Tweet the dove, but don’t tweek the lamb
John the Baptist could not have done what he did without Jesus, and Jesus would not do what he did without John.
This story of two cousins, John and Jesus, still intrigues me. Both of these men, literal fulfillments of old testament prophecies, had an angelic birth announcement heralded by Gabriel. While John was not born to a virgin, his birth was miraculous, just like his cousin’s, the Messiah. John was born to an older generation, while Jesus was born to a younger generation.
John and Jesus met for the first time while they were still in their mothers’ wombs. Just after Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, his mother shared this miracle with her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John. The moment Mary’s miracle was mentioned to Elizabeth, John leaped in her womb. While he was still being formed, the forerunner was already preparing the way for the wonderful. But, as far as scripture records, we know nothing about their interaction over the next thirty years. Prophets didn’t prophecy of their boyhood days, but they boldly exclaimed the uniformity of their unique anointings and parallel preaching. John would be called the Forerunner–preaching, preparing the way of the Lord, and pointing people to Jesus. Jesus would take it from there.
As I pondered the pages of this two-thousand-year-old story, I couldn’t help but wonder how this modern generation would respond to such a phenomenon. Can you imagine the tweets and posts and blogs that would inundate social media?
So, in an attempt to assimilate this story into the twenty-first century, let’s all get our smart phones out and head to the wilderness of Judea. I want to check the status of John as he preaches his first sermon.
His first recorded word is: repent. But I have to post a pic of his outfit before I listen to his message. Can you believe he is wearing camel hair and a leather girdle?!?! And he is eating locusts and wild honey! Oh yeah, back to his message. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I am the one Isaiah said would come. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the lord and make his paths straight.’”
I like that man…
Before you knew it, his Facebook likes were immeasurable and his status was being shared and retweeted all over the region. In fact, Matthew 3:5 says that Jerusalem, all Judea, and the entire region round about Jordan came and were baptized by him. Suddenly a band of believers were not just faithfully following his posts, they were following him. His message of repentance resonated with the religious as well as the rebels. His analogy of axes being laid to the root of trees, valleys being filled, mountains being brought down, crooked paths made straight, and rough places made smooth made sense with simplicity.
But strangely, he kept making mention of someone else. He said, “I indeed baptize you, with water unto repentance, but someone mightier than me is coming soon. In fact, he is so powerful I won’t be able to loose the latchet of his shoes. I’m baptizing you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Actually, John’s status updates were never about himself. His posts were always pointing people to christ. In John 1, the social media became the social mania with interviewers everywhere trying to pen him down. They asked questions like, “Are you the Christ?”
He responded with an emphatic, “No!”
“Are you Elijah?”
“Are you that other prophet?”
With all of those no’s, the interviewers still wanted to know who he was.
So…John updated his status, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the lord. Make straight his paths.”
His status update only brought further enquiries, “If you are not the Christ, Elijah or that other prophet, why are you baptizing then?”
He said, “There is one standing among you that you don’t know. The time is coming soon that all of the people that have been converted and are following me will start following him. He is preferred before me, because he was before me. So I prefer for my posts to be all about him. I’m simply the master of ceremonies, the one who gets to introduce the master. Please dont make any ceremony about me!” John’s faithful followers still kept coming to listen and learn though. And they beckoned others to believe this profound preacher. They even nicknamed him John the Baptist because he was a baptizing machine!
And while his entourage stood on the banks of Jordan watching their Baptizer, they had ample opportunity to post persuasive pictures of people being baptized from all walks of life. The conversations were like, “If you will hold my phone and take a pic of me when im being baptized, I will do the same for you when you are baptized.”
Others scrambled to post selfies with this famous wilderness wonder called John the Baptist. In fact, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and countless other social media sites were being bombarded by the Baptist.
Then one day, John was standing in the water baptizing new believers; and he looked down the long line of waiting sinners and saw the Savior. With water up to his waist and wet, dripping hands, John pointed to the crowd and cried, “I have an announcement to make.”
Everyone scrambled to make sure their phones were on and ready to capture what would surely become an incredible media moment. With a tremble in his voice and a reverence in his soul, John boldly said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”
Then Jesus—the same one who would later walk on water–walked into the water toward his cousin John. The click of cameras was preparing for a Facebook frenzy and a baptismal blog that would be fit for the Bible.
Jesus and John embraced as Jesus secretly whispered something to John. (In a later post, the spectators would find out that the two cousins were arguing over who should baptize whom.) Jesus won the debate and was baptized by the Baptist. What an incredible moment… but wait, it’s not over! Is that a dove?
Yes! Suddenly the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove, and then a voice…a booming voice with an eternal echo…thunderously uttered, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Wow! What a moment! Tweets of the dove created a phenomenon. What a beautiful caption was captured that day: “Jesus, John, and the dove.” along with the video of the voice to validate the scene, there was no doubt that prophecy had been fulfilled and revival had returned to the remnant of the people of God who had sat in silence for four hundred years.
Those who left the riverbank that day gained a nostalgic knowledge that had been authenticated with a supernatural anointing. This event, this long-awaited moment in time, was an unparalleled prophetic promise that only prophets of old had dreamed and imagined.
As people awoke the next day, the buzz about the Baptist, the dove, Jesus and the voice had gone viral. But what people didn’t know was this baptism was a beginning for Jesus, while it was the beginning of the end for the Baptist. Today would bring a shift in time and space that would reshape both of these men’s ministries.
