“God is good! All the time!” is a phrase Christians are currently chanting. Is there anything that could be truer? The news that God is good does need to be held in our hearts and expressed with our lips. Yet in today’s passage, we find John, the greatest of all men, in a very bad place where the next thing he experiences is not going to feel like God’s goodness at all.
I wonder if John, in that moment was chanting to himself, “God is good all the time”? Based on the questions he entrusted to his disciples, uncertainty must have crept in about his cousin, his purpose and, I suspect, the goodness of God. It’s not surprising that in verse 23, Jesus makes one of His most profound statements….
And blessed is He who is not offended with me.
He then turns to everyone and asks….
What was it you were expecting to find when you went out to see John?.
To clarify who John really was, Jesus tells them he was the messenger sent before Him to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God. He then announces the least member of the kingdom of God has a better status than John, who until this time was the greatest man to have walked the earth. Wow!
Those on the lower social rung were on board with John. Those higher up the ladder – the Pharisees and the lawyers were not. Jesus asks them a rhetorical question….
To what then shall I compare the men of this generation. What are they like?
He says they are like those whose hearts have become song-less, hearts no longer having capacity for celebration or repentance. The only things operating in their religious hearts were selective compliance, pride and it’s favorite expression, condemnation.
No one had a better grasp of scripture than the Pharisees. No one better understood the Law than the lawyers. Yet, these learned men of status had only criticism for John and Jesus. The spin they used to explain the kingdom’s first ambassadors was creative; “They must be possessed.” They condemned Jesus because he didn’t follow the letter of the law and he hung out with sinners. What is Jesus trying to get across to us?
I believe it is this; if mastery of scripture could produce sons of God, the Pharisees and lawyers would have arrived. Jesus knew the Law, without the Spirit, would result in death-by-religion. He was brutal on the the religious because they were leading His sheep astray. They had become false reference points, misrepresenting God’s kingdom. How serious was this to Jesus?He said it would have been best for them if they had never been born.
Why would any citizen of the kingdom be greater than John? Because, to belong to the kingdom one must be born from woman and from the Spirit. This stumped Nicodemus too. Do you recall what Jesus said to him….
Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born again. Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”.
A man once asked me the most offensive question I had ever been posed to me, “Did you know you are filled with religion?” I started to protest, but I checked myself and instead (like Mary) just cherished (sarcasm intended) this question in my heart, holding it there until perhaps it would some day make sense. In that same season a doctor asked me an equally troubling question, “Mr. Cummins, did you know that your life is being driven by anger?”. I started my chant, “God is good all the time. God is good all the time.” Really?! Then why am I – Mr. Quiet Time, Mr. Elder – Worship Leader – Preacher coming off more like a son of Caiaphas than a son of God?!! The simple answer is that I had been infected with a RTD – a Religiously Transmitted Disease. I thought I had been inoculated and was immune from such troubles. Instead I was a religious Typhoid Robby.
This passage concludes with Jesus’ comment…..
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her children.
The wisdom from above may be peaceful but it is also foolish and offensive to those who are not governed by God’s Spirit. Ultimately, the wisdom from above will emerge in a family of childlike, dancing hearts who have broken free from their entanglements with religion and have learned to worship God in Spirit and Truth.
Father, may wisdom have her say in our hearts, exposing those places where we are unbalanced between Spirit and Truth. May our hearts not be offended when confronted with our own religiosity. May Wisdom be vindicated, bringing you the glory and honor due your name. Amen.
middlewithmystery.com is my story. The Lord encouraged me to tell it. It has much to do with how he has been curing me of my RTD’s, all the while cherishing me as a beloved son. I tell my story because being made of the same dust, we are all in some phase of our own cure. Our stories are powerful means of teaching, admonishing and encouraging to each other. Walking close enough to listening to each other is a big chunk of life together in-Christ.