“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
This next passage begins rather abruptly with the interrogation of John the Baptizer, presumably to address any chance his readers might confuse John with Jesus.
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
Which of course raises the obvious question of who John is:
And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I [am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
A somewhat unsatisfactory answer, especially considering the agenda behind the questions:
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
I suspect this is more “trick question” than “idle curiosity”, but John turns it into an opportunity for testimony:
John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
Somewhat paradoxical and obscure, but it all comes clear if we’re willing to wait a little:
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
Let me pause and reflect on this a moment. We take John’s humility for granted, but do you have any idea how hard it is to build a one-man show in a poorly-trafficed region? To have the strength of will and power of personality needed to pull that off, and then lay it all at the feet of another — now that is character!
And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
There’s a world of theology in those verses, from how John was sent to how the Spirit manifests. For my money, though, nothing compares to John’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God; an affirmation I suspect we’ll see echoed by other characters throughout this book.
Of course, that’s not the only title John gives Jesus:
Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
A powerful statement given Israel’s sacrificial tradition; certainly it had a dramatic effect on John’s listeners:
And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
which cascaded onto their relatives:
One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
After initially being sought out, Jesus now takes a more active role in recruiting:
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
The web of connections expands, and catches yet one more fish (fisher?):
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
I love the thrice-repeated refrain “come and see”, echoing the author’s epiphany of “we beheld his glory.” No in-depth theological or philosophical discourse, merely the faith — actually, sufficient trust in another person — to come and see what was there to be seen.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
I told you we’d hear that exclamation again. 🙂 Nathaniel’s parochial skepticism evaporates at the first hint of supernatural wisdom, an irony not lost on Jesus:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Yow! Talk about serious foreshadowing. These disciples have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.
Then again, neither have I. The Christian adventure is just as unpredictable and marvelous now as it was then — at least it is if we have the courage to follow the same Jesus.
Lord have mercy.
God, I am struck by the simplicity of Jesus’ message, and of the faith that drew men after him. Father, teach me to rely not on my own wisdom and cleverness, but to have the simple courage to invite men to come and see you. And the humility to let them see your superiority shine through my inferiority. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.