By Jaime Luce
What offends you? Are you offended at the quote above? Are you offended that the problem of offense can lie inside of us and not from those outside of us? Believe it or not this is not about politics or the normal mumbo jumbo about offenses. As I was reading today in Luke 7 Jesus is questioned by the disciples of John the Baptist whether or not He is the Messiah they have waited for. John himself had sent his disciples. This is the same John who baptized Jesus and saw the dove descend and remain. How could he not know who this was? How could he question what he lived his whole life for? Yet at times, don’t we all?
I have always wondered about this and realized today when spending time with the Lord in His Word what the answer was. Jesus always speaks to the real issue. So many times when we read, that is all we are simply doing, reading. However, I find that in order to understand His Word I must put myself in the room and watch the scene, not just read it. I see more clearly and hear the tones and feel the emotions like watching a great stage play. His Word comes alive and I am moved by what I see, hear and feel, which happened today. I read how Jesus was moved with such compassion seeing a widow weeping on her way to the burial of her son. I could hear her and I understood to some degree her weeping. She would now be completely alone. No one would be there to help or comfort her or to take care of her. Then Jesus, full of compassion says to her do not weep. I could just hear Him say it. I could feel His grief in wanting her to be whole in spirit and not be so broken. Remember that He came to bind up the broken hearted and our brokenness moves Him. When we are grieved He grieves also. Recall back to when Mary and Martha were weeping because their brother Lazarus had died. The scripture tells us that Jesus wept too. He wept with the same bitterness they wept. He felt their pain and I promise you He feels yours. Here in Luke 7 He felt this widows pain. He comforted her and then spoke to her death and said live. Her son was restored to life and now she could live again. I know many times we lose loved ones or those dear to us but Jesus still knows how to speak life to our death. Sometimes it’s a work with people (outside of us) but sometimes it’s a work on the inside (a work of the heart). This leads me back to John the Baptist.
John had given his entire life to preaching the message of the coming Messiah. He told everyone to prepare the way of the Lord. He was fearless when confronting the Pharisees and scribes. He knew the Messiah was coming. He was overcome when he saw Jesus coming and wanting to be baptized. He said Jesus should baptize him not the other way around. But Jesus always qualifies us. He loves using you and I to accomplish His wonderful work. We always feel unworthy yet Jesus comes and loves fulfilling the will of His Father and uses us, His body, to complete the work. He always includes us and never pushes us out. We are always wanted and usable if we will simply yield and believe Him.
So there, at the Jordan River, John baptized Jesus and the heavens opened and the dove descended with a voice from heaven saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Wow! If I heard a voice from heaven I don’t think I’d ever forget it let alone doubt it, yet sadly, we do. This same John is now in prison! He isn’t feeling the miraculous or seeing for himself the power of God at work. He is sitting in a jail cell alone. You and I might feel the same way John did. Maybe even feel betrayed in some way. Or he may at least be thinking what in the world did I give my whole life for, just to sit in this jail? God what are you doing? Why are you doing it this way? Isn’t there another way? Even Jesus, when praying in Gethsemane, asked for another way. However Jesus knew that surrender of our will is always the key to the answer. For Jesus, His prayer was finished with “Not My will but Yours be done”. When we are stripped of our comfort zone and pruned of all we think we know we begin to question everything. We try to make sense of it all in an attempt to comfort ourselves from the pain we are feeling. So in desperation John calls for some of his disciples and tells them to go to Jesus and ask Him are You The Coming One or do we look for another? Did you hear it? They said coming (future tense) not the one already has come. There is much doubt already present in this question. It wasn’t even a question of just making sure. It was an “I think we missed it”, which is full of fear. But look at what Jesus says. He tells them to go to John and tell him the things they have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
Let’s unpack this a little. First, Jesus cares when you have questions or doubts and He is all to willing to answer your questions. The key is you must go to Him directly for the answers. You will learn that He will always give you the answer. Now he may use people to help show you things or explain what things mean just as He used the disciples to go tell John the answer but people are never the answer. Jesus is always the answer. His words alone are the words of life. People have good intentions but they can’t speak life to your soul. Unless their words are His words they remain only that, words.
