Sunday, October 4, 2015

Everyone Loves Heroes

We have recently seen news of two selfless and outstanding young American men who are being hailed as heroes, both charging unflinchingly into the face of certain death. First Alek Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman who along with two others ran forward and captured an armed terrorist intent on killing everyone on a train traveling from Belgium to France. Then another former Army soldier, Chris Mintz who received multiple gunshot wounds while blocking an armed killer behind a classroom door at an Oregon college. Both men not counting their own lives over the lives others, advanced into chaos and almost certain death to save them. Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Heroes don’t come in special wrappings, usually they are just ordinary people living ordinary lives until they are called through an internal urge to do extraordinary things, even if it costs them their own lives. John the Baptist was one like these, the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, both righteous people. Zechariah was a priest in the temple of God and according to Jewish tradition the priesthood was passed down from one generation to the next firstborn son. So John the Baptist was by birthright a member of the temple priesthood, however John was called out to the wilderness by that inexplicable inner voice.
John was what we would call an eccentric leaving a comfortable life behind as a temple priest opting to take on hardship for the sake of a greater cause than himself. He was carrying a warning to all who would listen, to make way for the coming of the Lord.

(Matthew 3:1 - 6) In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
(Luke 3: 11 - 12) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

(John 3: 25 - 30) Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness (referring to Jesus), here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

John came with a warning and was a herald of something greater than himself that was coming, his message was not well received by some and eventually it cost him his life.

(Matthew 14: 1 - 12) At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus; and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist, he has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Hero′di-as, his brother Philip’s wife; because John said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Hero′di-as danced before the company, and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it; and they went and told Jesus.

(Matthew 11: 7 - 14) As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli′jah who is to come. He who has ears to hear,let him hear.

John was a great hero, called like so many other heroes by that mystical inner voice that drives men to lay down their own lives for causes much greater than themselves. John said, “He must increased I must decrease”. In other words, it’s not about me to draw attention to myself, it’s about something greater than myself just as this blog written as Joshua Stone is merely a non de plume rather than draw accolades to myself, it’s about He Who Is….Jesus. 
Most of the good, kind and seemingly righteous deeds that people do and are praised for today are usually couched in selfish motives, because they enjoy the praise of others, or they expect it will create personal opportunities for gain and be a good tax deduction. There is usually always an ulterior motive behind people's good works!  Not so with the likes of John the Baptist and these two soldiers whose motives were entirely selfless for the sake of others even unto death, selfless not unlike Jesus himself, the Lord and Savior of all mankind who gave his all that we might live!

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