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John 1:19-28, NIV
19Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20He . . . confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." 21They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."
22Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' "
24Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." 28This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
September 4, 2010The religious authorities were probably responding to the excitement surrounding John the Baptist. The crowds were abuzz with expectation. Was he the promised Messiah or not? They must have been expecting a visitation from God, or they wouldn't be asking the question. Times were tough. People were poor and getting poorer; the Roman occupiers arrogant and oppressive.
In contrast, John was a humble yet powerful figure out there the desert. Maybe God had heard their prayers and sent them a leader to restore their nation. John had bad news and good news. No, I am not the one you are looking for. However, the one you seek is already among you. Oh the mystery and suspense; tell us--Who? Where is he? Not today. But tomorrow. . . .
The Baptist tells us plainly how he thought of himself - a voice crying in the wilderness. The Gospel records only a sound bite, "Get ready; build a straight road for God to travel!" He throws the words out there and each person must discover what it means and how to proceed There's no magic formula. Nor instructions like, "Do steps 1 through 4 and you have it."
Clearing a direct path through the jungle or the wasteland of life, requires work on our part and vigilance to keep it open and recognizable. According to John, experiencing the grace and truth of God is not a passive activity.
More journal entries
November 3, 2010 John has introduce his Gospel with some absolutely amazing statements. If we were reading these words for the first time we would be astonished by his boldness. These are awesome claims: The word was with God - John goes halfway toward his conclusion. The word was God - with that second line he goes all the way and skyrockets to his ultimate belief about Jesus. He was God, from the beginning of time!
Jesus was present at creation. Not one thing was created without him! Jesus, the word, is life and light; he is everything God wants to say to us! John the Baptist, the Gospel writer's most credible witness, was sent by God so that anyone who heard his testimony might believe in the light.
The world didn't understand so the word became flesh and lived among us! When Jesus came into the world, people didn't recognize him and rejected him. But all who received and believed in the light became true children of God.
Just as Jesus came after John the Baptist and superceded him, so now grace and truth will fulfill and supercede the great law of Moses! Jesus, who was near the heart of the Father from the beginning, will lift the veil of misunderstanding and make God known to the world!
This is John's prologue, and now the events of John's Gospel begin with the testimony of John the Baptist.
September 30, 2010 Jesus was the Word--shining light into the darkness, revealing the character, designs and hopes of our Creator. John the Baptist was the voice--identifying who Jesus is and what we must do in order to be ready to receive him.
March 14, 1982 John must have been an extraordinary figure to generate all the interest he did. Was it tempting to misrepresent himself and claim he was who he wasn't? To profess being the Christ, or Elijah or the Prophet? Think of all the adulation he would have received. The crowd seemed to want a "yes"; "no" was disappointing. It would have been so easy to give them what they wanted.
John had a chance to be, in the eyes of the people, the Messiah, but he refused the temptation. He preferred to finish the course and complete the role God had prepared for him.
March 15, 1982 In all four Gospels the scribes and priests, the Levites, the Pharisees and the religious leadership in Jerusalem get a bad rap. They are portrayed as being blinded by pride, pretense, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, religious traditions and personal ambitions.
So we know right away to wonder about the sincerity of their questions. Rather than seeking the truth about John, they may have been investigating whether he was a threat to their own self interests as religious leaders.
October 28, 2010 Who are you? John the Baptist could answer that in less than 20 words by quoting the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. I am "the voice crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare a straight path for the Lord to travel!'" His one sentence speaks volumes.
The world is full of voices, many of them in big cities where all the action is. John's voice was in the wilderness where few care to go. His message was simple: Get ready; the Lord your God comes. He is coming along the pathway each and every one of us has built for his arrival.
We can roll out the red carpet, or just let him bushwhack and maybe he will find us and maybe he won't.
March 16, 1982 The desert is a place apart where the terrain is harsh and you have to struggle to survive and search to find its beauties. John didn't make it easy for people to get to him. It was difficult and inconvenient, requiring a whole day without pay.
How does one prepare for a Messiah? A rich Messiah would expect pomp and circumstance. But Jesus looked for receptivity, eagerness and smiles that said, "I believe in you." We prepare for the Messiah by ridding ourselves of sin, and anything that would prevent us from receiving his message and following him.
