Monday, October 17, 2011

A Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone?

Many of you know who I'm talking about when I mention John the Baptist.  But for those of you who don't... let me give you a quick run down:

John was Jesus's cousin.  He told people that soon, the Son of God would be on the scene.  Basically, he prepared the way for Christ... but I don't know how prepared he was for his own precarious future!  You see, in a nutshell, John was letting people know that King Herod had an affair and married his brothers wife, Herodias (after she divorced King Herod's brother).  That didn't set too well with the King and was especially embarrassing for his new wife, Herodias.

It's not a pretty picture and it doesn't end well for John.  The beginning of John's most difficult trial began when he was thrown into prison.

So why did I remind you of this historical fact?  What does it have to do with the here and now?

Keep reading.

Imagine what you would feel like if you were in John's position. There you sit.  The man who proclaimed to the world that the Son of God was coming.  Jesus comes.  Heals people left and right.Casts out demons.  Miracles have become a daily occurrence...and there you sit in a dark, musty, dungeon at the mercy of a King who was known for his cruelty.  What would you think?  How would you be feeling?  Could it be that you would begin to wonder about this "Son of God" named Jesus?  Seems like He would save the very man that prepared the way for the Messiah!?

So, John's world is now his prison cell.  His pain, his hurts, his confusion ...whatever emotions he may have had...threatened to overwhelm him.  Imagine being left alone in that environment.  His world was no bigger than the dank dungeon he sat in and as time passed, he began to doubt..question...wonder.  "Is Jesus really who He says He is?

Then John asked the disciples who came to visit him if they would ask Jesus if  He really was " the one...or if they should be looking for someone else"?  I mean, supernatural occurrences and amazing wonders had resulted in healings for countless people... what about John?  Where was John's miracle that he so desperately needed?  Didn't Jesus care about him?

The disciples asked Jesus that question.  Know what Jesus said?

Yes, many people are being healed.

 "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor."  Matthew 11:5

So, John may have thought ... "What about me?"  "What am I - chopped liver?"  (Okay...maybe he didn't say the part about the liver).

But Jesus asked the disciples to tell John one more very important thing. And the message that Jesus wanted John to get - is the same message He wants us to have.

 "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me."

What does that mean?  Most versions say something along the lines of:  "Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."

But in the Greek, the word for "not offended" is a word whose primary meaning has to do with stumbling.
That is why I like the version:

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.

What an awesome thing to say...Jesus is acknowledging in those few words, that life is going to be different for everyone.  The way God chooses to work will be unique to each individual.  Some people will experience His miraculous works in one way, others will experience His miraculous grace in a whole different light.  But people, being people, will compare.  "Hey, God did this for so and so... why isn't He doing the same thing for me?"

Because God loves the entire world, full of people who are unique and varied.  Everybody responds differently to God's work and consequently God needs to work differently in peoples lives.  He sees the big picture.  We don't.

That is why it is so important that we listen to the last message John received from Christ.

"Blessed is ANYONE who does not stumble on account of ME."

It's true that many people get disgruntled with Jesus when He doesn't do things the way they think He ought to. Fortunately, there are other people who think differently. The question can be asked. Is Jesus...

A Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone?


Clint said...

For we live by faith and not by sight.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Since I live in a town called San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist), which I psuedonymize on my blog as St. Ignatio, it is hard for me to imagine anyone who does not know who St. John the Baptist is. Nice post to bring him and your message to the attention of others. Jesus is no stumbling block, but rather a stepping stone -- if we let Him take our hand and lift us up. Wishing you a blessed Advent.