John seemed to be willfully obtuse, speaking so little of himself, and answering their questions with such terse remarks whole new arrays of questions burst from their minds. Uncomfortable in the crosshairs of John’s stare, they each searched for a more specific question that might wedge apart the fortress of the Baptist’s reserve.
It was dawning on them that perhaps they should not be trying to figure him out, they should be looking to where he was pointing.
John looked like a prophet, he lived like a prophet and he acted like a prophet.
But the most important thing about John was that he was willing to say what a prophet says. A complete witness is not just how you and I live our lives. Yes, that is important. However, a complete witness not only has a voice but has the courage to use it.
Courage to say the hard things at the right time.
How often do you and I have that kind of courage?
As the Jerusalem delegation looked around them, already disturbed by the unproductiveness of their inquiry and the alarming ways in which John had answered them, they noted the chief centerpiece of John’s ministry. The Pharisees were a very elite group of religious observants who were zealous for not only God’s Law but also the Mishnah, the oral laws added to explain, exegete, and apply God’s law.
These added tenets and regulations were viewed with the same reverence as the original Torah, for it is what had preserved them as a separate people, as set apart unto God, all these centuries since their exile.
Judea’s religious authority, the Sanhedrin, the rabbis, the teachers of the law, the scribes as well as the Pharisees, saw themselves as belonging to an inner circle with God, as the experts and keepers of the law.
They looked at John speculatively.
John was not the Messiah.
John was not Elijah.
John was not The Prophet.
John, in his own words, was nothing more than a disembodied voice in the desert. Suddenly, it clicked. If he was a nobody, then what authority did he have!?
“Why then do you baptize if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”
John’s reply must have created quite a buzz. He was not a bit intimidated by all these officials. He was also completely unconcerned with his own lack of official credentials, or his unorthodox use of baptism.
“I myself baptize in water.
“Among you all stands one you have not perceived nor acknowledged. The one coming after me I myself am not holy [enough] to [even] loosen the thong of his sandal.”John the Baptist, as quoted in the Gospel of John 1:26-27
Someone I am too unworthy to even be the slave of is standing right here in the crowd, and you, with all your Bible smarts and holy living, you don’t even see him, let alone know who he is.
Here was the Baptist going toe-to-toe with an official delegation from the Sanhedrin. Thousands of people, including his own disciples, were standing on their tip-toes taking it all in.
And then John announces this.
Can you picture shivers going up and down thousands of people’s spines?
Can you imagine thousands of people craning their necks and asking, Who is it, Who is it??
Have you ever wondered why none of that delegation asked John to point the Messiah out?
This more than anything reveals their real motives. Evidently, they had not come with the attitude that maybe God was at work, but rather with a sense of being offended that John was disrupting their religious practices and interfering with their authority. For this scruffy desert preacher to imply that they, the Bible and religion experts, didn’t know about the Messiah being right there was just a little too much for their pride and sense of dignity.
After making sure John the Baptist did not have any illusions of self-importance, they considered their job done. It seems apparent, they did not really want to know who the Messiah was.
John knew who John was, and more importantly, who John was not.
He was not somebody important with a reputation and a power base to protect. He was simply God’s servant, called to make everyone ready for the Messiah, for God. John did not have any illusions about his own importance.
I had to ask myself how humble of a position am I willing to take in order to show my devotion to Jesus?
- Serve someone who does not like me, or does not have my best interests in mind, when God asks that of me?
- Allow myself to be wronged and extend kindness and forgiveness instead?
- Waive my rights on a matter, if God asks that of me?
- Forego the immediate impulse to defend myself, and instead listen to the other person’s feelings and side first?
- Allow my mind to be changed when a better thought or idea is presented?
Because of his confidence in God and his humility, John could not be intimidated, and he was not worried about being embarrassed. Instead he was bold and spoke the simple truth.
If you are a believer, how well do you know who you are in Christ? How deeply do you identify with belonging to God’s kingdom, a free person, profoundly alive, filled with God’s Spirit? How deeply do you identify with being God’s servant, commissioned by Him with a calling that involves kingdom work? How confident are you in being known and loved by God, and by His people?
Knowing who you are gives you confidence and courage to use your voice
Ultimately, whatever our calling, whatever our gifts, our lifestyle, our proclivities and talents, whatever God has given us to do and whatever way He has asked us to do it, whether in public and powerful ways, or in gentle, hidden ways, whether to great acclaim or to an audience of two or three, it is to the Lord we are pointing, not to ourselves.
Ultimately, you and I are not the final authorities on spiritual things, we are witnesses to the final authority, Jesus Christ. We are not the light, we reflect the light and point to the source, Jesus.
How often do you and I make sure that God gets the honor He should have in the stories we tell about our lives?
In what ways have you and I arranged our lives to point to the goodness of God, to the forgiveness of Jesus?
In fact, how often do you and I have the courage to say we are seeing Jesus when we see Him?
[John the Baptist | The LUMO Project, Free Bible Images, http://www.freebibleimages.org]