I stand humbly before you in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Please God let this message tonight be Your Words and not mine in JESUS Name.
My wife and I love to go to concerts at Jones Beach. And when we do, we often see a California Rock Band named “Tesla” opening for many of these concerts. They’re the warm-up band. They have a song titled “What You Give.” Some of the lyrics from the refrain are:
It’s not whatcha got, it’s what you give.
It ain’t the life you choose but the life you live.
Some pretty powerful lyrics. The song is like musical therapy. Makes me think of our Christian lives. How should we live and what should we give?
I’m here before you thanks to other Christians. Deacon John Woods convinced me to open my mouth. My church career changed dramatically after that. Then other people started to get more involved in my spiritual growth. Many Deacons such as Al Reuter, Mark Langholz and Bruce Daly, and many Pastors, Macholz, Wackenhuth, Mosemann and of course, Pastor Staneck. Even my alb and my stoles are from other people. My albs are from my father-in-law Bill Greve and the stoles are from Pastor Staneck, Deacons Al, Bruce and Debbie. And, of course, where would I be without God? Who am I without God?
Super nothing! Try to visualize super nothing.
A while back, my daughter Nicole was playing in the basement. Superman’s cape was laying on the floor by itself. The Superman action figure itself was nowhere to be seen. She walked over, picked up the cape and started happily spinning around. The cape fluttering in the air with her spins. My daughter called out, “Super Nothing!”
It still cracks me up.
Our church summer is kicking off with the Gospel of Mark. So far, we have read and heard that JESUS was rejected at Nazareth. The people of His own town turned on Him while He was teaching at the synagogue. JESUS then sends out His twelve disciples. The twelve are traveling around, preaching repentance, healing the sick and casting out demons. And King Herod hears about this explosion of “real” power happening in his kingdom. He cries out that John the Baptist has risen from the dead.
Mark is working through a flashback here. John was already beheaded a year or two earlier and Herod now hears about wonders being performed by a miracle working prophet and His followers, so Herod believes this is John risen from the dead. John the Baptist was filled with great faith spoke the truth on behalf of his people. He condemned Herod Antipas’s marriage. Herodias the new wife of Herod, wanted John dead but Herod would not let her kill him. She only saw him as some wild man from the wilderness and how dare he say anything about his king and his queen.
Now Herod is having a birthday party banquet. These are rich powerful men of status celebrating. These kinds of banquets started and ended with strong wine and were mostly men only. Men who were entertained by musicians, slaves, young boys and high-class prostitutes. Herodias knew her husband would be drinking heavily and in a generous mood in front of men he wanted to impress. So she took advantage of it. She even convinced her young daughter to dance at this Bachelor party style banquet. Something far beneath the status of a King’s step-daughter and niece as well as completely inappropriate for a girl her age even in the first century.
Verse 22 states… “For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”
Her mother told her to ask for, “The head of John the Baptist.” And she did. And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. Can you even imagine that? I mean, children of the first century were exposed to all kinds of horrors especially in an occupied land but this little girl just took part in a murder at her mother’s request. There goes Mom of the year!
This is the end of John the Baptist but not the spirit of Elijah. Elijah will again herald the day of the Lord. The second coming of Christ.
JESUS preached referencing Herod the Great’s boys. Especially when He preached about money. When He spoke of the 3 managers who were put in charge of their traveling masters money. 5 talents to one, 2 talents to another and 1 talent to the last one. This is the same ratio of the income streams that Herod the Great left to three of his sons. The three that he didn’t kill of course. 500 talents to Archelaus ($100+Million today), 200 talents to Antipas ($45+Million today) and 100 talents to Philip ($22+Million today). And John often preached on what many people were (and still are) focused on, money. John preached that “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” and to tax collectors, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” and lastly, to Roman soldiers, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” JESUS preaches from the point of view of the traveling Master. He is a King. A King who loves His people. John preaches from the point of view of the people. A people who love their God and their neighbors.
It’s not what you got it’s what you give.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the person of John. His birth was a miraculous birth to an older couple. Born into a family of priests (both parents were descendants of the first high priest Aaron). He is also an older cousin to JESUS by way of their mothers.
