March 7, 2016
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
If memory serves me (and it may not), we will find scant if any other references throughout the Gospels to what a person is wearing or what their clothes are made of or what they eat. Gospel writers don’t tend to waste words on such things—unless they matter. After all, I don’t remember them telling us a thing about what Jesus looked like or his choice of apparel or daily diet. So of all the things Matthew could have told us about the great prophet, John the Baptist, why this about his clothes and diet?
There’s a little prophet deja-vu going on here with the clothes and belt. How about this from 2 Kings?
7 The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?” 8 They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” 2 Kings 1:7-8.
Now about this diet. His food was locusts and wild honey. What Matthew is trying to tell us is he ate nothing else. (And I thought the Whole 30 diet was rough).
And why John was doing his work out in the wilderness, near the Jordan River? John locates himself strategically at the place of Israel’s first entry into the “Promised Land” as something of a divine sign that a re-do was afoot—a new exodus was on the horizon. John would not have been welcome in Jerusalem around the Temple precincts where the confession of sins normally happened. Could he also be signaling us that a new Temple was on the horizon?
John was a sign of the holy discontent of God with his people. That’s who prophets were and what they stood for. That the people flocked to him for this baptism of repentance demonstrated their own holy discontent with who they had become and more precisely, who they had failed to become.
Meanwhile, back at the religious ranch (i.e. Jerusalem), everything rolled along like clockwork—the 8:15, 9:30 and 11:00 services all happened on cue. Get this contrast in your mind. This is what it looks like when the Holy Spirit starts waking people up. The birth pangs of awakening begin when peoples’ dissatisfaction with all the problems surrounding them shifts to a deep place of holy discontent with themselves. Awakening begins to break forth when we finally realize we need prophets more than politicians; that elections will never solve our real problems. Awakening looms on the horizon like clouds bringing rain to a dry and weary land when we finally reach the painful conclusion that the problem is not you, but me. Awakening comes when we not only hear but heed the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight paths for him.”
Locusts anyone? Pass the honey. ;0)
1. What thoughts and feelings does John the Baptist and his work evoke in you?
2. What happens when you realize John is not building pews for an Amen corner filled with dissidents but an altar for humble men and women whose holy discontent fosters a desperation in them for awakening—starting with themselves?
3. How about you? What about your own holy discontent? Rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. Care to comment?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.