And ironically, later today, John and Jesus would run in to each other again. And again, John would say exactly what he said yesterday. Yes, as he and two of his disciples were walking, history repeated itself. With the same reverence in his voice and tremble in his soul as the day before, he exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
This time when he uttered those words, his two disciples did exactly as John had taught them to do: they said goodbye to John and hello to Jesus. They had already learned from john that they would eventually have to leave him and follow Jesus. But John wasn’t upset! He knew he wasn’t really losing followers; he was preparing for his finsh.
Look at that! In one instant, Jesus’ status already had two likes, and he had barely begun his ministry. And those two followers soon turned to thousands. Before long, Jesus’ popularity began to increase and John’s fame began to decrease.
Interestingly enough though, Jesus went back to Judea and had another baptismal service. At that second baptismal service, religion as we know it happened. And at that exact same moment, John’s disciples got angry because Jesus was now trending while John was no longer being treasured. Troubling tweets and prepostorous posts made news feeds all around the region feel like gossip columns. Jealousy of Jesus put John’s disciples in jeopardy.
They angrily reported to John that there was a major church split happening rigth then. John’s disciples complained, “John, you wont believe it, but most everybody is moving their letter, and all men are following Jesus.”
With the same tremble in his voice and reverence in his soul, John asked his disciples to reread all of his old posts and revisit his sermon archives. He said, “every post, every tweet, every picture was designed to point people to Christ. My status was about he who stood with me in the water. I told you that I am not the christ, but was merely sent to introduce him. Remember my ‘He must increase; I must decrease’ sermon? Remember I said, ‘I’m baptizing you with water, and he will baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire?’ Remember that?”
John continued, “he is doing what I said he would do. Remember my first post? We were both born with a prophetic promise. I couldn’t do what I have done without Jesus, and he wouldn’t do what he’s doing without me.”
But a few of John’s followers missed the meaning of this message and were in turn missing the Messiah. They were so loyal to John that they missed the lordship of the Lamb. They refused to stop following John and start following Jesus. The same people that tweeted the dove now tweaked the lamb.
These determined disciples continued to tweet the pics of the good ole days (those days with John, Jesus and the dove) while they tweaked the truth of Jesus being the Lamb that would take away the sin of the world.
Wait a minute! Hold it right there!
This entire scenario reminds me so much of religion in the twenty-first century. We post more about us than we post about Jesus. Our tweets are partial truths that maximize our ministry and minimize the part on what religion is really all about: Jesus!!! He still must increase, and we must decrease.
I am no stranger to this modern-day dilemma. In the ups and downs of modern-day ministry, I have been friended and unfriended, liked and unliked, as well as followed and unfollowed. I’ve been the one baptized while hearing the applause, but I’ve also been the one baptizing as I experinced people’s abandonment. I’ve had people who wanted to be my armorbearer and others who wanted to be my armor-wearer. And ultimately, I sometimes feel that I can totally relate to all that John the Baptist faced.
Technically, the problem that arose way back then had nothing to do with John and Jesus. It had everything to do with religious rhetoric and people around them both, people who had been made to feel important because of the status they enjoyed while following the precarious and fallible fame of their leaders.
It wasn’t a preacher problem; it was an armorbearer attitude. The guys that gathered around John, the ones whom we now call armorbearers, were so loyal to him that they missed his message. While they wanted to protect him in the physical, they sadly missed the spiritual. And in the process, the real enemy showed up. While religion was dividing itself and fighting from within, the carnal king in the worldly system stepped in. Through a sick demand from a worldly woman, making John the forerunner of Jesus for one last time. In death as well as life, John would lead the way before his Jesus and be beheaded, dying a martyr’s death, as would countless people who believed the slavation message years later—and even today.
In the end, John was taken to prison.
Guess who refused to leave him, even going as far as escorting him there: his disciples who had been his faithful armorbearers. John must have been moved by such a sense of loyalty! But he also knew that somehow he had to get these guys to follow Jesus. There would be nothing greater for his grand finale than to convince his followers to follow Jesus.
So, in prison he came up with a plan. He called those two loyal disciples into his cell and asked for a final favor, “Will you go ask Jesus if he is the one that is supposed to come, or do we look for another?”
This is the point where I differ in my thoughts from others bible readers. I personally don’t think (after all that had transpired throughout his ministry) that John was really questioning the authenticity of Christ. I think he knew that he was about to die, and he still had disciples. They were posting pics from prison and keeping people updated of their loyalty to their leader.
Finally, in obedience to John, they left the prison and followed the trending posts to see where jesus was. They found him and had a conversation with him. What they thought they were doing for John, this questioning of the proposed Messiah, was really done for their benefit.
Jesus said, “Go and show John the things that you hear and see. The blind receive their sight; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Then Jesus took it a step farther. He began to preach about John. He let everyone know that among them that were born or ever would be born, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist!
Tweet that! Pin that post!
How do you think that made these guys feel? Suddenly, they realized that this was not a competition; it was the kingdom, and they were still an integral part of that kingdom.
Now, I’m sure they rushed back and told John about the blind and the lame, but I’m also sure they told him what a gentleman Jesus was. I imagine they relayed how Jesus thought that John was the greatest prophet ever born. I’m sure that John smiled with a sense of peace, a joy in knowing his mission was finally complete.
And maybe, just maybe, John’s last words were, “Tweet the dove, but don’t Tweek the lamb!”