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Dec 17, 2017

Just John

Just John

Passage: John 1:6-8

Speaker: Father Will Lowry

Series: All

Category: All

Keywords: advent, christmas

What is this light John keeps talking about? Who is Jesus? That is what I hope you will think about today - here in the middle of Advent. Who exactly is this Jesus?

So, let’s begin by trying to clear a few things up. I know it may sound trivial, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it asked - and that’s not to say that if you have asked it you should feel bad or think I’m being critical - after all, as I said, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the question.

John the Baptist or just plain John as our Gospel author calls him, is not the John who authored the fourth Gospel - this is not an autobiography….

And while we’re at it, this fourth Gospel - written by another John - begins very differently from the other Gospels. For one thing, there is no birth story; no little baby in a manger. That is why we never do Christmas pageants from the Gospel of John.

If we did, It would probably involve only one child or teenager speaking only one line, something like: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory and it was full of grace and truth.” The End…. (Don’t get any ideas….)

This one line, one scene, one performer play might be better characterized  as an Advent pageant. How appropriate, as we are in the thick of Advent, right?

Anyway, this one character is a man sent from God whose name is John - “Just John” - not “John the Baptizer” (Mark), not “John the Baptist” (Matthew), and not “John - son of Zechariah” (Luke) - Just plain ol’ John.

Okay, now that we have all of that cleared up, let’s move on….

When the religious authorities come to question Just John, he will hardly even say anything. They want to know who this noisy man is that is going on and on about the light he saw fall to earth. This man who is baptizing people so that they can see the same light. And, after all, he hasn’t applied for a license from them, nor does he have the authority to be dunking people in the Jordan!

They want to know who he is! But he won’t tell them. All he will say is who he is not!

According to him, he is NOT Elijah, he is NOT a prophet-like-Moses for whom everyone has been waiting to come, and oh, by the way, he is NOT The Messiah (even though nobody ever asks him that).

On top of all of this, when he is pressed, Just John won’t even say anything about himself. Instead he just rehashes what Isaiah said, "I am the voice crying out in the wilderness."

He does not claim to be the light or the word. His sole purpose, the only reason he exists, he says, is to point to the One whom he is not!

And then - just to rub it in their faces - he tells them that they do not even know the One and he is standing basically right in front of them…..  No wonder he ends up being separated from his own head….

Barbara Brown Taylor describes this scene at the Jordan like the old trick of yanking the tablecloth off the fully set table that has been set for the Messiah.

Everything is in place - the best china, the six-piece silverware settings, the Waterford [crystal] wine glasses.

The whole point of the trick is to yank the cloth so quickly that all these treasures are left trembling where they stand, but that's not how it happens this time. When John yanks the cloth, he takes everything with it.

To further her description, I would say it’s as if instead of even trying to keep the place settings in place, John simply folds the tablecloth up and makes it all disappear.

There is no expected crash - in fact, the entire table gone. In other words, John changes the “game” in the middle of the trick. What we would expect to happen, either a giant crash or a feat of great skill, isn’t even the point.

And there’s Just John standing there, plainly, pointing to the light and nothing else.

And there are the religious authorities - looking around - wondering who it is that John is talking about. And, I think, that often we are standing there with them looking around wondering, what is this light John keeps talking about? Who is Jesus?

That is what I hope you will think about today - here in the exact middle of Advent.

Who exactly is this Jesus?

What does he mean for me, to me?

What does it matter that He is God’s son? What does it matter that he was born?

To follow the example of John - Just John, The Baptizer, Son of Zechariah - that is to be short and to the point.

When we can come up with the answers to those questions, maybe we can begin to really get excited to celebrate his birth.