Thought for the Day by Peter Hemming (St Chad’s)
John the Baptist
In the Hebrew scriptures, the final book of the Tanakh (the Law, the Prophets and the Writings) is 2 Chronicles; this is the last few verses. 2 Chronicles takes the Jews ‘back to Jerusalem’. Here, in our Christian Bibles, our last book of the OT is Malachi which looks forward to our New Testament, the story of Jesus and the emerging church.
We read Malachi in this light – looking forwards to Jesus, as John the Baptist does. Yet, even though John was Jesus’ cousin (well that’s the idea) he didn’t really understand Jesus’ ministry and role.
Every day in Morning Prayer, the Gospel Canticle set is the Benedictus, (Luke 1 vv 68-79). We might be forgiven for thinking that John the Baptist, portrayed as ‘the one who will go before the face of the Lord to prepare the way for him’, must have ‘got it all right’!
Where ‘Legalistic remorse’ says, “I broke God’s rules”, and ‘Real repentance’ says, “I broke God’s heart”’, it seems as though John really thought that Jesus ought to be declaring God’s rules and making clear that the conservative and legalistic ‘Jewish’ position mattered.
Break the rules and you’re cut off from God.
Jesus on the other hand seems to have had other priorities! He appears to have been far less bothered about any formal Jewish position and more concerned with His chief role as the coming Messiah.
Later in Luke, we hear of John sending messengers to Jesus to ask: ‘“Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”’ At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, illnesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So, he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’ (Read Luke 7 vv 20-23)
Despite everything, Jesus was not what John expected the Messiah to be. He didn’t wade in heavily on Sin and keeping the Law; he was clearly far more accepting of the outsider; he was interested in showing that God’s love and care extended way beyond Judaism and God’s chosen people.
In Jesus we are all chosen.
Will you accept your ‘chosen-ness’ and respond to Jesus’ calling to be His disciple?