Thursday, January 19, 2012

John 1:19-28

Before John the Apostle begins his narrative of the ministry of Jesus we get our first glimpse of John the Baptist, who was out in the desert baptizing people as he prepared the way for the Messiah. The gospel of Luke gives us a fuller picture of John’s personality and his message:

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:3-9)

This cracks me up! John was not a diplomat! He called a spade a spade and did not sugar coat his message to make it more palatable to the crowds! He created quite a stir, as the people wondered if he was the promised Messiah. In fact the Sanhedrin, the group of Jewish leaders, sent a group to check him out and to ask John who exactly he was. And this is where John’s gospel picks up today:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:19-20)

John the Baptist knew exactly who he was and who he wasn’t. When asked his identity, he could have quickly listed his important credentials, as Jon Courson points out: “Who am I?” John could have answered, “I’ll tell you who I am. I am a priest [he was a Levite], I am a prophet. I am the miraculously born son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. I am called of God and chosen by God. I am the one prophesied in Isaiah and Malachi. I am the forerunner of the Messiah - that’s who I am.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament,  P. 439).

John knew with absolute certainty what his role was. And even though Jesus Himself referred to John as one of the greatest ever born (Luke 7:28), John did not feel a need to impress anyone. In complete humility he understood that he was to merely point the way to the One who IS the Way. John’s job was to encourage people to prepare their hearts for Jesus. It was his life’s purpose - even as it is ours. We are to be pointing others to Christ, whether we are in a desert of severe trials, in the midst of co-workers, or standing in line at the market. And John did not care what the world thought of him - he cared what they thought of His Savior.

How are we presenting Jesus to others? Are we straight shooters like John? Or are we afraid to be considered religious fanatics and kooks by the world? We aren’t all called to be as bold and out there like John, but we ARE all called to tell others about our Jesus. One thing is certain to me from this passage: we are to remember who we are and who we are not.

Next time we’ll finally see the One for whom John was waiting!


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