It’s not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33)
There is no need to fear. Nothing improper is going to happen to John the Baptist. This great prophet and herald has offended both religious and civil authorities and is going to pay with his head. And, just as John has announced, Jesus has come. He also will offend both civil and religious authorities. He too will pay with his life. It seems those in control prefer to stay that way.
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)
The kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is at hand? Repent? Repent of what? Believe? Believe in what? I believe these were all reasonable questions. I suspect every one who saw John and Jesus pointing at this so-called kingdom were baffled as to what these Seers claimed to be seeing. For those who already believed in the God of Israel, what could they do in response to this message except to resolve to be better Jews and hope more fervently that Israel would prevail against her enemies? With the information available, the only external application they had was to do what they already knew to do, except with greater commitment.
Are we that different? What have we done with the kingdom of God? We have certainly not treated it as if it were at hand or among us. Most evangelicals have translated kingdom of God into heaven and pushed it out beyond them to a dispensation made possible when the world, the flesh and the devil have been removed from the equation. What is left to man inside this vision? Church attendance? Church involvement? Missions? Holiness? How about a greater commitment to church attendance, involvement, missions or holiness? What about repentance of all notions comprised of doubling down on the status quo?
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. (Mark 1:16-20)
As a fisherman, I am always asking myself, what bait should I cast? The Wiggle Wort? The Bayou Boogie? Most often, for me its the Texas-rigged 7 1/2″ Silver Shad Culprit rubber worm. I’m a bit religious about this. I am also an apostate to the FPFC (Floyd’s Pond Fisherman’s Code) – the established understandings of tube fishermen in Northwest Oklahoma (which shuns rubber worms). There…I have confessed and am I am willing to accept my lashes. (But you should have seen the bass I caught yesterday on a rubber worm!) How easily I digress.
As a fisherman, I am stunned how quickly God hooked Simon and Andrew, and James and John. What was the bait God cast to these men? Whether you are fishing for bass or men, the key is always authenticity. The four original disciples followed Jesus because He was authentic. Like the bass, the disciples did not understand why they bit on His proposal to leave everything and follow Him. They just knew there was nothing artificial about Jesus. They knew in their gut that Jesus was the real deal.
Oh yes, I forgot the hallowed Pop-R! It is my beloved all-time favorite top water lure. It can just be minding it own business, making it’s intermittent splashes with my assistance (looking every bit like a floating t-bone steak to a bass) and just get slaughtered from below. I think Jesus would have liked to see us respond like this to Him and His kingdom invitation. But we too prefer to stay in control. If we take that bait, we are going to be drug around and led to places we do not want to go. We know that we will thrash about and then we will die. And…we will be correct, but short sighted.
When God landed the original four disciples with Jesus (His only lure) He reeled them in and they did die, but in return He gave them Life. In fact He was the meal they had always craved. He was the Bread of Life. They had to die to the idea that the Kingdom of God was an earthly kingdom. They had to die to their preconceived notions about everything! Especially, they had to die to the idea that they were in control of their lives. There was definitely some thrashing about as they felt those kingdom hooks penetrating their leather-hardened suppositions about reality. There was plenty of resistance as they realized Jesus was overthrowing their kingdoms so that He might build His. Yet in return, they received the Life of God. They surrendered control of their hearts to Jesus. They lost everything and gained eternity.
Father, I pray that we might repent of our westernized good news – where we remain in control. May we repent of this error and embrace the actual good news – where you gain control. I pray that we might exchange our truncated-gospel for the full-gospel which includes our crosses. Even if we offend civil or religious authorities; even if we ourselves are offended, may we loose control of our lives that we might discover You as our Life as well as Your never-ending kingdom. Raise up your prophets Lord who see Your kingdom – who carry this vision – who know and can convey that Your kingdom is at hand. Amen.