Preparation and Expectation: August 5, 2014

the text: John 1:19-28
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said,

‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

the ideas
·      In the Gospel of John, the Pharisees (the religious elite) have a hard time knowing where the people of God come from. Continually they don’t know where Jesus comes from. Here, they don’t know where John the Baptist comes from. What does it say that the people who are supposed to represent God (religious elite) don’t have a clue as to what God is doing?

·      Interesting tension between this passage and Matthew 11. In this passage, John the Baptist clearly says that he is not the Prophet Elijah who the Jewish people expected to return. In Matthew 11 Jesus says that John the Baptist (JtB) was the Elijah that was to come. Why this tension?

·      JtB is quoting the Isaiah passage to show both who he is, the one who prepares us for the Messiah, and to show who Jesus is, the Messiah. This also speaks to the nature of JtB’s baptism. What is JtB’s baptism for? We know that those who were baptized only in this baptism had to be baptized again later (Acts 19), so what is this baptism for? JtB’s baptism was about repentance. Repentance isn’t only about sin. Repentance literally means to “turn around” and to “change one’s mind.” JtB’s baptism is about preparing our minds and hearts to receive who Jesus is. It should be pointed out that the Pharisees are the ones questioning the baptism and they are the ones who don’t get Jesus.

the stuff
The theme in this Gospel passage seems to be our readiness. The religious elites have no idea what God is doing, where God is doing it, and with whom. JtB is the antidote. He is the one in the desert who stands pointing towards the coming Christ with a call to preparation.

Are you prepared and ready for Jesus to enter into your day? To show up and do something amazing? To transform your life and take you somewhere absolutely mind-blowing? To bring you into God’s family, into God’s eternity right this second? Our religious life is never about getting God to show up. Arrogance about our religion or beliefs often causes blindness in being able to see where God is at work. We are the ones without eyes to see and ears to hear. Jesus stands “among you” now, our passage says. Get prepared and expect him to show up today.

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