John the Baptist was having a bad day. This followers were bailing on him and running off to follow his cousin, Jesus. The religious leaders were accusing him of causing strife in the nation. And there was a brewing tension with Herod that would lead to his arrest and death. But in in the midst of this, he responds with grace. He says of Jesus, “He must increase and I must decrease.” He knew his role – to make Jesus’ famous. That’s our role too, to serve Jesus’ purpose and those around us! It’s the surprising path to Joy.
The core problems in our lives deliver really bad news: You and I are screwed up to the point that we need more than just a major fix, we need a complete “do-over.” In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus recording in John 3 we too are forced to face the challenge… “You must be born again…” In spite of our best religious efforts – and Nicodemus was a professional “do-gooder” – we can’t rely on self-help or self-discipline; instead we need a deeper solution, at the level of our spiritual DNA. We need a “mulligan” for life!
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:3-7.
Jesus charged into the Temple in Jerusalem and chased out those who were swindling worshipers for their own benefit. Jesus’ zeal for God’s house meant that he would do anything to clean things up. We are all now God’s temple and the parallel here highlights our need for Jesus to charge into our lives and chase out anything that compromises our freedom to worship and relate to God and others in our life. Lord, clean house!
“It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: ‘Passion for God’s house will consume me.'” John 2:13-17.
Jesus made vintage wine on purpose, as a way of solving a practical problem for real people in trouble, and also as a parable, a symbol of the amazing richness that is about to happen in the world because he’s come. He still makes vintage wine, here and now, for you!
“When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. ‘A host always serves the best wine first,’ he said. ‘Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!’ John 2:9-10.
“Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means ‘Peter’ or ‘rock’)” John 1:42.
Jesus let’s us hang out with him. But Jesus can be dangerous; he’ll expose your false identity and replace it with who he knows you REALLY are. Be ye warned: Jesus will change your name!
This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
“Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
“No,” he replied.
“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”
John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.” John 1:19-27.
New Living Translation.
One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” Luke 3:21-22.
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”