John wore a camel’s hair shirt fastened with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild honey, and people left the comforts of home to hear what he had to say.
“Snakes! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Stop flashing your pedigree.”
He reached into the river bed and stood up with a stone in each hand. “The Lord can turn these into children of Abraham.”
He walked over to a pear tree and grasped a branch. “Take a good look at the axe in the Lord’s hand, because if your tree doesn’t bear good fruit, it’s coming down.”
Not as gory as bowels falling out a piece at a time, maybe. But right there in your face.
“Are—are you Elijah?”
“Ha! Don’t you wish. No. You know who I am? I’m a voice. A voice that says, straighten up. The Lord’s clearing the floor. Grain to the granary, chaff to the fire.”
Many did go straight. But not the king.
John told him, “Send your brother’s wife back to your brother,” so King Herod threw John in prison. He kept him down in the dark, in the damp, for a long, long time.
Once, when John first heard the voice of Mary, he did a dance right there inside his mother’s womb. But after all these weeks in Herod’s cell, those moves didn’t work for him.
Once a dove floated out of the sky and settled on Jesus right in front of John. But down here, the only thing falling from above was cockroaches.
Once John shouted to the crowd, but only a few gathered at the bars of this cell.
So John sent two friends. They worked their way through the crowd and stood in front of Jesus. “John wants to know. Are you the one who is to come, or should we wait for someone else?”
Heads snapped up, eyes slid sideways, and the buzz of the multitude fell off.
Did they hear right?
Hadn’t John called Jesus, “The Lamb of God”?
Jesus took his time. He looked at the two and then out at the throng.
He quoted Isaiah loud for the crowd. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor hear good news.” He let his hands rest a moment on the two friends’ shoulders. “Look, what John needs—he needs you to look around and tell him what you see, what you hear.”
As the two headed back to John’s cell, Jesus asked the throng, “Remember when you went out to John in the wilderness?” Faces turned his way.
“Did you search the reeds for patterns from the wind?” They shook their heads.
“Were you hoping to see someone in a soft robe?” Several smiled.
“No. You were looking for a man who doesn’t hold back, who lets the truth bubble out. And you found him, the messenger of Malachi.”
Eyebrows raised, but Jesus nodded. “That’s right. Believe it or not, John is that Elijah who was to come.”
At Herod’s birthday banquet, his step daughter danced for the guests, and Herod stood. “What can I give you, child?” He made a grand sweep of the arm. “To the half of my kingdom!”
“Just a minute.” She skipped out to her mother while the wives whispered. “How sweet.”
She pranced back in. “Give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Right now.”
Conversation stopped. The king glanced toward his guests. But he spoke to a guard, and soon a soldier brought in John’s head.
When Jesus heard what they did to his cousin, he got in a boat and went off alone.
A few weeks later, he took three friends up a mountain. At the top, the three friends sat under an oak tree while Jesus crossed to the other side of the clearing.
Whoa! Jesus’ clothes glowed whiter than white. What’s this? He stood and chatted with Moses and Elijah.
After a while, he returned to his three friends.
“Let’s build three cabins. One for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But Jesus led them back down the mountain, back to the city, where his clothes lost their luster.
Mathew 17:4 – “If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”