Sunday 17 December 2017

Bible Book:

“Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal” (vv. 26-27)

John 1:6-8, 19-28 Sunday 17 December 2017

Psalm:  Psalm 126


In all the Gospels, Jesus does not appear ‘out of the blue’. The ground on which he is to operate has to be prepared. Key to this preparation was John the Baptist (not to be confused with the ‘John’ who wrote the fourth Gospel). John was like a prophet of old, “sent” by God with an inspired message to proclaim (v. 6), in the Judean wilderness. The Old Testament had prefigured this: verse 23 cites Isaiah 40:3. John’s only purpose was to witness in advance to an unidentified contemporary who would succeed him.

But what a step change his successor would produce in God’s purposes for humanity! Compared to him, John was of little or no account – not worthy to do even the most menial service of a disciple or a household slave (who would untie their leader’s sandals after a journey through the dust and dirt).

However, even John was a puzzle to his hearers. Pharisees (verse 24) thought God’s wonderful future for ‘the Jews’ was to be inaugurated by the Messiah (or Christ) - a new king David. John was certainly not this Messiah. Nor was he one of the traditional figureheads who would pave the way for the Messiah – the returning prophet Elijah (see Malachi 4:5-6) or the new Moses (“the prophet” fulfilling Deuteronomy 18:18-20).

All John had to offer was a humble ministry of baptizing in water. In the course of that lowly ministry, at Bethany beyond Jordan (near the north end of the Dead Sea?), God would reveal to John the identity of the light of the world (verse 7), namely Jesus. Through that same ministry of John the Baptist, God was creating the initial conditions in which the whole world might eventually believe in Jesus (verse 7).

To Ponder

  • In what practical ways do you witness to Jesus and his significance for you?
  • What is the single most important project or different way of doing things that your local church needs to consider if its witness in your neighbourhood is to capture people’s imaginations?
  • Who are the two or three people in the history of the Church who have helped you to understand what it means to be a Christian today? What have you learned from them?
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