In “Another Man with Two Names” we talked about a guy known as John Mark. Although no one knows why he’s called John Mark, it does distinguish him from other men in the Bible named John.
In addition to John Mark, I count four guys in the Bible with the name of John:
It seems there is only one guy called Mark. Mark is mentioned eight times in the New Testament (three times as John Mark, twice as Mark, but referring to John Mark, and three times as Mark, likely referencing John Mark.)
Lastly, John Mark (sometimes called Mark) may have been the author of the book of Mark. Wouldn’t it be confusing if we called his book John-Mark, instead?
Although the terminology and even the timing vary between the various Christian traditions and perspectives, a generality is that first someone decides to follow Jesus and then the Holy Spirit is given to guide and direct them. While each stream of Christian thought assigns different terms to these events and has a diversity of understanding as to the how and why, this is the generally prescribed order.
So how then does this square with John the Baptist being “filled with the Holy Spirit even before he his was born?” Things certainly seem out of sequence for him.
True, it would be unwise to rewrite our theology on the basis of one verse that seems to offer an exception to our understanding of the normal order of how things are done. However, at the least, this verse should give us pause before we adamantly assert there is a specific way and time for one to receive the Holy Spirit.
Apparently, not everyone’s journey to God is exactly the same.
John the Baptist is sitting in jail, about to be executed. In a dark moment, his faith begins to waiver. Seeking assurance, he sends his followers to Jesus, with the simple question, “Are you the one?”
This query reminds me of the movie, The Matrix, where people keep asking Neo, “Are you the one?” Some think he is, some aren’t sure, and some doubt, but all are wondering. All that is, except for Morpheus, who plainly proclaims to Neo, “You are the one.”
Morpheus’s simple statement of faith to Neo reminds me of Peter’s confident confession to Jesus, when he plainly proclaims, “You are the Christ.”
Using movie references to illuminate a biblical passages are frequently employed and helpfully presented. However, if someone were to consider an illustration like this 2,000 years in the future, or even a couple of centuries hence, they would be confused. They would not know of Neo or Morpheus. They would not have watched The Matrix and our modern cinema would likely be a mystery to them.
What clarifies today would be confusing later, just as some of Jude’s cryptic references in his letter where helpful back then, but are confusing today.
The book of Joel is classified as one of the Bible’s prophetic books, as it contains a foretelling of the future. After multiple reads, however, this short, 3-chapter book begins to emerge more as poetry than prophecy, revealing multiple levels of meaning awaiting the patient reader to unveil and discover.
The name of the book is the same as the prophet who received God’s oracle — Joel. The nemesis of Joel’s story is a swarm of locust.
Joel’s message is one of unprecedented destruction via this army of locust, which eats everything in sight, devastating all plants — and the sustenance they produce. Both man and animal suffer as a result. However, there is also a grand and glorious redemption that follows, with God promising to restore the years that the locust ate.
Perhaps the most notable mention of locusts in the Bible is as one of the plagues that befall Egypt during Moses’ day. Another is that of locust — along with honey — comprising the unique dietary stylings of John the Baptist.
Aside from the life-nourishment that the locust provide to John, all the other Biblical references of locust relate to plague and destruction — and death — be it literal or figurative.
Regardless, I wouldn’t what them to eat my food or to eat them as food — I’m happy to take my locust as a metaphor.
[See Joel 1:2, Joel 1:4, Joel 2:1, Joel 2:25, Exodus 10:1-20, Matthew 3:4, Mark 1:6]
John (referred to as John the Baptizer) was Jesus’ cousin and a couple of months older. John preceded Jesus in ministry, pointing people to Jesus.
John did his work admirably and without fault, albeit amidst criticism. He was eventually imprisoned because of what he said.
With all the amazing things Jesus did and the miracles he preformed, you’d think that he would have freed John from jail. He could have, yet he didn’t. At least he could have visited his cousin, yet that doesn’t appear to have happened either.
So, John is sitting in jail, pondering his fate (he would soon be executed); his faith in Jesus begins to waiver. We know this because in what is likely the darkest days of his life, he sends his followers to Jesus, asking if Jesus is the “one” or if they should be expecting someone else.
John seemingly wants validation for his work and confirmation that his life of service to Jesus was not in vain.
Jesus replies, providing John with the assurance that he sought.
Sometimes God acts strangely, not giving us what we want or expect, but he does give us what we need — just like he did for John.