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, 2010
The 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--what
does 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 while
angels 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 same
invitation 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.

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