Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Bible’s Biker

Matthew 3:1-6 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

What comes into your mind upon hearing the word, “biker”? Someone a bit unconventional?. . .someone who doesn’t fit into the cultural norm? A free spirit? Someone not overly concerned with the opinions of others? Not a polished person. . .not a person of gentle flavors and hues, but a bold flavor-filled, pungent, strongly independent minded. . .a radically free spirit. . .

Enter John the Baptist upon the scene. Not caring for the safe way. He entered unexpectedly upon the scene as a prophesied prerequisite for the arrival of the Messiah. His purpose to make straight the way of the Lord, to knock off the rough edges, to hew a theological path based upon relationships and love from the rigid ungodly unforgiving structure of rules which had become the religious order of the day.

Isaiah 40:3-5 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

His message was convicting to all. “God is coming. Stop doing bad things. Turn away from evil.” The religious had become so very comfortable in their ability to follow the Law, that their way of life had become an unthinking routine. Their rules became more important than righteousness. Their rules became more important then relationships with either their fellow man or with God.

John came to turn everything on its head. The low were to be lifted up. The high were to be brought down. The unrighteous were to be made righteous. The coarse were to be refined. . .This was hands-on work. The sweaty work of rippling muscles, hog wrestling a jack hammer. This was not a work of delicacy and subtlety.

John came of a form and of a lifestyle not be be desired by the established. Wearing 1st century leathers, with bug crumbs in his teeth and on his breath. . .the very caricature of a biker. . .minus the bike. . .a free spirit. . .a man from the wilderness. . .A man on the periphery, he came preaching a message that was central and bold and could not be ignored.

He did not fit what the leaders of the temple saw as a proper model for a prophet. . .The same myopia that caused them not to recognize the Messiah, made them blind to the significance of John. And indeed the same fate awaited both John and Jesus.

In their eyes, John’s lack of a $500 robe and his not having sat at the foot of an esteemed Rabbi stripped any significance from him. How could his message have meaning and influence if it did not come wrapped in the trappings which the world finds so important. Thereby their own prejudice blinded them to John and to Jesus.

What if Jesus returns today riding a motor cycle rather than a burro. Would your mental image of what He should be cause you to ignore Him? Would you listen to Him? The Pharisees were looking for a king dressed in purple robes. The humbleness of Jesus was blinding to them.


God has always taken delight in confounding our expectations. In every respect, indistinguishable from a true son of Pharaoh, Moses led the children of Israel, against Pharaoh's wishes, out of Egypt and to the very doorstep of the promised land. The chief persecutor and prosecutor of Christians and an inherent disbeliever of Jesus, Paul became God’s chief voice for spreading God’s new covenant with man. The wild man, John the Baptist, known for eating bugs, living in wild places, and dressing in animal skins is the herald God used to announce His coming arrival on Earth. . . and on and on and on we might go

How do you decide whom you listen to? Do you base your respect upon the finery of the messenger. Would you have listened to John? In eight verses it is recorded Jesus saying: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Many then had no ears for a carpenter’s son from Galilee. Many died then and will die today for their spiritual deafness. . .

One of the great teachers of my life was an rheumy ancient and wizened one-legged black man I met in Chicago’s Union Station when I was 16 years old. My Dad, as a railroad worker, had a rail pass and I could travel to Chicago for free. I would go to the Loop, to Old Town, to the museums, and spend the day roaming the streets of Chicago.

Our eyes met. Not quickly enough to run and hide within myself, I was snared like a stunned rabbit by a hawk’s talons. He caught me. Our eyes were now frozen and locked together. No escape was possible without pain and obvious cruelty. . .He called to me, “Hey boy. Where you going?” I know nothing of what he saw in me. Maybe the seizing and holding my eyes was a rare open door to share fellowship. Of all his needs and hungers, maybe the ache for human companionship was deepest within him.

He had lost his leg in WWI. He had cancer and he was going home to to die. He spoke of home reverently, his personal promised land, St. Louis, Missouri. He was going home for the first time in decades. Monetarily he was poor beyond poor. His clothing, tattered rags. He smelled of disease and infection. His breath was a wheezing humid wind of acrid decay. I bought him a coffee and we talked for an hour or so while waiting for our trains. I had trouble understanding. His voice was as of another land. His land was as of another world from mine. He talked of his life. He talked of the war and of losing much more than a leg. He spoke of life and love. . .He spoke of death and hope.

We parted. He in his wrenching precarious gait, one leg, one worn and misfit home made wooden crutch, lurching down the platform between the tracks. I back to my own war, my battles of adolescence. . .my own war of independence if you will. Now diminished with a new vision of larger battles than curfews and grades. . . My sole gift to him a coffee with lots of sugar. . .It was difficult for me to carry the abundance of gifts which he bestowed upon me. . .40 years later I carry his memory. I carry some of his gifts to this very day. Others unseen, have been carried so long they are now become a part of me. . .

He that hath ears to hear. . .let him hear. . .
He that hath ears to hear. . .let him hear. . .
He that hath ears to hear. . .let him hear. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .

Dave Stokely

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