Passing the Baton
While studying for this series preparing for Easter, I came across something I had never noticed before. I love that about reading the Bible. If you’re expectant, God will always show you something new or deeper than you realized about the Word before.
After reading about Jesus’ baptism and wilderness experience, I searched the Bible to see what happened next. I know He called the disciples to follow Him. He also performed His first miracle. But something I never noticed previously, happened before all that.
John the Baptist was arrested. In both accounts of Matthew and Mark, John was arrested shortly after Jesus’ time in the wilderness. In the book of Mark, he talked about the angels serving Jesus in the wilderness. The next verse says, “After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!” – Mark 1:14-15
In the book of Matthew, he ends the wilderness story with the Devil leaving Jesus and the angels ministering to Him. Then Matthew continues in the next verse, “When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
Land of Zebulun and Naphtali,
along the sea road,
beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles!
The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living
in the shadowland of death,
light has dawned.
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” Matthew 4:12-17
Have you noticed what I did? John the Baptist’s ministry ended before Jesus’ began. John was imprisoned before Jesus moved and started His ministry. This is significant. There was no competition between the two of them. John fulfilled his mission to prophesy Jesus’ coming. He baptized people, getting their hearts ready and repentant for the coming Messiah. He prepared the way. His work was finished. Then, when he was done and the road was ready, Jesus took over.
The prophecies continued to be fulfilled. Jesus moved from His home town to Galilee where most of His ministry would take place. He settled into Capernaum where He prophesied and preached the good news He came to offer everyone. He taught the Israelites and Gentiles alike. No one was favoured by Him.
He collected a dozen men to follow Him, so that He could disciple them and prepare them for their own mission. Jesus started His succession plan in the beginning of His own ministry. He didn’t waste any time or take any for Himself. He got to work and made sure the men experienced as much as they needed, to prepare them for all they would face in the future. They couldn’t have imagined what would happen.
Jesus’ first sign occurred at a celebration. It was a wedding. The wine had run out which would have been an embarrassment to the families of the bride and groom. The Spirit worked in Mary’s intuition (Jesus’ mother), presenting the issue to Jesus to have Him help. She knew the power that rested in Him. She knew within her heart He could do something. Jesus ended up turning the water into wine. It was subtle; not something anyone made loud noise about. Jesus had the servants do it. He didn’t draw attention to Himself. The only ones that knew about it were His mother, the servants filling the water jugs, and Jesus’ disciples. It was in that moment that the disciples believed and realized Jesus was different. Someone special.
Notice that Jesus didn’t make a big scene for His first sign. It wasn’t even about anything really important. He didn’t heal somebody or raise anyone from the dead. He turned water into wine. There is so much symbolism in this moment, so it’s not that it isn’t important. But it shows that Jesus cared about the simple things as well as the big ones. He wasn’t about being loud and proud. He was humble and quiet. He saw a need and He fulfilled it. The Spirit prompted Mary, and the Lord acted upon that prompting to bring awareness of His presence and power.
How often does God do that in your life? My husband prays for his business every morning. He brings it before the Lord, making God in charge and him the manager of it. Through consistently doing this day after day, we’ve noticed God’s hand moving more often.
There have been times when Michael will come home and share that he thought about someone or something, and he instantly got an email from them. A machine broke down, He prayed about it, and the Lord gave him the wisdom to know how to fix it. The Lord put that idea in Michael’s mind and then God acted upon it to show Michael that He was working and moving behind the scenes, answering his prayers, and controlling everything. Michael just had to be faithful in showing up, praying, and giving God the day. Then they went to work together, rather than Michael trying to run the show.
Everything in Jesus’ life is to be an example to us in how to live ours. Though some of His miracles and signs seem impossible for us, it is possible because we have the same Living God alive in us. The Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus to do all that He did, empowers us as well. But we must be willing and humble. We must be in tune with the Father and the Spirit. We must let Him do the work. We just need to show up, be faithful, and know that we are the vessels by which He works.
As John and Jesus’ lives go, we run the race after someone else as well. Each generation of followers of Jesus passes the baton of faith to the next generation. It is up to us to live our lives according to the will of the Lord. We’re to love God and love others. We’re to share the gospel and disciple our group of people towards Jesus, so that they can carry the baton to the next generation. Our work is not done because Jesus has not returned. Keep going. Keep learning. Keep serving, praying, and discipling. Let God equip and guide you in your life with Him. Great things can come out of a willing spirit and a repentant heart.