John says he is not the Messiah

So the Gospel of John, 1:19-28, has John the Baptist saying he is not the messiah, nor Elijah, nor a prophet. (My last post was a little wrong; John is always a prophet to me!) The other Gospels differ on this, I think. In Matthew there was some sort of  relationship of John to Elijah. In Luke, according my study bible’s footnote, there is “speculation that John might be Messiah”. But this is a very different viewpoint. Maybe there are political or “meta” reasons that the Gospel of John tells the story of who John the Baptist is so differently. Maybe there is something to understand. How does it change things, this question of identity? The question the priest and Levites ask him is very basic: “Who are you?”

That’s such a powerful, universal, question. In fact, it seems to me a very modern question! Don’t we go around wondering who we are? Isn’t it expected our teenagers to ask that of themselves, to find a label? There’s also the, I think, very pointed if unsaid, “Who are you to say these things, what are your qualifications for anything, much less for baptizing people and proclaiming a message of repentance.”

“Why should we listen to you?” is perhaps what they were asking.

You know, this is such a pet peeve of mind, when people silence me: you are too – old/young/blonde/female/not an elder/not Christian enough/not ……. Just be silent.

They wanted John the Baptist to say he was someone important and that’s why they should listen to him.

What I think is going on with John the Baptist’s denials – he denies being the Messiah, denies being Elihah, denies being a prophet – is he truly wants only the truth to be heard. He wants nothing personal about who he is to be a part of the message. Just the spirit of God within him, having him say:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,/‘Make straight the way of the Lord’ “

He wants all the focus to be on Jesus, all the “stardom”, all the glory to be with Jesus. This impresses me so much. He won’t play the authority game, but he won’t be silent. He gives all glory to Jesus.

How would you feel if you had been sent to find out who this person is and by what right he is speaking – and he just refuses to play the game? Would you be frustrated? Scared? Would you stop pestering John and go take a look at Jesus?


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