Monday, December 12
Reader: “Jesus Christ is,”
Response: “the light of the world.”
Scripture: John 1:6-8, 19-28
God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.
This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
“Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
“No,” he replied.
“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”
John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”
This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.
This is an interesting passage in that we see the ending of the 400 silent years between the First and New Testaments. John the Baptizer comes on the scene out of the desert becoming a well known public figure thereby drawing the attention of the Jewish religious leaders, hence their questions regarding his identity. The Apostle writes with an apparent keen awareness of the book of Genesis in his reference to light.
It is interesting to note a similarity here between the first day of creation and the coming of Christ, as the Light of the world. On the first day, God said let there be light and there was light. In this gospel, the Baptizer was sent to tell everyone that the light had come. The reference to the water of baptism draws another likeness to the second day of creation in which God separates the water from the heavens from the water of the earth. John’s baptism was an earthly baptism to repentance; the Messiah’s baptism was a heavenly baptism unto salvation.
Where did John fit into what the Jewish leaders believed? Was he the Messiah? No. Was he Elijah? No. (Remember Elijah was transported directly to heaven without dying. It was prophesied in Jewish thought that he would return to earth prior to the coming of the Messiah, so it was a reasonable question to ask.) Was he the prophet to which Moses referred? (Deut 18:15) No. If he was none of those, who then was this curious person? Why was his identity so important to the Pharisees? It was because they were to give an answer about John to those leaders who sent them and they were getting nowhere. So, they asked John for his answer about himself. Where did he get his authority? His answer pointed to another yet to come. Remember, we have hindsight, they didn’t.
Do you notice how easy it is to ask questions based on our own perspective of what we know or believe to be? We assume what we see or know is both accurate and truthful. As hard as it is, we must admit we have a fallible, corrupted perspective on all things! God was unfolding his story in their very midst, yet they did not recognize it. This encounter gives me pause to think how often have I missed what God was doing in my very presence because I was so convinced of my ability to see things clearly? Advent is about clarifying the biggest picture of God’s plan.
Music: “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” Westminster Choir
Lord God, Father of our Messiah, the one who has perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, heavenly timing, merciful patience, and compassionate judgment, forgive us, Lord, for our abundant confidence in our ability to know and understand your workings. In humble gratitude we ask for your grace and mercy in forgiving our self-confidence, we pray this through Jesus Christ who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.