John the Baptist is the epitome of innocence. Unlike the books of Matthew and Luke which begin with the birth stories of Jesus, in John, the story of Jesus propels in fast forward to Jesus later ministry. This is how the book of John’s introduces Jesus. John explains he is the one called to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is like a wonderfully innocent child… John the Baptist shows us how to accept Jesus Christ like an innocent child: How is John like a child?
Like a Child, when pressed, John the Baptist doesn’t have all the answers. It’s adults that worry about getting stumped, not children. The people clearly know something big is going on, so they are trying to understand. They question John because he is so public. John does not have all the answers that they seek. They are wondering if he is the Messiah himself, the one promised to come and save the people. I am not him, he says, I am nobody of great importance. The leaders are obviously getting frustrated, and all John can do is tell them what he knows isn’t true, but he can’t supply them with all the nuances of their inquiry. A child doesn’t have all the answers… and that’s not really a problem, because a child understands enough. A child understands to the level they need to understand. Perhaps in their innocence they have a deeper understanding because they don’t get bogged down in unimportant details… John understand enough about Jesus to recognize he is the Lord. John even recognized Jesus while he was still in his mother’s womb.
Maybe children don’t understand everything, but sometimes they hit on some truth anyway. Here are some words of children on the understanding of angels:
* I only know the names of two angels. Hark and Harold. ~ Gregory, 5
* It's not easy to become an angel! First, you die. Then you go to heaven, and then there's still the flight training to go through. And then you got to agree to wear those angel clothes. ~ Matthew, 9
* Angels work for God and watch over kids when God has to go do something else. ~ Mitchell, 7
* My guardian angel helps me with math, but he's not much good for science. ~ Henry, 8
* Angels don't eat, but they drink milk from Holy Cows!!! ~ Jack, 6
* Angels live in cloud houses made by God and his son, who's a very good carpenter. ~ Jared, 8
* All angels are girls because they gotta wear dresses and boys didn't go for it. ~ Tonio, 9
* My angel is my grandma who died last year. She got a big head start on helping me while she was still down here on earth. ~ Katelynn, 9
* Some of the angels are in charge of helping heal sick animals and pets. And if they don't make the animals get better, they help the child get over it. ~ Vicki, 8
To understand like a child. That’s all God expects of us, to our level. Innocence means you are not required to get everything. John the Baptist shows us he did not get it all. Jesus is too big for us to understand him completely. We are only called to defend Jesus to the world to the level of our understanding. John doesn’t have all the answers. We are called to accept Jesus to the level of our understanding, like a child.
Yet, Like a Child… John is confident…read John 1:23, John is not shaken by those who ask him questions. He may not have all the answers, but he boldly proclaims what he does know. “I want to deliver pizza when I grow up.” Not for the prestige, not for the fame, but because this is who I am and that is all I need. John says, “my job is to tell you somebody else is coming.” John is humble, knowing his place, and confident. An innocent child has a confidence about them.
Like a Child, John knows there is greatness beyond him that he cannot fathom, John 1: 26-27 and he is not only comfortable, he relishes in it…He knows his place… innocent children know they are children, but they don’t. They just are. They are not miniature adults, they are children. Their world is smaller. It’s adults that start telling children that they can grow up to be the president, that they can do something prestigious and great, those are adult concepts, not child concepts. For children, if left alone, greatness doesn’t occur to them, Being an astronaut and delivering pizza are equal in status.
It’s right to know the Lord is greater than we are. And to know it makes a difference to how we live. To know we need a savior, to know we are vulnerable and weak and cannot save ourselves by our own accomplishments or our own good looks or our own wining personalities. John is similar to the magi, who years before, traveled from the east to worship the child Jesus, and bowed down to Jesus and gave him gifts. An act of submission. Until we see ourselves in our weakness, and are comfortable like children, we will not be able to fully give ourselves to God and bow in submission: “here I am.”
