On the other hand, it was kind of flattering. And I got to thinking… isn’t that what we all want to be mistaken for? Jesus? Really – if you and I are living the life of a true Christian, then when people see us, they really SHOULD see Jesus.
Do you think that would be possible?
I want to propose to you that we are like a statue… a sculptor starts with a plain block of wood or marble…, but by the time they lay down their tools, an image has appeared. That image was there all along – it just had to be revealed.
After creating the famous statue of David, someone asked Michangelo how he did it… “It’s easy”, he said, “I just chip away anything that doesn’t look like David”.
Same goes for you and me – we start out as a block of wood or marble – but our goal is to look like Jesus. His image is already IN us – after all, God MADE us in His image… we just have to reveal it. So we gotta chip away anything in our self that doesn’t look like Jesus. How do we do that? Let’s look at the Gospel.
Whenever we hear of John the Baptist, we hear about ‘a voice of one crying out in the desert’… but what was he saying? Just before our reading today, John just delivered a real fire and brimstone sermon...YOU BROOD OF VIPERS! THE TREE THAT DOESN’T BARE GOOD FRUIT WILL BE CUT DOWN AND THROWN INTO THE FIRE! He’s not politically correct, but He got people’s attention, and they were scared...”what do we do?” “I don’t want to be thrown into the fire…. What do I do?”
What SHOULD we do? What if someone asked YOU what they had to do to please God? How would you answer?
Sell everything and give the money to the poor? Go serve in the slums of Calcutta or Haiti? Give your life as a martyr?
Notice that’s not what John says… instead John gives them the mundane, almost boring answer:... Basically, do what you already know is the right thing. Soldiers don’t falsely accuse anyone. Tax collectors, stop collecting more than the correct amount. If anyone has two coats and sees someone in need, give one to them! This is not rocket science or anything hard to do… just “do what you already know is right!”
That may sound simple – but is it? Let me give an example of what John might say to us today. Drivers – just drive the speed limit and no more. What?! OK, John – you’ve gone too far now. You can’t be serious! Everybody knows the speed limit is more like a ‘suggestion’ and as long as you stay within 5 miles per hour or so, there’s no problem… everybody does it… you can’t expect ME to be the exception! Besides, if I drive the speed limit there will always be somebody riding my tail upset with me. I can’t do that. Everybody is doing it – and you can’t expect ME to be the exception. Isn’t that what the tax collector would have said? What?! I HAVE to collect more than the prescribed amount in order to feed my family. Besides, everybody is doing it – and everybody expects me to do it… you can’t expect ME to be the exception. If I stop collecting extra, then the other tax collectors will be upset with me because it will make it more obvious that THEY are cheating.
So – you can see –John’s demand wasn’t such a painless command after all. Eventually, if we want to be like Jesus, we just might have to go to Calcutta or give our life as a martyr… but we start by whittling away at our little sinful behaviors that we’ve grown so accustomed to. In everything we do – we should do the right thing – not doing what everybody else is doing . Yeah – we’ll stand out in the crowd.
Kinda like John- he was a FREAK – wearing furs, eating bugs, living in the wilderness… But did you notice that people were mistaking John for Jesus… they thought maybe John was the messiah.
That’s our goal… to be mistaken for Jesus. Every one of us CAN be…. We just gotta keep chipping away anything about ourselves that doesn’t look like Jesus.