John the Baptist Tells
(Matthew 3.1-12; Mark 1.1-8; Luke 3.15-17)
19-20The religious authorities in Jerusalem sent priests and temple helpers to ask John who he was. He told them plainly, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 Then when they asked him if he were Elijah, he said, “No, I am not!” And when they asked if he were the Prophet, he also said “No!”
22Finally, they said, “Who are you then? We have to give an answer to the ones who sent us. Tell us who you are!”
23 John answered in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “I am only someone shouting in the desert, ‘Get the road ready for the Lord!’ ”
24Some Pharisees had also been sent to John. 25They asked him, “Why are you baptizing people, if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?”
26John told them, “I use water to baptize people. But here with you is someone you don't know. 27Even though I came first, I am not good enough to untie his sandals.” 28John said this as he was baptizing east of the Jordan River in Bethany.
The Lamb of God
29The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said:
Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30He is the one I told you about when I said, “Someone else will come, who is greater than I am, because he was alive before I was born.” 31I didn't know who he was. But I came to baptize you with water, so that everyone in Israel would see him.
32I was there and saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven. And the Spirit stayed on him. 33Before this I didn't know who he was. But the one who sent me to baptize with water had told me, “You will see the Spirit come down and stay on someone. Then you will know that he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” 34I saw this happen, and I tell you that he is the Son of God.
Photographers and film-makers know how crucial it is to focus on the right object to get the right picture. Unless done intentionally, blurred pictures do not communicate well. The Pharisees sent priests and temple helpers (Levites) to John the Baptist, thinking they needed a clearer picture about him, since the people took him to be a prophet. John’s answer was as cryptic as it was plain: “I am neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor even the prophet Moses spoke about. Instead, I am the voice preparing for the Lord’s coming.”
John changed the Pharisees’ focus, telling them rather to turn their lenses toward the one coming after him. Having seen the Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus when he baptized him, John testified that the water baptism he was giving made sense only in light of Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit. This Jesus, John said, is “the Son of God” (John 1:34). As people tried to get a clearer picture about John, he made them turn their lenses toward Jesus.
To get a clearer picture about the main story in any of the four Gospels, we need to focus on the right character. Whether it is the apostles, John the Baptist, Herod or Pilate, or any of our favourite characters with whom we identify ourselves, none is more important than the Lamb of God, the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah. John’s testimony is not about himself, but points in another direction. Jesus, “the only Son who is truly God” (John 1:18) is the main focus of John’s testimony, the central figure of all four Gospels, indeed, the central figure of the whole Scriptures.
To get a 20/20 vision about God’s work and person, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist invite us to focus on the only Son of God, who came to reveal us the Father.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for revealing to me who you are by sending us your only Son. Please grant me wisdom and spiritual insight to understand and practise your ways as I see them revealed in the Lord Jesus. Through him you loved me to the very end. Amen.