I seem to hear this criticism frequently: people are uncomfortable with churches that think they are the only ones. Or, churches that think they have something special that makes their experiences a little more correct than others. I was visiting a church 5-10 years ago that bothered me when the pastor said, “When you enter some churches it smells like stale bread, but when you come here, the smell is like fresh baked cookies.” How does that square with John the Baptist saying, “I am not worthy of untying his sandals.”??? // For us, I declare we at SACC do not have a corner on the market of God. Our understanding of God does not mean he is here in a special way he is not in the VCC, or SCRC, or Calvary Creekside, or any other place or home or heart. We are not the biggest, the best or the brightest. But this is what I cling to: ////I’m just happy I’m included in the Kingdom. If all I have is stale bread to offer him, it’s enough.… Jesus Christ is greater than my understanding. Be like a child, knowing there is something greater…yet he even uses our stale bread.
I’m reading between the lines on this one… when John leaped in his mother’s womb for Joy, when Mary entered the room, I am guessing a spirit of Joy is the hallmark of the man’s life! He is a joyful person. Nothing can take away his joy.
Like a Child, John the Baptist is having a whole lot of fun… go back and reread this scripture in this light. He doesn’t have to know the answers. He has a lot of confidence. He knows the Lord Jesus Christ is greater than he is. And he’s having a whole lot of fun. Do you have fun as a Christian? Yesterday I was sorry to miss the Clothesline because to me it is so much fun. (READ through the scripture and show the fun he must be having…and to baptize all those people) Perhaps there is no greater gift from a child than simply to watch them having fun. Most adults would rather watch a child open a Christmas present than to open a present themselves. On Facebook I read a new gramma refer to a heavy dose of baby smiles. The smile of a child can melt your heart. That is actually true of any person who has an innocence about them, a sparkle in their eye, a freshness, the Joy that mature Christian people exhibit is a gift to others. If you are a genuine person of Joy, you will be a magnet for people to come around you.
To be a Child Again is to be innocent. John the Baptist shows us how to accept Jesus Christ like an innocent child: you don’t have to have all the answers, but only to your level of understanding, to have confidence of a child, comfortable with who you are, to have a healthy perspective on yourself, knowing Jesus is greater than you, to delight in life, to return to a state of innocence will transform your life.
I’ve heard it said that for many people, the biggest issue in giving their life to Christ is not learning something new, the biggest problem is to unlearn that which is wrong. Perhaps even more of a stumbling block: To undo the effects of negative experiences that plague our lives, experiences that have stripped us of our innocence. Sometimes we lose our innocence because of our own bad choices that weigh heavy on our heart, compromising our lives, bringing tension in relationships. That’s when we need to learn to forgive ourselves, ask for forgiveness of others, and find reconciliation with God.
Other times a loss of innocence is thrust upon us, burdens are placed upon us. I think of the Domestic Violence group coming to use our building Tuesday; it makes me realize DV is a hidden problem that surely affects a huge number of homes. Some of you live with secrets you’ve never shared, a burden you carry alone. And the loss of innocence that was thrust upon you strips you of your joy, making life too serious, takes away confidence, and undermines your ability to fully trust others, and ultimately you don’t fully trust God…
when you have lost your innocence, whether self imposed or thrust upon you, you need to become like a child again. It may be a process for you, but pray to the Lord that he will begin a work in your heart and in your soul… give up that need for control, thinking you have to have all the answers. Children are not like that. Pray for the Lord to give you true confidence, not an artificial confidence which comes with a façade of togetherness, but a natural confidence that opens you up to let others in to who you really are. To be like a child is to know Jesus Christ is greater than you. While you may not know the answers, he does. You look to him and depend on him. And finally, if you live your life weighed down by burdens, too many adult problems, plodding through each day… ask the Lord this Christmas simply to give you the gift of fun. Life is an adventure with its ups and downs, full of wonderful surprises, wake up tomorrow and expect the Lord will surprise you. You need to be a child again, to recapture the innocence, the vulnerability, the confidence, the joy. On Christmas day, when the presents are opened, ask the Lord to make you the biggest child of all.