It’s so easy today to walk into any church and get a “word” for you to live by. Modern day prophets are not shy of saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” And although I don’t deny that there are legit men and women out there hearing from God, most of these “words” are whatever pops into the speaker’s mind or maybe even something more evil, a purposeful “word” to win favor or for some sort of profit.
I’m at times a skeptical person. I take everything with a grain of salt. So when someone starts to give me a “word” or I hear that “this” happened over there, I tend to be cautious. I wonder how I would have responded when John the Baptist showed up on the scene, preaching and baptizing in the wilderness of Judea?
How did people hear about him? He didn’t send out a Tweet, post a new Facebook status or get featured by the local news. Someone must have passed by when he was preaching to the rocks…or crickets that he was eating or bees from the hive he was getting his honey.
I can see it now.
A Chance Encounter?
Jacob Jr. is looking for one of his little lost sheep and he hears this guy talking to someone. He sneaks up on him to see what is going on and realizes he is talking to himself. Later that afternoon he tells his dad and his dad warns him to stay away from crazy people. But, Jacob Jr. is a curious little boy and starts to talk about it with his friends while they’re throwing pebbles at the neighbor’s chicken. The boys are intrigued and decide to go out to see if the crazy man is still there.
The next day, they adventure out to the Jordan river to see the crazy man who is dressed in camel’s hair and has some honey sticking to his beard. And sure enough, they see and hear the crazy man again. One of the boys gets closer and slips on a rock, getting the crazy man’s attention. As he turns around, the boys gasp at being found out and run from their hiding places all the way home, always feeling like the crazy man is just ready to reach out and grab them.
One of they boy’s mom sees them running like scared rabbits and asks them what is going on. “The crazy man in the wilderness tried to attack us.” Upset, the mom discussed this with some of the men in the neighborhood and they decide to go deal with the crazy man before some kid gets assaulted.
They head out to find the crazy man who eats bugs and honey and is dressed like a caveman. And sure enough, as they approach the place the boys last saw him, they start to hear the crazy man talking out loud. First, a little softer, but then louder, bolder, more serious, with power as they walk closer. The hairs on the back of their neck start to all stand up as they hear him…
“Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”
They stop in their tracks, hearts beating fast as they realize they are in the presence of something they have never really experienced before. They inch closer and gaze on this crazy man. His eyes meet their eyes. They suddenly become aware they are not worthy.
They feel dirty. They feel sick. They feel condemned. They are dead men walking. They know that what this man is saying is true. They need to repent.
Their hearts compel them to move forward, closer to the crazy man as he beckons them to the water.
“I baptize you with water for repentance,but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn. But the chaff He will burn up with fire that never goes out.” Matthew 3:11-12 HCSB
One by one, water is poured on their head. The water forms ripples on the top of the water. Nothing else stirs. Nothing else moves. The sun continues to shine, the breeze continues to blow. But in Heaven….in Heaven, the wildest celebration of joy rings through the angel hosts as they witness the doors to the Kingdom of God swinging wide open. Nothing has changed and everything has changed.
The men walk home in silence.
At home, a crowd of neighbors has gathered, waiting to hear the news on how the crazy man was sent packing. Instead, they witnessed something they didn’t expect. They witnessed changed men.
Ok, it didn’t happen exactly like that. At least, we don’t read that in the Bible.
But I hope this short story serves to underscore the need and work of repentance. It is the first step in accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. There is something powerful that happens. Men and women become very aware of their need for saving grace in their life. They reach out to Jesus and He meets them right where they are.
But there is more to the story…