Up until now, Luke has shown us the ministry of Jesus in and around Galilee. This week will arrive at a turning point. Christ will allow his identity to sink in with his disciples and then turn toward Jerusalem.
Dear heavenly Father,
We believe that Jesus is the Christ, your Son in whom you are well pleased, the Holy One of God. We can see that he exercises authority over nature and the spirit world. We understand that he exercises divine authority because he is God – such as declaring us forgiven of our sins. He has the right to demand our complete loyalty and trust for the same reason. He is God.
We accept that following Jesus means we need to be open to being sent out in various ways to serve him. It means we will have to trust him when that service goes beyond our abilities.
Please help us to see him as fully God as well as one of us, and to see ourselves as no better than others. Please make us willing to give him our complete loyalty and devotion regardless of the sacrifice that requires.
Our Father in heaven,
In sending your Son, you gave us a person who we can watch, listen to, learn from and follow. Help us to be receptive to all that Christ wants to teach us. In other words, give us “ears to hear.” Help us to trust that you have everything under control, even when some of the circumstances in our lives seem out of control from our perspective.
We know that Jesus has all power over raging storms, physical illness, armies of demons and even death. Let us always be ready to seek Christ’s help and to follow him all the days of our lives. This is obviously what you, as our Father, want for us.
Dear Father in heaven,
We come before you in humility knowing that in ourselves there is nothing that would make us worthy to have you listen to our prayers. We truly have nothing to offer but our faith in Christ. We know that he came to proclaim forgiveness to sinners like ourselves, so we ask you to cleanse us of our sins.
We ask you to make us faithful intercessors, much like the centurion, with respect to those we love. Please hear the prayers that we offer up for others.
Help us to remain faithful in the midst of our own trials, even as John had to remain faithful in prison.
And as we recognize how great your forgiveness has been toward us, make us people who would show you great love.
After Jesus reassured the crowd that John the Baptist was pretty much the greatest man that ever lived, the tax collectors and various others present were satisfied. Not so much the Pharisees and lawyers, who rejected Jesus after rejecting John. Jesus went on to describe their response, or the lack of one.
31 To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.
Pastors and churches like to be relevant, and that is great – to a point. There is a temptation to let our thinking run wild in that direction. We may daydream, “Well, if we can only do this, and add this, talk like this, dress like this, and change the decor to this, then …”
The responses to John the Baptist and Jesus provide some much-needed counterweight to that tendency.
It would be hard to find two personalities or presentation styles that contrasted more starkly than Jesus and John. John was famous for wearing rough clothing, preaching in the wilderness and eating mainly bugs. Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. He never seemed to turn down a free dinner or an invitation to a party. Rather than hanging out strictly in the wilderness, he wandered all over the countryside and traveled by water. He was found in the towns and cities of Galilee, in the synagogues or on the seashore, and then in Jerusalem for the holidays.
The message of both these men, however, was more or less the same. It may have sounded different, or looked different, if one looked at the messenger. But they mainly agreed that repentance from sin was needed, and that good works were a corollary to faith. Jesus drew people to himself, which John did not, but then John also pointed people to Jesus.
In the end what they said differed little. The difference was in how they said it. So what was the difference in response? Well, there was none. The same people who followed John also went after Jesus. Those who rejected John rejected Christ.
Jesus compares his detractors to children in the marketplace that won’t join the game no matter what game is being played.
“Let’s dance!” one shouts, and begins playing a flute. No response.
“How about a nice dirge!” (OK, it’s a weird idea, but Jesus is just making a point.) No response in that case either.
For those of us who are attracted to making the message relevant, let this be a caution. Sometimes, if we are faithful to the message itself, how we say it won’t make any difference.