On St. Patrick’s Day, 2017, we gathered for a Pastors’ Forum at the United Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Bruce Grodner (ACLC National Executive Director) facilitated discussion about why Jesus’ disciples could believe in Jesus but John the Baptist and the Pharisees could not.
He pointed out that in Genesis Joseph received a revelatory dream that his 11 brothers and his family would bow down to him; however, the dream did not explain how and when that would take place. Similarly, prophecy was given to the Jewish people that the Lord would come on the clouds and Elijah would precede him.
Rev. Grodner went on to say that the Pharisees were bound by Jewish Law. As we can see in Deut. 4:2 “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you” (NIV). He also said that the disciples were perceived as uneducated and unorthodox believers. In Mark 2:15 the Pharisees criticized them. “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (NIV). How could these uneducated, unorthodox believers convince the Pharisees that Jesus was the Messiah and that John the Baptist was Elijah who was to come?
Then the participants shared their insights. One minister thought that John the Baptist must have been told about the prophecy of Elijah’s return. Many people asked him if he was the Messiah. He must have entertained grandiose ideas about his mission and the Messiah. Another minister expressed that John was confused. He remarked that John baptized Jesus and testified to him. However, later, when he was put in prison he began to doubt. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Matt. 11:3 (ESV). Another clergyman said John the Baptist should have just quit what he was doing and followed Jesus, but he decided to continued his own ministry instead.
One Deacon said, “It is easy to look back at John the Baptist, and judge him. It seems like he had all the tools to accomplish his mission. But what would we do if we were in his shoes?”
Rev. Grodner concluded the session by saying that John should have undertaken God’s word, just as Adam should have undertaken God’s word. John should have never disconnected from Jesus. How could the Jewish people change their minds unless someone helped them? John’s acceptance and acknowledgement of Jesus was crucial for the Hebrew leadership to embrace Jesus and his teachings.
Through the discussion of the slide presentation, the ministers gained a deeper understanding of John’s predicament. They also understood that because John the Baptist did not fulfill his mission the Jewish people could not understand or accept Jesus as the Lord and Messiah, whom they had long awaited. God had to choose an alternative path to continue His work to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Dialog is so important to understand how others think and feel about their beliefs.
This is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Only curiosity about the fate of others, the ability to put ourselves in their shoes, and the will to enter their world … creates this shock of recognition. Without this empathy there can be no genuine dialogue, and we as individuals and nations will remain isolated and alien, segregated and fragmented.”
Submitted by: Rev. Kathaleen Sato/ NJ ACLC