Tuesday, April 28, 2020
It was my first mission trip to the Philippines. It was before Facebook or any kind of video calling existed. When I landed in Davao, I had no idea how to recognize the people from the Bible College. I knew them by name, but I wasn’t about to shout names out in an airport.
As I exited the terminal and saw the crowd of people, it was immediately obvious who my contacts were. There in front of me was a group of 15 people, some holding the ends of a six-foot banner and others carrying small signs and leis. The banner read, in bi bold letters, WELCOME PASTOR JOHN VAN GORKOM.
Of course, they knew me right away because I was the only American in the airport. They surrounded me, placed the floral leis around my neck, and began a celebration of my arrival.
John the Baptist was in the same predicament when Jesus arrived on the scene. He was obeying God’s call to the mission of preaching repentance so people were prepared for the arrival of the Messiah. He was convinced that Messiah was coming, but he had no idea who the Messiah was.
John 1:31-34 “I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Twice John the Baptizer admits that he was not able to identify the Messiah. I see a problem. I think it’s a common problem for many of us. We choose not to move ahead with things until we have all the answers. We stay where we are, doing what we are doing, but avoid stepping out in faith until everything has been revealed.
John says two important things about how we proceed when we are not fully in the know.
- I am going to fulfill my purpose even if I can’t see how it turns out. God told John to baptize people with water, and by doing so the Messiah would be revealed. He didn’t understand it, but he obeyed.
- God said to John that someone he baptizes would have the Spirit of God descend on Him and remain on Him, and that would identify Him as the Messiah.
Imagine what it must have been like for John the Baptizer. Every day he is preaching repentance, and people are coming forward to identify with his message by being baptized. With every baptism, as the person rises from the water, John looks to see if the Holy Spirit is descending.
I wonder how many days ended with disappointment for him? I wonder how many mornings he questioned his motivation to keep going? Or did the certainty of God’s words to him fill him with anticipation that this could be the day? Was he so driven by the purpose God had given him that he would not be discouraged or distracted from doing God’s will until his work was done?
Good questions for each of us to ponder today.