Two Kinds of Apostles: Which Are You?
Devotional THought of the day:
6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.
19 This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’ ”24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?” 26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” 28 This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. John 1:6–8, 19–28
This morning a group of pastors and I gathered around an altar, and then a table. During our time for communion, and then later, this passage formed the basis for our conversation. The attitude of John the baptist. This is a summary of my devotion.
You know in this passage there are two types of disciples, and in our own ministry we have to choose which we are, and which type we will encourage our people to be.
The first type of apostle is John. He’s the sent one, the apostle’d one. The one that comes from God to bring a message – a message that affects his very life. He pours his life into the message, and he will have his up and downtimes. But he is not just a messenger, he is a martyr, a witness (martyr is a Greek word for witness – but the witness is willing to die to prove their truthfulness) to the work of God, and to the message God has given him to share. The Holy Spirit is working through him, and the results are evident. Those who hear the word are granted repentance, and will be cleansed of their sins.
That’s not to say he is perfect. We will struggle with faith while imprisoned because of the faith. He trusts in God, and yet, the despair can reach in, and he knows he needs to be reminded again of the promises of God. John knows who he is in relationship to the messiah, yet his message is to point to Jesus, where we will find hope, mercy and the love of God.
The priests and levites (temple assistants) are also sent, but by man.
Look at the attitude of these ecclesiastical visitors, these men who are sent.
They demand to know who John is, they have their checklist, they want to know why John is caring for the needs of the people they were supposed to shepherd and serve. They are all about the examination of John, ignoring the needs that are being met, ignoring the response of people whose lives are being cleansed and cleared of sin. They know the limits of their authority and responsibility only in view of those who sent them, their message is to bring back an evaluation, answers to whether the ministry is done well and proper.
How different is God’s messenger, who humbly gets down in the water, who serves, who doesn’t demand an answer, but gives the answer, the answer full of hope, the answer that will reveal the depth of the love of God. That’s his message, as imperfect and outrageous he is. His message is from a humble man – to other men. Truly a cry of brokenness and despair, a call to make ready the way for the Messiah for everyone.
And people listen, they hear his message and respond…… they know He is there to bring them a message of repentance and yes hope. I really like how Luther explains it:
Build up, build up, prepare the way. “Behold, this person shall become a preacher for you, because one who will trust in Me will be full of the Spirit so that he is able also to teach others.” Now, this is the voice: Build up, as John says, “Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). The preacher must first reprove the world, so that they may repent and remove the roadblocks, that is, their own righteousnesses and religions. The preacher’s first message is to teach penitence, remove offenses, proclaim the Law, humiliate ( I would rather see this as the verb humble) and terrify the sinners. No one can do this but a godly preacher. Hypocrites cannot preach this way because they do not truly feel sins.[i]
John is sent/apostoled/given the mission by God. He knows the brokenness of sin, and the blessings of God’s promised mercy. The apostles of men can’t know that, they haven’t witnessed it personally, they don’t know this love, this grace, this overwhelming peace. That’s the difference, the difference that all of us, sent by Jesus into the world, clergy, laity, pastor, prophet and simple witness need to realize. THe message only gives hope, it can only transform and bring faith and repentance, if it is a witness to the work of jesus..
May we indeed bring a message to others of what we’ve seen God do, that they too may believe!
[i] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 17, p. 277). Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Posted on December 9, 2014, in Sermons and tagged Abiding in Christ, apostolate, brokeness, Ministry, ministry from weakness, Missional, preacher, Sent, sin, walking with God. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.