Thoughts on the Baptizer

Lately I have thought that John the Baptizer is one of the most interesting characters in the New Testament. I think he’s got a bad rap much of the time, being portrayed as some kind of extremist nut job with bad personal hygiene. Additionally, if we take the testimony of the gospels seriously, he did a lot to obscure his own importance in the Christian story. But each Evangelist has his own take on the man.

For Mark, the Baptizer is clearly the prologue, with only a retrospective appearance once Herodias has his head, wherein we learn a little of his fame and piety. All three Synoptics record the popular notion that Jesus was the Baptizer raised from the dead, indicating the level of expectation that people had regarding John. Matthew and Luke give us a glimpse of John’s own faith struggle as he sits in a jail cell attempting to reconcile his situation with the expectations accompanying the Christ’s arrival (Mt 11.2-6; Lk 7.18-23). In Matthew and Luke, Jesus himself quotes the Isaiah passage Mark used (Mk 1.1-2; Mt 3.3; Lk 3.4) to describe the Baptizer’s role and identifies him as a prophet and “more than a prophet” (Mt. 11: 10; Lk 7.26). They both record that Jesus gives John the stunning compliment of being the greatest human being born before the advent of the Kingdom (Lk 7.28; Mt 11.11). Additionally, Matthew has Jesus using John as the marker for the decisive transition point in history (Mt 11.12). Finally, comparing himself with John, Jesus reveals the negative side of John’s reputation among his adversaries: “He has a demon” (Mt 11.18; Lk 7.33).

In Matthew, Jesus identifies him with the of Israel’s greatest heros and the fulfillment of one of the outstanding prophecies of the day (Mal 4.5-6).

Matt. 11:14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

Matt. 17:10 And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
11 He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things;
12 but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.”
13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

Luke bothers to tell the story of John’s miraculous conception alongside Jesus’ and clues us in to Mary’s kinship to Elizabeth. Only Luke records Zecharaiah’s prophecy, which includes another usage of the Isaiah prophecy:

Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.

And only Luke comments, “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel” (Lk 1.80).

It was John the Apostle’s approach to the Baptist that really got me thinking, though. As I savor the gorgeous prologue, loaded with its lofty theological language, it gets on my nerves that I have to read around the parenthetical references to John. What’s the desert-dwelling minor character doing in the middle of the timeless theological prose? On one hand, it suggests that John’s presence and testimony is just as important a part of the message as the rest of the material. On the other hand, it is impressive that aside from pointing out the Baptizer’s testimony, the Evangelist’s material emphsizes that he was of secondary importance.

“He himself was not the light” (1.8)
“He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me” (1.15)
“He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah'” (1.20)
“I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal” (1.27)

John 3:26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’
29 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. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

All of this makes me ask, what was going on with John the Baptizer? His testimony was as important as anything the Evangelist had to write, and at the same time he is explicitly devalued. The two dynamics together, in combination with the other bits we have about the Baptizer, suggest a tremendous level of influence among his contemporaries. It was important that those who follow the Baptizer lend the weight of his credibility to Jesus, but it was equally important that they recognize he was not the one they ultimately needed to follow. The Acts narrative implies as much.

Acts 18:24 Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures.
25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.
27 And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers,
28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.

Acts 19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.
2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.”
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

John the Baptizer’s message had taken on international proportions, preceding even the mission of Paul. John was not just some fanatic eating locust down by the river. He was the original impetus for the Christian movement, producing an astonishing impact–as it was prophesied he would. Indeed, it doesn’t seem John gets much credit for fulfilling the Isaiah prophecy in the powerful way that he did. In a very practical sense, John “prepared the way” for Jesus. This is also clearest in the Gospel of John.

John 1:35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples,
36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the faith of the disciples at the call of Jesus seems much more romantic and radical. Yet, the pragmatics of the situation were that at least some, probably all, of the Apostles were disciples of John the Baptists, prepared by virtue of his teaching, repentant by virtue of his preaching, ready (in one sense) for Jesus to arrive. John’s role was vital in a way far more significant that simply signaling that the time had come. Those like Apollos continued for years to be the harvest of the Baptizer’s sowing. Already they are “instructed in the Way” (the church’s initial title), capable of teaching “accurately,” considered “disciples.” Their ignorance about the Spirit and baptism into the Name of Jesus did not preclude those realities, important doctrines though they be. The teaching of John the Baptist regarding Jesus, which continued for some time during Jesus’ ministry before Herod arrested John, would have prepared them to incorporate the unfolding story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection into their faith. Indeed, the way was prepared for Aquilla, Priscilla, and Paul to fill in the missing bits. I do not doubt that this happened in other places as well.

