Matthew 3 draws me in like a vortex. It’s one of those passages that seems to jump off the page at me, rendering me incapable of moving on. It’s been like this for almost ten years. Specifically two words have served as barbs in my soul…so much that I’d willingly renumber the chapters and verses to make another two word verse alongside “Jesus wept”. This new stand-alone verse would be “those days”. It’s easy to remember, and with a little bit of understanding, it’ll rock your day.
In context, it says “In those days, John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. This is He who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah…”.
The revolutionary nature of John the Baptists’ ministry cannot be overstated. He did what was not done, in a place people did not go, with a message they couldn’t comprehend, in a way they didn’t recognize, found himself thrust into a spotlight that he did everything he could to avoid…and set the stage for the changing of everything. He preached a message that would manifest itself in a man in his lifetime, then spread for two thousand years as the predominant socio-spiritual force in human history, even if only partly realized…until the day of it’s ultimate expression in the age to come.
And it all took place in those days.
I wonder about those days. I wonder if the air felt heavier. If the sun was brighter. If the birds sang what would become Handel’s Messiah while the deer frolicked and fish and frogs swam to the edge of the pond to hear John more clearly.
I doubt it.
Instead, I think those days were like these days. Those days were full of day to day challenges. Even a man wearing camel’s hair needs to do laundry. It said he ate bugs; not that he enjoyed them. No man preaching to the air on purpose – John had to wonder ‘are they coming?’, probably hating himself later for asking the question. It shouldn’t have mattered in those days, but it probably did – just like it does in these.
Those days were marked. Those days were God’s gift to John. Communing with a God that exists outside of time, once in a while we forget that we exist very much within time. Yes, we are immortal souls but we’re wearing mortal bodies and ministering among the living that will one day be dead. That places time back in the category of relevance.
God exists before, after and during time, but for my own proving and experiential purposes, I exist in the now. Time is a gift to mark our progress and failures. Man is given earthly assignments to be completed within the framework of time.
We are given the gift of time in order to act within it’s confines. We can invest it, leverage it, burn it or lose it. We just can’t buy it.
I’ve been thinking about a season in my life when I felt this urgency – this sense of the now – more strongly than I have at any other time. It was a wonderful time of deep connection with God that wrote things on my heart that are there to this day. I treasure that season….but I’m not quite ready to let it define my life. I can’t bear the thought of the glory story of my life existing in the past so long as my heart still beats within me. It’s one thing to say ‘next year will be better than this one’…but far easier than committing to making this year better than the last. I can’t do much about next year but wish. But this year….these days….what can I do in these days?
My prayer is that these days would be as those days for all of us.
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