all that You're making me

I'm leaving the stage
You can turn my lights down
The curtains are closed
And I'm taking my bow
Lord help me remember
Cause I forget how to be honest

And I rewrote my story without tragedy
Left out the lines that reveal I am weak
Erased every reason for You to save me
To be...honest
We preach ourselves when we are not completely honest about our need of a savior. Let me just make it clear as a possibly can. I am nothing, nothing, nothing without Jesus Christ in my life. Do not look to me for answers. If I have any answers at all it is because Jesus has given them to me by His word and His Spirit. I am thankful for the wonder of His grace and mercy.


What can we say then? We can be tossed about by Christian Fads or trusting in politics. We can be enamored with people of wealth, position, and power. We can preach an inferior Gospel if all we tell people is the need of repentance, but fail to show them the savior either in word or in deed. It is time to preach the real Gospel about the One that can change lives and save souls. It is time to preach the name of Jesus Christ. John said, "He must increase, I must decrease." What a perfect statement. Lord I pray that this would be my theme. I decrease and You increase in my life.


Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of Yahweh our God. Psalm 20:7 (HCSB)
Jesus is my Yahweh, Jesus is my God
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