As a little bit of background that I suspect heightened the impression John made on his fellow Jews, consider 1 Maccabees. It gives us some of the little information we have about the intertestamental period. While it is easy for Protestant Christians, with our tidy canon, to claim that the prophetic voice is silenced after Malachi and does not reappear until the Baptizer, the historical data (or lack thereof) weigh upon us as apologists. While we cannot be too assertive about what God was or was not doing beyond the boundaries of our canonized records (that would be arguing from silence, which is a moral error), 1 Mac 9.27 indicates the Jewish people in general were keenly aware of the absence of prophecy as they had known it. Speaking of a very gloomy moment in the Maccabean Revolt, after the death of its leader Judas, the text states:

1Mac. 9:27 So there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.

In two other passages, it is noted that decisions made were provisional, “until and prophet should come to tell what to do” (4.46) and “until a trustworthy prophet should arise” (14.41).

The latter does imply that untrustworthy prophets may have arisen, and the plethora of false Christs around Jesus’ time is indicative of the phenomenon. In all likelihood then, from the time of Malachi, there was a constant hope for true prophets, a gnawing anxiety about their absence (perhaps even a faith crisis in some cases), and an ongoing process of discernment regarding those who would claim to be messengers sent from God. The Maccabean Revolt occurred in the 160s B.C., easily 250 years after the last canonical prophet and nearly 200 years before the ministry of the Baptizer, so there is a lot of time and thought unaccounted for, but I think it plausible that the same discernment process that had deemed would-be prophets untrustworthy was at work among those who believed John’s message, among a people who had not heard from a bonafide, vocational prophet in a long time. Then again, Anna is called a prophetess (Lk 2.36), but you get the point as it relates to John’s impact. Those who believed him were part of a religious milieu that did not underestimate the importance of a real prophet. And as Jesus said, the Baptizer was a prophet, and more than a prophet.

Thoughts on the Baptizer

Apple Crumble Pie

Thanks Sarah Cox for this recipe that the McKinzie Family has enjoyed ever since you made it for our small group.  This recipe is also great without a pie crust.  Always serve warm with ice cream!

Apple Crumble Pie

2/3 c sugar
2 T flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
6-8 tart apples
9 in. unbaked pastry shell

1 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 butter

Combine first 3 ingredients.  Turn into pastry shell.
Combine remaining flour and sugar.  Cut in butter (refrigerated) until crumbly.  Sprinkle over apples.  Bake at 400 F 45-50 minutes.  Cover with foil for first 25 minutes.

Apple Crumble Pie

Fresh Fruit Jello Pie

If you love fresh stawberry or peach pie in the summertime, this one is for you!  My mother always used this recipe and it is one of my favorites.

Fresh Fruit Jello Pie

1 c sugar
1 c water (boiling)
4 Tbsp jello
2 Tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt

Mix dry ingredients except for jello.
Add hot water and boil unto thick.
Remove and add jello.
Allow to cool an pour over fruit in prebaked pie crust.


Fresh Fruit Jello Pie

Classic Pie Crust

This is the one that I use and I have been successful with it.  I have learned some tips from my Granny and other sources that I will share.

Pie Pastry

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c shortening
4-5 Tbsp of ice cold water
1/4 tsp salt

For a prebakes pie crust:
Bake pastry at 450 for 8 minutes with foil around edges and then bake 4-5 minutes more.
1.  Mix flour and salt.

2.  Cut shortening in with a pastry blender (it really is worth it to buy one if you enjoy making pies).

3.  Get about a cup of water and slowly pour a little in at a time.  Use a fork to mix crumbs with water and toss up into side of bowl.  Do this until all of your flour is incorporated.  I really think this is the step where you make it or break it.  Too much water is bad and too little water is bad.  Practice makes perfect!

4.  Flour your hands and rolling pin.  Roll out a large peice of wax paper and flour it well.  Place your ball of dough onto wax paper and roll out.  Use your rolling pin to wrap the wax paper with the dough around the pin.  Transfer to a greased pie plate and turn your rolling pin until the crust is placed over the pie plate.  Crimp edges.

Classic Pie Crust

Granny’s Pancakes

Greg and I loved the classic Bisquick “Melt-In-Your-Mouth” Panckaes when we lived in the states.  One problem, they don’t have Bisquick in Peru.  My Granny has always made really delicious pancakes and so I called to get her recipe.  I am disappointed that I did not ask sooner.  They are so good and so fluffy.  The egg whites really make the difference.

Granny’s Pancakes
2 c flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 T sugar
(sift together)
Beat 4 egg yolks
1 1/2 c milk
Add to sifted ingredients, add 1/2 c cooking oil (reduced if you want)
beat egg whites until peaked and fold in last.


