John’s encounter with Jesus at the Jordan River in Matthew 4 teaches us what it is to healthily steward Kingdom influence.
John has been preaching to the multitudes, “Heaven is about to appear! Turn from evil and turn to God!” (Matthew 3:2) And thousands are responding to his message of freedom by confessing their sin and being baptized in the Jordan River. John knows his life’s message and is owning it with bold conviction in front of believers and non-believers alike.
THEN Jesus comes to Galilee to be baptized by John. Matthew 3:13 says, “when Jesus waded into the water John RESISTED him saying, ‘why are you doing this?’ John the Baptist, the prophesied voice crying out in the wilderness (see Isaiah 40:3, Mal. 3:1) RESISTED Jesus! John’s been telling the multitudes that the Messiah is coming, who will baptize his people in fire (see Acts 2), and whose shoes John is not worthy to touch. Yet, the moment Jesus shows up with new instruction, John resists him.
I believe we all too often find ourselves as taken aback by Jesus as John is in this moment. We’re running our race, others’ lives are being impacted by our ministry, and we’re feeling fully capable of carrying out the assignment exactly as planned. BUT THEN Jesus steps into our situation with a new direction and we find ourselves at odds with the King. Put yourself in John’s shoes. “Surely you’ve got this wrong Jesus. I’m not really supposed to baptize you? Surely not now, in front of all of these people? After all that I’ve told them? What would they think?”
Isn’t it funny how often we as believers value a good presentation over the presence of Jesus? Jesus is right there! He’s telling John what must be done but because it doesn’t compliment his idea of a well executed plan, John is stopped in his tracks. He is resistant to the very thing he’s been expectant of, Jesus’ coming. Even if John felt unworthy of what he was being asked to do, who was he to argue with Jesus?
When John asks, “why are you doing this?” I love Jesus’ reply. He says, “it’s only right that we do all that the Father requires.” In other words, “because I said so.” When Jesus wades into your situation, that one you’ve got all figured out, (the 5 year plan, the chosen college, the ministry, the blog, the child rearing, the career) and he speaks your next move to you, take a page from John’s story. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t expect a theological dispensation on why this and not that. Simply obey.
John baptizes Jesus. “And as Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavenly realm opened up over him and he saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the heavens and rest upon him…the Father shouted from the sky, saying, ‘This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him” (Matthew 3:16-17) Think of how affirming and fulfilling this moment was for John! His quick obedience to the instruction of Jesus solidified him forever in the story of the unfolding Kingdom and the arrival of its King. Each well-stewarded moment of resistance in your life, each opportunity to obey, solidifies you in that story as well.
On the other side of obedience is always breakthrough. If you are waiting for breakthrough in any area of your life, I am willing to wager there is an opportunity to obey attached to it. We don’t know what manifest glory we release in our lives when we simply take Jesus at his word and say yes. It wasn’t sin for John to resist, to not understand, or to even question Jesus’ plan. But he didn’t allow it to cause him to disobey.
In John 5:35 Jesus calls John “a lamp that burned and gave light.” I believe John was a man of fire not because he spoke loudly and wore wild clothing but because he chose obedience to Christ over the convenience of being luke-warm and in charge. Living in the delight of agreement with Jesus far surpasses the brief satisfaction of a well-executed plan. We must remember that we are citizens of a Kingdom in which we are not the King. As John’s life demonstrates, simple obedience to Jesus is a mark of true Kingdom influence.