Luke 7:24-28 (CEV)
24 After John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John:
What kind of person did you go out to the desert to see? Was he like tall grass blown about by the wind? 25 What kind of man did you really go out to see? Was he someone dressed in fine clothes? People who wear expensive clothes and live in luxury are in the king’s palace. 26 What then did you go out to see? Was he a prophet? He certainly was! I tell you that he was more than a prophet. 27 In the Scriptures, God calls John his messenger and says, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you to get things ready for you.” 28 No one ever born on this earth is greater than John. But whoever is least important in God’s kingdom is greater than John.
There’s a group that goes to the Wild Goose Festival every year, called Desanka.
The first summer we went to Wild Goose, this older teenager showed up in the “welcome” session with dreadlocks and a big sign, looking very “new-agey” encouraging everyone to come by Desanka while we were there. She told us they had free food and Dream Interpretations and Tattoo Interpretations, Father blessings and Mother blessings, Psalm Interpretations and Destiny Prophecies.
I thought it sounded pretty darn weird, but after wandering around the edges of a bunch of really big name speakers one afternoon I found myself drawn over to their tent – then somehow found myself sitting down to talk to them. And over the course of the following hour I discovered some truths about myself, found some healing for some broken places and came face to face with a little bit more of God’s love for me from some of the most profoundly connected Jesus followers I have ever had the privilege of meeting.
John was also a weirdo. He lived out in the desert. He wore funny clothes. He ate funny food. But something drew people out to him. And as we saw a few weeks ago, when they got there, they discovered truths about themselves, they were challenged to repent – to turn from an old, broken way of thinking and choose a new, more whole and right way of thinking – and they came face to face with one who offered a taste of God’s love to them.
And I think this is what prophets do. No, they’re not always dressed up in weird clothes or eating funny food, but they do often sit on the edges of our space – a little outside of the bustle and hum of everyday life. And although they often have doom and gloom messages, those messages are almost always for those in power and those with prestige. To the lowly, to the misfit, to the outcast, to the impoverished and broken, even to the messed up sinner, there is almost always a message of hope, a message of reconnection with God, and a new way of living offered up instead.
Jesus tells us today that John is a prophet – that his words of hope and calls for repentance can be trusted – but that he’s also more than just a prophet. He’s the Messenger. The one that the prophet Malachi promised would come ahead of the Messiah. The one that Malachi said wasn’t just a messenger for God, but the Messenger – God come in the flesh.
Which is Jesus’ roundabout way of telling them that he’s the Messiah – he’s God-in-Flesh – he’s the one they’ve been waiting for. He’s the promise they’ve been praying for and seeking after. He’s arrived, and he’s here, and part of the proof is in John.
The point of a prophet isn’t to scare other people or make us feel cozy or safe.
The point of a prophet is often to use that which is uncomfortable or surprising to jolt us out of our false idea that everything is fine just as it is.
But ultimately the point of a prophet – our measure of whether we should listen to a prophet or not – is to bring us closer to being able to see Jesus – closer to understanding who Jesus is – and sometimes we need a bit of a surprise to help us stop long enough to listen.Journal Questions:
- How do you measure the words someone offers?
- When someone says that they speak for God, how do you check if they’re telling the truth or not?
- Can I suggest asking the following questions:
- Is their purpose to create fear or to breathe love?
- Do they desire to make us comfortable with the status quo of our brokenness, or to challenge us to seek after something better?
- Does their challenge draw us closer to God’s heart of justice? To God’s heart for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the foreigner?
- Do their words and their very presence bring us to repentance – to a change in how we think about ourselves or how we understand who God is in a way that increases the Shalom – the wholeness – in our lives?