Granny’s Pancakes

Sister Granny Rolls

My Granny Bills was making “Sister Schubert” Rolls before the Sister was alive.  I was curious how these would turn out in the high altitude since everything I read doomed yeast bread coupled with high altitude.  They weren’t perfect–a little on the dry side–but they tasted wonderful.  Thanks Granny for your wonderful recipes!

Sister Granny Rolls
1 c sugar
1 c Crisco (melted)
1 c boiling water
2 tsp salt
Stir all the ingredients above until sugar dissolves.
2 packages dried yeast (1 pck=2 1/4 tsp) dissolved in 1 cup warm water
2 beaten eggs
Add the above one at a time.
6 cups flour
 Add 1/4 mixture at a time.
Refrigerate dough in plastic covered bowl over night.  The next morning, divide dough in half and roll out one half onto floured surface. (Be sure to flour your hands, board, and rolling pin).  Use round cutter to cut out rolls.  Double roll over and place into pan.  This recipe yields about 50-60 dinner rolls.  Brush butter over the tops and allow to rise for 2 1/2 hours in a warm place.  Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes at 350 F or 15 min (high altitude) at 180 C.
Sister Granny Rolls

Snicker Brownies

Brownies are one of my absolute favorite desserts in the world… with ice cream of course!  This recipe is worthy enough to serve as the Birthday dessert (which they have for me).  Andrea Turner, a dear friend to us in Memphis, gave me this recipe.  It is worth the effort.  During a discussion I had with my teacher today she mentioned brownies.  I immediately thought about this recipe and told her that I would post it soon.  It isn’t translated, but I hope to get that done soon.

Snicker Brownies

1 German Choc. Cake Mix (or a Peruvian chocolate cake brand)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
14 oz. bag caramels
3/4 cup butter
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
Mix cake package mix with butter and 1/3 cup of evaporated milk.
Pour half of batter in 9×13 pan & bake for 5 min. at 350.
Melt 1/3 cup evaporated milk & caramels on low heat.
Put choc. chips and pecans on baked batter, then pour caramels on (be careful not to get caramel too close to the edges).
Spread remaining batter on top.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
The first time I made these I made the mistake of thinking that because the brownies shook they were not done.  Don’t make this mistake!  It shakes because of the caramel, but when you allow the dessert to sit out and cool the caramel filling hardens up.  Enjoy!
Snicker Brownies

2.5 Months

What a journey this has been. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that we really are living in Peru. I have really enjoyed this transition so far. There were some obvious times in the beginning (when we lived out of suitcases) that were trying but overall I love living in Arequipa. It is the first place for Greg and I to settle for good. Everywhere that we have lived (apartment to a rental house to an apartment in Memphis, the Hendersons in Tyler, and my parents in Tullahoma) we have known that it was temporary. It is hard to believe that Peru isn’t temporary.

I wanted to document a short reflection of some things that I have learned in the last 2.5 months:

1. My family is Greg and Ana. I worried about leaving my family in the states. I am such a homebody and I am one of those that wouldn’t mind moving back home one day. I am the middle of five children. and I have a good relationship with all of my siblings, including my parents and in-laws. I really haven’t been homesick one time. I have missed people from home. I have missed occasions and season changes, but I have not had a huge cry session b/c I am here. Skype has been such a blessing to me and my family, but I have also come to realize that I really am at peace with my husband and my daughter close by me.

My father told all of his children that the best thing to do when marrying someone is to move far away from both sets of parents and make your family your own. When we discussed this on a walk (before I married Greg) my Dad said, “Megan, I wasn’t really thinking Peru, but I would say that is far enough away for both of you!” In some regards, it has been a blessing to be far from family. My marriage to Greg is strengthened in this situation because I rely more on him and our relationship. We hang out more as a family because we are the family. I have loved this. Now, it has only been 2.5 months. The holidays are approaching. I may have my cry session then, but for now, this is my reflection.

2. I learned in mission classes that all missionaries go through a “honeymoon phase.” This typically lasts around 6 months. When we had no place to call home and were sick of living out of our 9 suitcases, I commented to Greg, “If this is the honeymoon phase, I don’t even want to touch culture shock!” He explanined that we were under different conditions and things would get better. Well, they have gotten better. We are settled in a very comfortable apartment, I am comfortable with knowing where to find all the things we need for good prices. The bulk of our resettlement expenses are over with, and I am improving in my Spanish. I am definitely in the Honeymoon Phase. Life is not only good, it feels great!

I have always had a fear of what culture shock would do to me. I am a very emotional creature, but for now I am agreeing that the Honeymoon Phase is a fun part. Check back in 4 months to see if the rest of the theory is true for us.

3. Being a Mom, a wife, learning to shop in a foreign place and taking more time to cook and plan meals is hard to do while learning a language. I am so thankful for the little bit of background I had in Spanish before coming, but I have struggled with learning Spanish and feeling confidence in myself. This really has more to do with my insecurity than anything. I have always had a fear of failing and not being what others expected me to be: that would be called a “people pleaser.” I come across as a very confident person sometimes, but if you peeled away my layers you would not see a confident person in all things.

