Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/12- John 1:19-28- John's identity

(John the Baptist Isaac Dutch 1569-1625)
Daily devotional from the Gospels, Calvin and thoughts for our day.

11/12- John 1:19-28
19 Now this was John's testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Messiah." 21 They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?"
He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' " 24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26 "I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Calvin abridged: Here John openly confesses to the priest’s delegation his purpose. It had been a long time since they had prophets, and everyone was thinking about the Messiah’s coming. That they did not appear to be neglectful of their religious duty they asked him, “Who are you?” At first they were not opposed to John and were earnestly looking for their redemption. Later ambition and a wish to retain their authority influenced them. “He confessed”- This means he stated the fact as it really was-- openly and without any ambiguity or hypocrisy-- that he was not the Christ. 21- “Are you Elijah?” They asked for Elijah rather than Moses because of Mal. 4:2,5 which predicted Elijah’s coming before the “Sun of Righteousness.” John was right in saying he was not Elijah for the soul of one man does not pass into another. But Christ affirms that John is Elijah (Mt. 11:14; Mark 9:13). When they said, “You are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet” they intended to point out different persons. John says he is not a prophet, he was detaching himself from the company of the prophets. Christ says he was a prophet- even the greatest of them (Mt. 11:9). John was a prophet in that he was a herald of Christ. All ambassadors—even those who are not sent on matters of great importance—obtain the name and authority of ambassadors, because they hold special commissions. John says he is “not a prophet, but a voice crying in the wilderness.” John, as the herald of Christ, is more excellent than all the prophets, but he is still not a prophet. 23- John describes his job by quoting from the Prophet Isaiah (60:3). Isaiah does not speak of John alone here, but promises a restoration of the Church. While God was present when the people of God came back from Babylon, He was particularly present when Christ came in the flesh. John was the chief herald of Christ’s coming. “Wilderness” describes the miserable desolation of the Church, which seems to come before the people return. The Lord made a way when there was no way.

Thoughts: The humility of John was amazing. He had the chance to be more of a celebrity than he was. In our world, people would jump at the chance. He would secure his rock-star status if he had said he was a prophet, or Elijah, or the Christ. He could have rightfully even claimed he was a prophet or Elijah. Yet John lives in the wilderness, away from the intrigues of the city, and the lust for power. He kept camel hair and ate locusts, when he could have lived in the temple, and eaten meat each day, wearing the clothes of the priests (he was of a priestly family). John was the one who said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John was the one who made few claims for himself, but gave glory to Christ. John was the greatest of the prophets because of his heralding of the Messiah, but also because of the way he did it- with great humility. Today ministers want to much for themselves, and fight over the scraps of power left after the world has taken away so much from the church. But not just ministers, also politicians, celebrities, rock stars, doctors. Today people expect big egos to go with big positions. John reminds us that the last shall be first. He was the greatest because he desired the least. John's identity, ego, and calling were all wrapped up in God's glory, not his own.

Prayer: Help us, O Lord, to desire less for ourselves and more for you.

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