I have been struggling all day with the Bible’s words. This morning, the Bible opened to Luke, where Jesus talks about John the Baptist. There is a similar passage in Matthew. I read both, read the footnotes and read a few commentaries, and I am still not sure what Jesus is telling me:
I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
“Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
The best I can discern is that Jesus is telling us that as great as John was, he preceded the kingdom of heaven. He preceded Jesus’ death and resurrection, preceded Jesus’ opening the gates of heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit. My first thought is how fortunate am I to have been born when I was. My second thought is one of utter awe and amazement. I am suddenly struck by just how huge Jesus’s coming was. Jesus’ love and grace changed the world — changed heaven. And there is no way to compare what was before with what occurred after. And there is no way for me to truly comprehend life before Christ.
I continue to be amazed by you. By your love and grace. By your words and plan. I am humbled. I know that it is a gift of which I am not worthy and yet is freely given. I seek your wisdom. I seek you. Help me to listen so that I might see.
It’s time to get ready to go back to work after a 4 day weekend celebrating the birth of our country. It seems like there have been fireworks for the last 4 nights, and I am sure, plenty of oohs and ahhs. The Bible tonight opened to John the Baptist providing rebirth through baptism and foretelling of Jesus:
“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Matthew tells us that Jesus has His own fireworks for us — baptism through the Holy Spirit! Imagine those fireworks, the oohs and the ahhs created by the fire from the Holy Spirit. Close your eyes from the world before you, the computer or phone screen, the man made fireworks or electronic flashes of light and feel the Holy Spirit surrounding you. Better than any lightshow on earth.
Now I know in this passage John talks about Jesus separating the good from the bad. He will gather his wheat in his barn and the chaff he will burn. I quickly googled “chaff” and one of its definitions is “worthless things; trash”. But as I read this passage tonight, I don’t know that Jesus separates out the trash to dispose of it, as I used to think when I read this passage. Thank goodness — because I know I feel like chaff more often than I feel like wheat! Are any of us really the wheat ready to be gathered? So what becomes of us? John says He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. But John has just told us that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. So is it bad to be burned with fire? Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to baptize us. Even if we are just the chaff, if we go to Jesus, if we repent, if we ask for the Holy Spirit, then the fire that will burn is the fire of the Holy Spirit. And for those of us who may be chaff, don’t we need the Holy Spirit more than those who are already the good wheat gathered in heaven (Jesus’ barn)? Jesus sends us the right fire — even when we feel worthless, even when we feel like trash, even when our actions may have been trash — He offers us rebirth. He offers us help through the Holy Spirit — we just need to accept it.
I am sorry for my sins. I am sorry for the times I have not placed you first. Help me to grow into the hearty wheat. I am ready to be baptized by the Holy Spirit! Send me your fireworks!