Towards Light, Into Trust

I feel sorry for the Levites, the scribes and the Pharisees that were sent from Jerusalem to investigate all the commotion and buzz surrounding John, the one baptizing out in the wilderness at the Jordan River.  Israel has a history of people coming along and claiming to be the Messiah – the people get caught up in the fervor and are just sure that this is the One to Come who will lead the army that throws off the yoke of the occupying army and re-establish the throne of David.  The cycle is this:  a self-professed Messiah appears, all the world runs to him, the revolution starts, foreign armies come and crush the rebellion, and in the end, it was a false Messiah.  So, you can see why the Jerusalem authorities send investigators down to the Jordan river to ask John: who are you, what are your intentions.  The religious authorities in Jerusalem have a responsibility to acclaim the Messiah when he comes, but there is this legacy of false messiah, misplaced hope, and people needlessly dying – all for naught. So…. They seek out John – once again wondering if the promise of the Messiah is true. Continue reading

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Testimony: by John

john-the-baptistJohn’s testimony to Jesus will lead others to faith, but it is also offered as evidence in a trial. John’s interrogators in this passage are not curious passersby, but are a delegation sent by official Judaism (vv. 19, 22). The expression “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi, v. 19) occurs repeatedly in the Fourth Gospel and has a wide range of meanings. Its most common usage, as in v.19, is as a synonym for the Jewish religious establishment, which is the source of most of the opposition to Jesus’ ministry in John. Here it likely refers to representative from Jerusalem leadership who quite naturally are going to make inquiries about what may well be a new religious movement – especially if there are messianic claims. There was a history of such movements and claims leading to religious disappointment and political ruin. Once John the Baptist acquired a following, the questions were sure to come. The first one was simple and straight forward. Continue reading

Testimony: sent from God

john-the-baptistA man named John was sent from God (v.6) Into this overarching narrative of the grand plan of salvation, we have the curious insertion of John the Baptist. We should note that this fourth gospel never uses the moniker “the Baptist” or “the Baptizer” – in fact John is never called the “forerunner” or “herald.” John has one role and one role only: witness (v.7). Leon Morris suggests that this is a response to a late 1st century controversy about the role and place of John the Baptist in the story of Christianity. “We should recall that some had baptized in John’s name as far afield as Ephesus (Acts 19:3), and they may have gone further. The great Apollos is first introduced as one who “knew only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25). Our author does not enter directly into controversy with such people, but he insists more than any of the other Evangelists on the subordinate place of the Baptist. One of the aims of this Gospel plainly was to show how clearly and consistently John had pointed people to Jesus.” (Morris, 78) John the Evangelist does not directly confront the claims of the Baptist’s followers, but he insists more than any of the other Evangelists on the subordinate place of the Baptist. One of the aims of this Gospel plainly was to show how clearly and consistently John the Baptist had pointed people to Jesus. Continue reading

Testimony: Gospel context

prologue-johnThe 3rd Sunday in Advent continues to feature John the Baptist as the herald and forerunner of the Messiah, using the 4th gospel. John the Evangelist has deftly changed the narrative presented in the Synoptic Gospels. Here in the fourth gospel the story of Jesus is not ultimately a story about Jesus; it is the story of God as God reveals God’s self in the person of Jesus. Thus the narrative is well placed in Advent at the head of the liturgical year: “In the beginning…Continue reading

Testimony: Advent context

john-the-baptistThe 3rd Sunday in Advent continues to feature John the Baptist as the herald and forerunner of the Messiah. The Reading for the Third Sunday of Lent is John 1:6-8, 19-28 (shown below in bold italics) – but it seemed good to me to also show the more continuous context of the Gospel according to John:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 5 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 A man named John was sent from God. 7 He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. Continue reading

What gives you Joy?

FindingJoyDuring the holiday season with winter storms roaring about, one can be quite happy that the airplane finally got off the ground; yesterday in Chicago, 1000 flights were cancelled. So if you got airborne, you were indeed happy. A new round of happiness came when the pilot finally found smooth air. And even if it was 6 hours late, you are happy that you have arrived.  When you finally get off the plane, pass thru security, and at last see your spouse, your kids, your parents or grandparents, your fiancé, or whomever you have longed to see…. that is not happy. That is Joy.  You hear it in the tone and energy of the voices, the embraces, and the hugs.  And even when the reunion is right in the middle of everyone else’s way, when the reunion is clogging up the entire flow of foot traffic trying to get somewhere, you can’t help but notice even the most curmudgeon-y of travelers, however reluctantly, is giving evidence of a smile. Joy is embedded in the warp and woof, in the very fabric of relationships.  Just like Mary and Elizabeth. Continue reading

So much waiting…

waiting_for_christmasThere are lots of different ways to wait. Scripture has over 162 verses that describe all sorts and manners of waiting. I suspect you are familiar with a good portion of the different kinds of waiting – after all, we all wait. In the military, the common experience was to “hurry up and wait.” We all wait. It is a common experience, and yet there are differences in waiting. There is a difference between expectant, on the edge of your seat, waiting; the patient “it will happen in its own good time and there is nothing I can do about it” waiting; and the waiting of dread, tedium, and despair. I think our, “Are we ever gonna’ get there waiting,” because a flight to Europe can take 8+ hours, would fall on deaf ears for our ancestors who traveled months on boats to reach these distant shores. But things change, the world has sped up. Our culture demands fast food, fast cars, and fast answers. We are accustomed to having a world of information at our fingertips with laptops and smart phones. We expect pills that will immediately take the pain away…yesterday. We are not accustomed to waiting, and we do not like it. Continue reading

For whom are you looking: the herald

jesus-christ-from-hagia-sophiaMatthew 11:2-11.  7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. 9 Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Continue reading

For Whom Are You Looking: tell what you see and hear

jesus-christ-from-hagia-sophiaMatthew 11:2-11. 2 When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. 6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” Continue reading

For who are you looking: context

jesus-christ-from-hagia-sophiaThe Third Sunday in Advent. Matthew 11:2-11. 2 When John heard in prison of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him 3 with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 4 Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. 6 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” 7 As they were going off, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. 9 Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ 11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Continue reading