In John’s account of John the Baptist being the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that we started looking at last week, I was struck with the set up. John is preaching about the Messiah being on His way, and the Jews get real hung up on it. Their doubt is such that it’s almost as if they don’t WANT to meet the Messiah. There have been a ton of false teachers claiming to be Him and they’ve grown so combative in their attempts to point people to the straight and narrow that they create their own broad road leading to destruction without even knowing it. They’re ushering people down their life of legalism and religiosity instead of seeing Jesus for who He really is. They don’t have eyes to see the Christ when he is standing before them.
John is foretelling that Jesus is coming, merely 4 months behind him, actually. Jesus is right on his heals. The book of John says it all so poetically, and I love this passage.
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Isn’t that so beautiful? He dwelt among us. Right after the Apostle John sets up the prophet John the Baptist, he gives room in his Gospel for John to share his story. [John 1:19-28]
If you take the time to read the passage you’ll see a few things.
John firsts says who he is NOT. He wants to be clear that he is not the Christ. He makes the Jews ask him again. If not the Christ, then who ARE you? They wonder if he’s Elijah. Elijah just keeps cropping up. Elijah was taken up to heaven in the chariot of fire, and it’s like the Jews find it MORE likely that Elijah will come back than that the Messiah will break into history. They’re looking for Elijah everywhere they go.
Remember how Gabriel pointed to Elijah when promising John to Zacharias? I think this might be another reason for it. It’s easy for people to mistake identities. We mistake our own, we mistake the identity of others by making them something they are not, and Gabriel was making it clear to Zacharias who John the Baptist is. And here, John is making it clear to the Jews who he is NOT.
John is NOT the Christ. He is NOT Elijah. He is NOT “the Prophet” or just ANY old run-of-the-mill prophet.
So who is he then?
John is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah. He is THAT prophet, preparing the way for The Word to be made flesh. Yet, in his understanding of who he is, he also grasps that the Christ is God. He [John] is not even worthy to wash the Messiah’s filthy feet. And the Messiah asks John to do the great honor of BAPTIZING Him. Jesus asks John to do more than wash the dirt off, He asks John to have the courage to continue proclaiming the truth, to walk down a road that will inevitability lead to the death of them both.
Do you know what is even crazier than Jesus asking? John accepts. He’s all in. He knows the road will not be an easy one, but one glimpse of Jesus, face to face and he accepts the road before him.
Do you have a story of mistaken identity? Who does God say that YOU are?
Knowing this truth, how can you live today to reflect the identity that God gives you?
What might God be asking of you that you have been putting off? How can you take a step today in the direction of accepting what God is asking of you?