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Friday, February 15, 2013
Today’s Reading | John 1:19–28
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ”
as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. 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.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
Barren, desolate, forsaken are perfect desert descriptors and John the quintessential desert resident. He lived meagerly, in clothes made of camel hair, tied with a simple leather belt and his diet consisting of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4).
In total contrast, enter the priests and the Levites, the powerful, the esteemed of their time. Who is this desert dweller, John, of whom they have heard so much? Theirs is a mission of identity—John’s and perhaps also unwittingly their own. Intrigued and curious, they choose to leave the comforts of the city in search of John in the nothingness of the desert.
John’s life had become one of curiosity and renown. News had spread of this baptizer who lived in a desert. Who was this man for whom people traveled a distance to share time with him and then by whom to be baptized, to be “marked as God’s own forever.”
The influential saw power in the unassuming, unpretentious baptizer, a power to which they also were magnetized.
Who are you? they ask of John. Are you the Messiah, Elijah, a prophet?
I suspect the Pharisees were awed by the certainty of John’s answer. John knew who he was. He
stated in confidence, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert. Make straight the way of the Lord.”
I too am impressed with John’s sure answer. It begs the question, have I answered the question posed to John: Who am I? What is my purpose? Where is my voice, and is it heard in the desert of my surroundings? Is it heard beyond myself? Where is my voice?
Who am I?
Who are you?
Our glorious and gracious God, God of the desert and God of the city, God of the meek and God of the powerful, grant me wisdom to live where I am planted, to know who I am and to whom I belong. Precious Lord, be my voice. Amen.
Written by Ruth Beckman, member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
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