Wednesday, February 9, 2011


No one anticipated or celebrated the coming of Christ more than his cousin John the Baptist.   He was the first to proclaim Jesus publicly.  Behold the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.  He acknowledged the greatness of Jesus and humbled himself.  I am not worthy to baptize you.  He pointed his followers to Jesus.  He must become greater and I must become less.  He was the forerunner of Christ foretold by Isaiah.  He was a divine gift given to aging, barren parents.  Jesus said of him, among those born of women there is no one greater.  
But instead of being blessed with popularity, prosperity, and a long life, John was thrown into prison and eventually beheaded.  As he sat in his cell and awaited his fate, he began to question what he believed--until finally he sent someone to ask Jesus, Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?
(Hey Jesus, I thought you were the Messiah.  I mean I saw the dove and all and God told me that was the sign.  But now I'm not sure.  I mean, where's the kingdom?  Where's the power?  And why am I sitting here in prison????)

Jesus responded, 
Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Then he added this...
Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me. 

Why would anyone fall away on account of someone who is giving sight to the blind, making lame people walk, curing leprosy, opening ears, and raising the dead?  Unless of course he doesn't.  Unless you are sitting in a prison cell and not a single miracle is coming your way--not today, not tomorrow, not ever.  Surely if anyone deserved a miracle, John did.  If anyone deserved deliverance, John did.  Jesus had the power to save John and he didn't.

Blessed is the man who doesn't fall away on account of the One who does all this for others, but who sometimes leaves you in your prison, with death just outside the door.  (Mark Buchanan, Things Unseen)
Jesus declared the most unlikely people blessed--the poor, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst, those who are persecuted.  He told Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.  So why are the poor, persecuted, grieving people who have never touched the risen Christ or received one of his miracles blessed?  Perhaps it's because those people are forced to walk by faith.

Faith is the the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1)  Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (11:6).

Your faith cannot be dependent upon whether or not your child is healed, whether or not you get the promotion you deserve, whether or not this life is "fair".  If your faith depends on what happens to you in this life, then the Bible says you are to be pitied. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied above all others. (1Cor.15:19)

Miracles are meant to point to something bigger, more real, more alive, than themselves.  But when faith comes to depend on miracles, it ends up mistaking the sign for the destination, the shadow for the substance...Blessed are those who don't need the sign or the shadow.  (Things Unseen)

Blessed are those who believe regardless of whether or not their sickness is cured, their relationship is mended, or their business is profitable.  Blessed are those who are not relying on signs or shadows.  Blessed are those who are seeking someone and not something.

We hope in Christ not just because He feeds us, or heals us, or routs our enemies.  Indeed, sometimes he doesn't do any of that; sometimes He turns us away empty-bellied, cancer-ridden, defeated.  No, we hope in Christ because of who He is, because He has the words of eternal life, and because anyone who feeds on this bread will live forever. (Things Unseen)

Blessed are those who do not fall away on account of Jesus.

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