September 5, 2010 I'm glad no one is demanding to know who I am. Today I feel like I'm stumbling along, just trying to regain my footing.
Who are you? is probably a difficult question for most people to answer. Yet John the Baptist didn't hesitate. He had the clarity of mind to give an immediate answer. And he used an image from the holy Scriptures, quoting from an Old Testament prophet.
How does it happen that John knew exactly who he was? It's likely he spent a lot of time on ground that was dry, bland, barren and lonely, in an environment with few distractions, walking and talking with God. Maybe if I did more walking and talking with God I would have a much better concept of who I am, too.
September 4, 2010 Prepare the way of the Lord; get yourselves ready. Is that clear? Yes, and no. [If you complain it's too general and lacks specifics, check out the Baptist's longest recorded sermon in Luke 3:7-14 where he did get specific.]
"Prepare the way of the Lord!" Is that an invitation or an admonition? Making the rough places smooth and the crooked straight--whatdoes that involve?One time Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." Then he told his listeners to go and find out what that means.
Kathleen, go find out what it means to prepare a way for the Lord. It's not handed to me, I have to invest the time and expend our energy in order to search out my own answers. And along the way, I'll discover that God is on the road searching for me, too.
"Prepare the way of the Lord!" I like to think of it as an invitation to turn aside and seek to know God better.
March 17, 1982 John, why do you baptize? Baptism is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It must be something totally new. Where did John get his idea? The Gospel of John does not explain what baptism is, or the theology behind it. Mark 1:4-5 associates baptism with repentance, confession and forgiveness of sins. It was an outward sign of an inward change of heart, mind, outlook.
John answered the why of his baptizing by starting a conversation about Jesus. Yes, I baptize, but that's not the important thing. The important thing is what's about to happen.
John the Baptist knew his own glory was about to decline and that he would give way to Jesus. He was at the top of his career and freely chose to take the lesser position. Freely chose--it seems all the Biblical characters were free to choose the decisions they made. Didn't they have families that prevailed upon them? Didn't the virgin Mary have to ask her parent's permission? What makes them all so free? They were free because they trusted God and were willing to take the risks! I want to go on a journey of faith like Abraham did, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my Isaac.
September 7, 2010 As John the Baptist pondered the Christ, he knew he was not worthy. That's a rather unexpected statement coming from someone who stood head and shoulders above his countrymen in religious fervor, and was the only one at this point in time who recognized the divine nature of Jesus. Unworthy to tie the shoestrings of the Messiah--Isaiah knew that feeling too. In a vision he saw the Lord whileangels sang, "Holy, holy, . . ." Isaiah's response: "Woe is me? . . . For I am a man of unclean lips."
Religion often makes people feel proud, or superior to those who don't believe what we do. If we read the Bible more carefully, we would know that John chose the better route of contrition in the presence of the Holy One. We can't be putting other people down while looking up at Jesus.
March 19, 1982 Why did John the Baptist feel so unworthy of Jesus? People tend to compare themselves to others who have greater skills, abilities, wealth, wisdom, serenity, popularity, beauty, etc., and that makes them feel inferior. I think John's response was more humility than inferiority.
We can be humbled by the greatness of another, but when we focus on ourselves we feel badly and miss what the other could offer us. John had his eyes on Jesus and felt humbled. Had he focused on himself and his "lesser calling" he might have been upset by his own inferiority.
No one was more fit to assist Jesus with his shoes than John. It's obvious to all, but the Baptist couldn't see it.
I wonder why Jesus didn't invite John to become one of his twelve disciples? Jesus invited some of John's disciples plus many other less likely candidates to follow him, but never offered that sameinvitation to John. Why was that?
John's preaching and baptizing ministry wasn't entirely over yet. It was John and not Jesus who spoke up about the immoral lifestyle of King Herod. That's how it all ended for John. He was put into a dungeon of a prison, and later beheaded.
No where do we read that Jesus spoke up publicly on behalf of the imprisoned Baptist. Just one message passed through John's disciples: Tell John the things you see and hear me doing and tell him, "Blessed is the man who does not fall away because of me." Not much really.
John had to rely on his own strength. Is that when John discovered he wasn't very strong at all, or did he find resources of strength he never knew existed?
The latter is only one step beyond the former. Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said (and I paraphrase), Blessed are those whose faith (not strength) does not falter. Faith begins where human resources end.