Pay It Forward
35 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. 36 He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.” 37 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. John 1:35-37
John the Baptist gave Jesus his very best. He gave Jesus the very disciples he had been raising up. He had so consistently and openly kept the focus on Jesus over the years that when He arrived on the scene it was only natural that John’s disciples went to be with Him. John saw that he was not even worthy to tie His sandals and yet he was given the privilege of baptizing Jesus in water, seeing the confirmation of the Holy Spirit upon Him and then being the first popular voice to point everyone to Jesus. John the Baptist could not pay Jesus back, but he could pay it forward. John didn’t just give something that was easy to part with. No, he paid forward his disciples which set about a chain reaction of transformation, that started then and continues all the way into the 21st Century. Look what happened next in the John 1 narrative: “40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. 41 The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). 42 He immediately led him to Jesus.” It started with Jesus choosing John. Then John gave his disciples to Jesus, one of which was Andrew. Then Andrew decided not to keep the discovery of the Messiah to himself and followed John the Baptist’s lead by paying it forward to Peter. It doesn’t stop there because then, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” 44 (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) 45 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” These disciples would become part of the 12 who would then become the 70 who would then become the 120. These 120 Acts 2 would then experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus promised and pay it forward to 3000 who had gathered from all over for the Feast of Pentecost. These 3000 would then meet Jesus for themselves as Peter stood up to pay forward what had been given to him. Then these,”9 Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; 11 both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! (Acts 2)” all returned to pay forward the knowledge of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that had just been given to them. This move of God bringing the Gospel ultimately to each one of us started with one man, John the Baptist, who decided he wasn’t going to keep this good thing, this “God thing” to himself! A chain reaction of Gospel transformation happens when realize that we can’t pay Christ back, but we can pay it forward!
A few days ago I had witnessed what happens when person decides to pay it forward instead of keeping it to themselves. At Starbucks this woman surprised me as I was working the cash register in the drive-through by saying she wanted to pay for the drink behind her. She didn’t know the person and gave no reason. When the woman behind her showed up to the window and I shared the good news she was so blown away. She said she had heard about this happening, but had never experienced it first hand. I will never forget the joy on her face as she not only received an unexpected blessing, but then paid it forward by buying the drink behind her. This lasted for four cars and then ended when the man whose drink had been purchased for him decided the order behind him was too large. It was so exciting for me to witness these spontaneous acts of generosity. Well, it happened again today. Another person decided to buy the drink behind her at around 8 this morning and one car after another received the blessing and then paid it forward. One car, two cars, then five and six cars. I couldn’t believe it! They were buying orders that were twice as big as the one they would have paid for themselves. They didn’t care. They were excited to be a part of this “pay it forward” moment. Seven cars, eight cars and it kept going. They were all of them on their way to work, just making it through “hump day” when an unexpected blessing jarred them from their routines and gave them a higher purpose. Their day was transformed and they transformed the day behind them. On the tenth car I greeted the customer and gave her the good news. I told her she was the 10th car in a chain reaction of “paying it forward” to the car behind them. The customer shouted, “Praise the Lord! What a blessing!” and then drove off. Now, I don’t that persons story. Maybe they had been asking God for a blessing and realized that was it. I do know this to be true, that just as a chain reaction of blessing can be started by just one person paying it forward it can also be stopped by just one person keeping it to themselves. The fact that this person was clearly churched left a sour taste after such a sweet surprise. I’m hoping to see it happen again. I’m hoping to see more then ten cars next time. Even more so though, I’m taking a cue from John the Baptist and the random lady who started this morning’s blessing and I’m going to pay it forward to those around me.
Lord, thank You for letting me be a part of two “pay it forward” movements in just a few days time. I saw the joy of receiving and the even greater joy of giving and couldn’t help but think about what You’ve given me to give away! If a free beverage purchased for a stranger could spark such generosity what would happen if people knew what You have purchased for them? This is why You have me here in this Starbucks! This is why You have me here in Kona! I can’t pay back all that You have paid for me in setting me free through Your sacrifice and resurrection, but I sure can pay it forward by serving those around me! I pray for the same chain reaction of Gospel transformation that started with John the Baptist to start here and now with me. That I would not point people to myself, but rather to You!