Now Jesus knew that John knew the scriptures and all the prophecies regarding the Messiah and what He would do. So Jesus used the Word of God as a confirmation to John by reiterating that He was doing what the prophecies said the Messiah would do. Likewise Jesus will use His Word to speak to you and tell you who He is. He doesn’t want us living off what other people have said. It’s like having faith in faith. There is no substance to that. We have faith in Jesus! We must know in whom we have believed and be persuaded in who He is. Here is an example. I can tell you all about my husband. What he likes and dislikes and how he acts and responds to different situations but unless you know him there is no depth of understanding. You wouldn’t know if you ran into him on the street simply based off of all the information about him that I gave you. You may guess but you wouldn’t know him. You may even recognize him by a description I gave you but you still wouldn’t know him. I know him so well that when he calls I know him by his voice. I don’t even need to see him. I don’t have to ask him who is this. Prove to me you’re my husband. Or just like how you may recognize a movie star in a photo or on the TV“““` but you don’t know them. Do you see how silly it is to try to know God by others? We must know Him for ourselves. Jesus was reminding John of all the ways he knew Him.
Then lastly, Jesus says this: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Wow! Jesus is doing it again and speaking to the heart of the matter. What was really going on was that John was offended. He was offended that Jesus would allow him to be in prison. He was offended that everyone else was seeing miracles but he was not. He was offended that he had given everything and this is what he got in return. Ouch! That speaks to me. I will admit I have been offended by Jesus before too. I’m ashamed of that. Because what am I really saying? I am saying that this shouldn’t be happening to me. I deserve better than this. I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this. I, I, I. What I hear there is pride. I’m foolish enough to think I know better than Jesus how things should go or happen. John’s disciples had battled pride before when they were upset that disciples were now leaving following after John to follow Jesus. But John knew the answer and said “I must decrease and He must increase”. Though John knew this, it didn’t make it any easier to have to decrease. Are you being pruned? Are you learning to surrender? Are you having to decrease? This is where John was. His purpose was coming to a finish. He had run the race God had for him. Being in this place can cause all of us offense.
So what is offense exactly. Well according to the Lexicon it is to cause to stumble, to be entrapped in. The Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament say’s this: Cause to sin, to give up his faith, give up one’s faith and be led into sin, fall into sin; reject, desert, have doubts about; anger, shock. Have you been there? Have you ever been angry or shocked with God? Have you ever doubted Him or fell into sin because you were mad? Can I try to comfort you? If John, whom Jesus said “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the baptist”, can have doubts while in a difficult place, then so will we. And our precious Jesus will love us and answer our questions and remind us who He is if we will ask.
Beloved, you are in the palm of His hand and He won’t drop you. You may be in a very difficult place. You may need this Jesus to speak life into your soul again. You may be in a prison of doubt and need His words of assurance and comfort. You may be offended and angry and not understand what’s happening. I can tell you the answer is Jesus. He alone was the answer and He alone is your answer. His words can bring back the hope of your future. His plans for you are good. Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Isaiah 59:1 says, “See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor are his ears to dull to hear.” He see’s you, He hears you and He will answer. Let’s lay our offenses down and trust the one who knows the beginning from the end. Isaiah 55:9 tells us “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Instead of being offended by this truth we can be encouraged by it. He knows what He is doing. This Savior who was there at creation is there with you now and He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in your life. (Philippians 1:6)
I know this isn’t a spiritual quote or even one made by any spiritual persons but the truth is the same. Both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy said in their speeches that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. If we are in Jesus and we have done our best to follow His instructions, and though it may be painful while we are walking in obedience, than this is truth you can stand on. Jesus always tells us to fear not. Why? Because He knows the end of the story. He knows what He’s doing in you, with you and for you. His plans are always so much bigger than ours. Just as His death was the key to resurrection life for not just himself but to all who would believe, so His plans for you are not just about you but for all those your life will touch. Let’s lay down our offenses and lay them at the feet of the one who loves us with an all sufficient love and trust the plan He has for our lives. It will be worth it all!