It has been more than forty years since my family and I stopped at a little café, the location having long slipped my mind. We were on vacation, and had taken a backroad, not only to take a break from the interstate traffic, but to enjoy the ‘scenic route.’ It was getting close to lunchtime, so I was watching for some place to stop and eat. My stomach was growling, the kids were getting restless, and my wife was digging through her purse to see what we might be able to afford. Soon we came upon this sign out front of one of those privately owned restaurants that read: “5 Hamburgers For $1.” Some five years earlier, when hamburgers were 25 cents, it was not uncommon for a burger joint to run such a special; but those specials had long since gone the way of the model-T. Even hamburgers at McDonalds were a whopping 30 cents, and you could get a Big Mac, fries and drink for under $1.00. So when we came across that “special,” we jumped at it.
We got settled into our seats, placed our orders, and waited, wondering what we would do with the 5th hamburger that would be left over after each of the four of us had our fill. Then the waitress brought out the “burgers,” fries and cokes. The five burgers barely filled one small plate. They consisted of a bun about the size of a 50 cent piece, with one pickle, some ketchup, and a little mustard squeezed sparingly on the center of each of the burgers. When I asked if that was the hamburgers they had on special, she replied, “Well, what did you expect for 20 cents?”
Sometime after John was imprisoned, that great preacher become perplexed, perhaps even discouraged. He sent some of his disciples to inquire as to whether Jesus was truly the Messiah, or if perhaps they should look for another. After assuring the disciples of John that He was, indeed, the Messiah, He sent them back to John to give answer and hopefully boost John’s sagging faith. After their departure, Jesus turned to the multitude and asked an intriguing question: “What went ye out into the wilderness to behold?” (Matt. 11:7). Indeed, what had they gone out to see? Here was a man who preached in the wilderness. He had not gone to the cities as had Isaiah and Jeremiah. Nor had he gone to some great gentile city as did the prophet Jonah. He chose, instead, to dwell in the wilderness. His message was a fiery condemnation of the Jewish establishment and a call for men to repent and be baptized. So bold was John that he feared no man; not even king Herod. When the multitude went out to see John their expectation of the man must have varied widely. Some might have been curious about his raiment and his rations. Some came only to criticize, and John likened them unto vipers who had fled the wrath to come but whose lives brought forth no fruit worthy of repentance. Then there were those who were seeking the coming kingdom and who listened intently, applied the message, and became a part of that prepared people who would later be placed into the kingdom on that Pentecost when Peter unlocked the doors of the kingdom for the first time.
Fast forward to our day and age with its multitudinous denominations, self-proclaimed preachers, pastors, and priests, all vying for the affection of men and women who are seeking to fill the spiritual void in their lives. Many religious leaders attempt to market their message in such a way that it will be palatable to the tastes of men and women who long for something, but at the same time are unwilling to pay the price of being a follower of Jesus. The variety of religious institutions, all under the banner of ‘Christianity,’ astounds the imagination, numbering into the thousands. Entertainment and excitement have supplanted true worship and the Biblical demand for repentance and regeneration. The simple message in God’s word produces anger rather than acceptance. The clamor is for a comfortable Christianity; not one that calls for sacrifice, commitment, and dedication.
Why is it that men often turn to the Bible for an answer and then balk at what the Bible tells them to do? They turn the pages to see what that Book among books might suggest, and then close it with little or no intention of application. Well, I ask, “What did you expect?” A message clothed in soft raiment? Something that is not exacting, presenting no challenge, and calling for little, if any change whatsoever? If our Lord suffered and died to bring us eternal life, what makes us think that we can appropriate that life without making some kind of sacrifice? If Christianity calls us out of the world, unto a life of holiness, why are men shocked when they are confronted with demands of a Holy God. I ask you again, “What did you expect?”
What Jesus asked of the multitude on that occasion is just as applicable to those who, for whatever reason, go out to see what the Bible has to say. Indeed, “What went ye out to behold?”
By Tom Wacaster