A few weeks ago, I hit a definite low in how I viewed myself in language development. I was comparing myself to my other teammates (thinking, “I have got to be the worst one on the team”) and feeling very inadequate about improving and mastering something that seemed impossible for me. One thing my family has taught me to be is open with others. I am thankful that I am from a family that openly shares their problems and inadequacies. I went to lunch with my teammate, Larissa, and told her about my thoughts. I talked with Greg and shared in our team time. Being open with my teammates and humbling myself before God, gave me the encouragement and hope that I needed. I am not empowering myself to do God’s work. It is Him working through me. “Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart as working for the Lord and not for man.”

I know that there will be many “lows” in this journey. I am thankful to God for my teammates, a husband that listens to me and “talks it out” with me, friends back home that can listen and give a perspective off the field, and my God who I can come before and confidently know that it is his power that gets the work done, not my own.

4. Relationships are key. We are in a difficult place for feeling like much is being accomplished. We came here to do Kingdom work, and I blog mostly about the food we eat and the things we are buying. I am tired of this. I am ready to seize the day and get into it. But it isn’t time. I am not saying that we are glued to our plans and not open to God working through us right now. I have actually seen him at work. I have been blessed to see my husband sit down and have multiple Bible Studies with contacts we have made through our school. But he knows the language. I don’t. I am getting there. What I can do is build upon relationships that God has placed in my life. I am not able to say a whole lot in a conversation regarding my faith right now, but I am able to build upon the relationships that God has given me. I have learned that you never know where the relationship web will link. Seize what God has given you for now, even if it doesn’t seem like much.

5. A missionary wife is a wife and momma before anything else. I admire my mother so much. She attained her 4 year degree and wanted to live independly for a while. Her highschool sweetheart (my father) convinced her to leave her independence behind, marry him, and become a mother of 5 children (along a journey that included putting him through medical school, residency, and starting a private practice). The only glory that my mother received were the kisses and hugs from her children when they said that they loved her and the love she received from her husband. She never received awards for her work, was never in the paper for the the countless hours of taking care of and raising 5 children in the home. Many of you had a mother like mine or are living the life of my mother now. I am growing in admiration for my mother more and more each day that I live as a wife and mother to Ana (and I only have one!). When Greg had a Bible study here in our home, I sat down to read and listen and learn (be supportive of what was happening). I soon learned (after Ana awoke) that being supportive means babysitting my daughter. I hate babysitting when I feel like I need to be part of something, but it is a huge part of my role. And I intend to live out my role here in Arequipa as a mother and wife before all else.

I am thankful for the wonderful examples I had in my life of Christian wives and mothers. I ask God for the patience, strength, and humility to put my wants and desires aside and to live with the attitude of Christ in this journey.

6. Reading God’s Word is so fulfilling. Living in the Bible Belt, attending a Christian college, going to church with many Christians on a regular basis, you can almost feel like you don’t really need His word. It is very tempting to allow all of those things to fulfill you. God’s word is powerful and so enriching. I don’t have all of those things to fill me up so life feels very empty if I am not in the Word. Our team has been studying 1 Peter and now we are starting John. Each week, we have made it a practice to memorize part of the book we are studying. It is a very simple discipline but very rewarding. It keeps God’s word in my mind when I am held accountable week to week to recall it. This is a practice that we want the church here to learn. I guess my memory work for this week applies well to this point: “In the beginning was the word…”

7. Finally, I have some new thoughts on short-term work. I am not saying that I know for sure what the future holds. For all I know we could be sent home next year or we could live here to see our 50th wedding anniversary. All I know is that we are comitted to being here for 5-10 years. As an aside Greg and I struck a deal a while back. Because he knows how close I am to family and that I would love to see them on a regular basis, he is open to the possibility that we might move back to the states one day. On the other hand, since I know how comitted he is to this foreign work and planned to come here for life before comitting to me, I am open to staying here a lot longer than I planned.

But after this short period of time, some advice given to us from a veteran missionary are ringing more and more as true: it takes 5 years to really get good at the language, learn the culture, and start solid relationships. It takes another 5 years to develop the church leadership and see growth. That is 10 years already!!! I totally believe the first 5 years of learning. Right now, for me, it just seems like a shame to invest all of the work and energy into a work and leave right when it seems to be getting good. Decisions for family and children factor into all of this I know, but I am definitely leaning toward the longer comittment right now. And that says a lot if you know where I have come from in this journey already.

This has definitely been an assortment of refelctions. I want to somewhat “journal” aspects of this journey. It will be neat to read and look back on a year from now.

2.5 Months