John lives in the wilderness. Where people learn to be dependent upon God. John wore camel hide with a leather belt. His clothing is symbolic of the Old Testament. God provided protective hides to clothe Adam and Eve. Chances are these were the hides of a camel which are a very protective form of clothing for the Persian Gulf region which is most likely where Eden was. This same clothing is also reminiscent of the prophet Elijah and what he wore.
John’s appearance was that of a man who took the Nazrite vow. A vow to be dedicated to God. Set apart for God. Reminding us of Samuel and Samson again, from the Old Testament. He would never cut his hair or beard, nor drink any alcohol or fermented drink. John looked and dressed the Bible. He’s our hand me down hero.
His diet consisted of locusts and honey. Locusts are a sign of judgement and honey was a sign of salvation in the Old Testament. John’s diet was symbolic of judgement and salvation. His breath smelled of the Old Testament. So, we have a man born and dedicated to God who looks, breathes and smells the Bible, but how did he live?
The prophet Elijah devoted his life to reveal the true God to Israel in a time of national crisis and to proclaim the sacrament of baptism. When Elijah faced the prophets of Baal the fire was kindled by water poured out three times upon the sacrifice. Where there is the water of baptism there is always the fire of the Holy Spirit that burns away the impurities and illuminates the faithful. The Holy Spirit was with John since He was in the womb. John went ahead of the Lord in the spirit of Elijah. He’s the third to take on the spirit of Elijah. Elisha was the second. There will be a fourth before His second coming.
John is mentioned in all four Gospels and at least a few books in the Old Testament. That alone says a lot about his importance. John loved God above being loved. John is the foreshadowing of the apostles and all martyrs and persecuted Christians. John is more than a prophet. He is the forerunner of JESUS Christ. He ended over 400 years of biblical prophetic silence. He baptized JESUS. A baptism like no other baptism.
John was a walking, talking, living tribute to the Bible. He was THE CHRISTIAN. John used every resource of his being to point people to God. John ate, dressed and lived our law and Gospel.
When John had baptized JESUS, he fully realized that his mission was coming to an end, while JESUS would take over. John even said “He must increase, I must decrease.” The next time that John sees JESUS, he tells his own disciples “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who ranks before me, because He was before me.’” After this, John’s disciples followed JESUS. John’s mission of preparing the way of the Lord was done.
John was the opening act for the concert that was JESUS.
JESUS said of him “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” The importance of John the Baptist cannot be overlooked. He was the last and greatest of the prophets who prepared the people of Israel to receive JESUS. John was all about JESUS. As we should be.
To John the true message was “JESUS!” Nothing else matters. I’ve had people roll their eyes at me when I speak about Jesus, but I can’t even imagine what John must’ve been like. Hey, John, how are you? Follow JESUS. What’s your favorite color? Look to JESUS. Hoping to meet the right girl and settle down? Nope, just preparing the world for JESUS. What was John’s legacy? JESUS. If John had been granted a last wish, I bet he would have wished for screen time on the sky creating the largest billboard ever made with JESUS written across it for everyone to see. John was given life and a purpose and he lived for it. He gave all of himself to point people to God. John knew that everything about him was Gods so he lived that truth.
It ain’t the life you choose but the life you live.
John shows us that we are put on this world to manage Gods things. Not my things. Nothing is really mine. The kids who call me their father are His kids. I parent them and manage them until God decides to have them return home. Mywife, my home, my car, my money, my body, my being, the air in my lungs, none of these are really mine. They’re all His. I shouldn’t even say my or mine because He’s loaning everything to me. I’m here to manage and care for these things the best I can until He calls them back to Himself. I need to appreciate every thing I have as a temporary miracle from Him every single fleeting moment that I have with them. We all need to understand that everything we have is from God.
Everything that has been given to us, gifted to us and even those things that were taken back from us (sadly for us in this life). These are all just a small taste of what is in store for us in eternity. That overwhelming generous love with abundant blessings. The world wants us to feed the god we make of ourselves. But we are called for so much more. We have the same spirit and the same Gospel that gave power, purpose and direction to John’s life. That’s what we’ve got. But what are we giving? And how are we living?
God called John to prepare the way of the Lord. John did that. With his entire being he did that. We are also called to be more than just super nothings. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord and share His Gospel. Yes, even to share it generously.