After John’s messengers were gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who dress in fashionable clothes and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. Luke 7:24-26 (CEB)
When I go shopping, it’s usually with a purpose. There’s something specific that I want to get. Yesterday, I ordered hand soap online and went to the grocery store for low-carb tortillas, protein bars, coffee beans, and creamer. The day before that I ordered school pictures, looking for the package that was around twenty dollars. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I go into a store (Target) and aimlessly meander, coming home with some goodie I never knew I wanted before that moment. But most likely, there was a purpose that took me shopping.
Most of us have a general purpose for how we spend our time, energy, and money. There’s a method behind the madness. We know why we go to work, we know why we vote for certain candidates, we know why we make our kids do their homework, we know why we bought the car/house/furniture we own, we know why we have pets, and we even know why we love certain sports/movies/music/holidays.
However, when it comes to our faith, I feel like we really don’t always know why it matters. In Luke 7, Jesus has an encounter with John the Baptists disciples. John the Baptist was a prophet who came before Jesus and prepared the way for him. John lived in the wilderness, taught people about the need for repentance, proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and baptized those who were seeking transformation. John was arrested for speaking out against King Herod, and while imprisoned news of Jesus’ ministry reached him. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come?” Jesus answers affirmatively, then talks to the crowds about John. I love Jesus’ question to the crowds, and it’s a question he asks of those who seek him throughout his ministry.
“What did you come here for?”
In Luke 7, Jesus specifically asks the people, “Who did you go to the wilderness to see? A king? A celebrity? No, you came to see a prophet.” Essentially, Jesus is reminding the people that what they were looking for was an encounter with the Divine. They wanted to hear a word from God, and they believed that John was delivering that word.
This is not the only time in the Gospels that Jesus questions people who come to him about their motives. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the story of a blind man coming to Jesus. In many Gospel healing encounters, Jesus automatically knows what the one coming to him wants. He understands the healing that needs to take place. Yet, when Jesus sees the blind man he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Of course, Jesus knew the man was blind. He knew that the man wanted healing. And yet, he posed the question anyway.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Jesus knows what we need. He knows the desires of our hearts. But sometimes, I think he wants to make sure we know them, too. He wants us to have a faith that is both meaningful and purposeful. Otherwise, what’s the point of showing up for worship each week? What’s the point of engaging in Bible study? What’s the point of working toward social justice? If we don’t know why we’re doing it, then we’re just going through the motions. There’s no purpose, there’s no connection, there’s no relationship. Just as we work, shop, and relax with purpose, so our faith lives should be filled with purpose also.
“What did you come here for?” Jesus asks. As Jesus People, I think we need to be able to answer that question, because the answer to that question will give our faith a real and tangible purpose. Furthermore, that real and tangible purpose will result in a closer, deeper, and stronger relationship with God. Instead of meandering aimlessly through the aisles of faith, picking up a prayer habit here, looking at a Bible study over there, hopping from one church to another trying to find something that “fits”, we’ll be able to focus our time and energy on what we truly need.
For me, I want to experience God’s presence. I want to know God more, and in doing so I want my life to be an extension of his works. Therefore, when I go into worship each Sunday, I don’t care if we sing traditional or contemporary hymns, if we read a Psalter or pray quietly. My focus is on experiencing God’s presence, and God can present himself to me i
n any style of worship.
Similarly, I engage in Bible study because I want to know God more. I want to understand what is important to him and what he expects of me. I want to know how I can live in a way that shows others God’s love, grace, and hope. I want to know God better so that I can share his message with others.
I also engage in Bible study and prayer because I want to have a closer relationship with God. More than that, I want our relationship to be symbiotic. I want God’s Spirit to dwell within me so that I can live out my full potential in him.
Do you see why purpose matters? Do you see why Jesus asks, “What did you come here for?”
Let me ask you two questions to think about the next few days:
- What do you go to church/Bible study/small group for?
- What do you want Jesus to do for you?
Blessings and Peace,