What Did You Go to See?

In Matthew 11:2-15 John the Baptist was questioning his life situation.  That’s okay.  Melody the Baptist does that too – regularly.  I can’t blame him.  His whole life he enjoyed freedom.  Freedom to be who God created Him to be.  Freedom to carry out God’s calling on his life.  But now, he’s lost his freedom.  John sits in a prison in shackles and chains, not because he broke the law – he didn’t.  He sits in prison because he spoke the truth – the truth about sin – and it made somebody mad.  It was Herod.  You’ve heard of him, the guy that ran things in that area.  Herod didn’t like what John said because he was enjoying the sin that John was talking about.  So, since he had the power, he decided to punish John for making him feel uncomfortable.

So there John sits.  He’s lost his freedom and he can’t continue his ministry.  News about what Jesus is doing reaches him, but his circumstances are causing him to doubt things he knows to be true.  He KNOWS who Jesus is.  He heard it straight from the mouth of God Himself when he baptized Jesus. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ “ (Matthew 3:17)  Yet, John sends a couple of his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah or do we look for someone else?”

Notice how Jesus answers them.  “Go tell John what you’ve seen and heard here.”  He doesn’t give them a doctrinal dissertation, nor does he belittle them for asking.  He just says to look at the evidence and make up your own mind.  Then He ends His response with some encouragement:  “Blessed is he who does not fall away because of Me.” (v.6)  Don’t lose hope.  Don’t quit.  The blessing’s coming!  I love that about Jesus.  He always leaves us with encouragement.

But it’s what Jesus says next that has been running through my mind over and over.  After John’s followers left to return to John and give him Jesus’ message, Jesus turns to the crowd standing around Him and says, “So what did you go out to the desert to see?”  He was referring to John the Baptist.  The question tells me that there was something being discussed among the crowd.  I’m guessing it was derogatory toward John.  I believe Jesus’ response indicates such. (vv.7-9)  “What did you go to see?  A wishy-washy fad-follower?  What did you go to see?  Somebody in fancy clothes?  Answer me.  What – did – you – go – to – see?  A prophet?  Yes!!  A prophet!”

That’s the question that has grabbed me.  “What did you go to see?”  When you go to church, what do you go to see?  Is it the next great church fad?  Is it to see what everyone is wearing?  Or is it to hear a message from God?  Jesus suggestion of reasons intrigues me.

His first self-response is literally “a reed shaken in the wind.”  No matter where the wind blows, it follows.  Ephesians 4:11-14 warns us of just that.  If we are grounded in the word and mature in the faith we won’t be blown about by the wind.  Too many people and too many churches are more focused on having the next new thing, or keeping up with the current fads.  The new things themselves are not wrong or evil because they are new.  They are just things.  They are just tools.  These things, these tools themselves are empty.  I’ve lived in the ministry my whole life.  My parents retired to heaven from the ministry, and I expect my husband and I will follow their lead.  In my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of church fads come and go.  I’m not going to spend time talking about them now.  Maybe that will be another article.  But the idea that we have to have a gimmick to be “relevant” is absurd.  Be genuine and genuinely love.  That is the best way to draw people.  That’s the way Jesus did it.

Jesus’ next suggested reason was clothes.  Oh my!  This is still true!  People still care about what other people wear to church.  I once had a woman tell me one of her callings from God was to critique what people wore to church.  She was serious!  I was appalled.  The only thing that God cares is that you are dressed modestly and in His righteousness.  If we think that what we wear makes us righteous, we’ve missed the whole point of HIS righteousness.

After asking the question a third time, Jesus finally gives them the right answer — you came to see a prophet.  There are a lot of good blessing you can receive from coming to church such as fellowship, friendship, belonging, sometimes even good food!  But your REASON for coming should be to receive a message from God.  Because of my position, I have a unique perspective on that message.  I see the messenger read the Word, study it, meditate on it, pray over it, wrestle with it, and beg God to empty himself of himself so that he can bring the word to the people in the way God wants it presented.  The preacher wants it to be God’s Word, not his words.  He knows that only God can reveal truth and open hearts.  But you see, only YOU can open your ears.  Eight times in the Bible Jesus says, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”  He’s not talking about the appendage on the side of your head.  He’s talking about your heart, your attitude.  The Bible also tells us in Ezekiel 12:2 that when you don’t hear it’s because of rebellion in your heart.

So, that brings us back to the question, “What did you go to see?”