John the Baptist's moral performance narrative...

(Tim: This from and by Eric Wilson)

Scene: Children sitting in the marketplace...

Aaron: As exciting as it's been to see and hear of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, I could hardly be more disappointed in John the Baptist, lately. I just don’t understand what he was trying to do.

Bartholomew: Really, it’s not that surprising. He always struck me as caught up in the "moral-performance narrative"...

You know, the way he always needs to find fault with others. Remember him calling the Pharisees a “brood of vipers?”

Talk about poor conflict-resolution! He gives them a scathing public rebuke before they ever have a chance to speak!

It’s just irresponsible.

Aaron: Yeah, that was a bit intense. But I thought they had it coming. I certainly wouldn’t speak that way. But John seemed to have a special ministry. It was like God had a special purpose for him.

Bartholomew: Well his ministry hasn’t exactly been purpose-driven, lately. There he sits in jail, accomplishing nothing. And for what?

Aaron: That's the worst part. If Herod had locked him up for proclaiming Jesus and the Kingdom of God, I’d applaud John's courage. But for confronting Herod’s indiscretion?

We’re all disappointed in Herod’s moral failures but they aren't exactly relevant. Anyone could have told you John's boldness wouldn’t accomplish anything. It wasn’t a hill worth dying on.

Bartholomew: But it wasn't just futile. It was nonsensical. Remember what he said? He told Herod, "It's not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” I mean, what does that even mean? Herod makes the laws around here; and if you haven’t noticed, he’s not a Jew.

It’s like John thought Herod was anointed by God, we were still living in a theocracy, and he was Elijah rebuking Ahab. The guy's delusional! Does he really think a Mt. Carmel showdown is approaching? If he was looking to the prophets for role models, he doesn’t understand the first principle of hermeneutics.

Aaron: Yeah, it doesn’t look like he put much thought into it. I was embarrassed when I heard John was saying "thou shalt not" to Herod. Makes it look like we have no understanding of how to live in a pluralistic society, you know? He actually expects that to make sense to Herod in the middle of the Roman Empire's polytheism?

But say Herod had changed his behavior. Even then, John's emphasis on the law would only promote legalism and a false spirituality.

Bartholomew: Personally, I think John couldn’t stand Jesus’ ministry surpassing his own. John said the right things at first. Remember, "He must increase, but I must decrease?" But let’s be honest. John's ministry was never humble and I'm guessing he didn’t know what to do when Jesus was started to get more attention. He picked his quarrel with Herod so he could be the center of attention, again. It's sad.

Aaron: Could be. I don’t know what to think. He has lost his focus. I hear he's sent word to Jesus to ask if He's the Christ. He doesn’t seem so confident anymore.

Bartholomew: Did he really? That’s interesting. I’ll bet Jesus takes the opportunity to warn him against moralism. He'll show John his zeal misses the point of the Kingdom of God. I wish I could hear the parable he uses--should be interesting.

Anyhow, now that John's locked up Jesus will be able to establish his own legacy...

As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.

But what did you go out to see? A prophet?

Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.'
"Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

"But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; We mourned to you, and you did not lament.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'

But wisdom is justified by her children."
(Matthew 11:7 – 19)


"Only if you show them there's a difference—that what they rejected wasn't real Christianity—will they even begin to listen again."

This is the hardest part but I guess if Christ battled it why shouldn't we have to?

It was once put to me like this:

"The paradox of justification in Romans is that while the Law shows us that we need to be saved, yet it is not in the keeping of the Law that we are saved, but rather trusting in Christ. The paradox of sanctification is that while the Law also shows us how to live, it is not in keeping the Law that we are made holy, but rather in the work of the Spirit in us and our co-operation with it" (ref. Romans 8).

My take on Tim Keller is that he understands and probably stresses the second part of each paradox, but not the first.

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