Saturday, July 6, 2013

Contrasting John the Baptist and Jesus in the Gospel of John

It's intriguing that John the Baptist is plugged into a prologue that is really about Jesus. We are informed that the Son is the Word who was before all things, and even the Creator of all that has come into being.

Now, when I grew up, many people weren't necessarily saying that Jesus wasn't God. They were just saying that we all were. The Christ, the divine spark, is in all of us. So Jesus is God because we all are God.

Of course, that flies in the face of what John does next in his discussion of the Baptist. The Jews come out to the Baptist and ask him if he is the Christ, Elijah, or the prophet. He tells them that he is none of these.

Now, this is fascinating, because, in reality, we know that John is Elijah come again in the sense that he is given the ministry of Elijah and his spirit to call back God's people to repentance. Jesus tells us both this and that he is the greatest of those born of women, i.e., the greatest of human beings.

But John's answer, instead of saying, "Of course I'm Elijah and the prophet and the Christ. We all have that divine spark." His answer isn't even to boast about who he is in terms of being Elijah come again. Now, it could be he doesn't know that, but he could, at the very least, speak to them of his great position in God's plan.

Instead, however, he simply identifies himself as a voice crying out in the wilderness. In other words, he is saying, "I am nothing but a voice." No one to concern yourselves about. I am nothing compared to the one who is coming.

And that is made clear by two things. First, he quotes the passage from Isaiah, where he proclaims that they are to prepare the path of the Lord. Now, we usually brush over this, but the Greek word kurios here is translating the Hebrew for the divine name, YHWH. John is telling them that YHWH is about to walk among them, and his job is to call the people back to repentance and prepare YHWH's work among them.
Second, he tells them that he, the greatest man who has been born of women, is not worthy to be the lowest of lowliest servants to Him. The feet were seen as dirty and foul, and for one to have to touch them was humiliating. This is why kings referred to their enemies as footstools under their feet, and often had them engraved on their footstools. To put someone under your feet was to completely dominate and humiliate them. The task of removing sandals from one's feet, therefore, was given to the lowest servant of the household. This is why Peter and the other apostles have such a hard time with Christ washing their feet.

John now says that not only is he no one worth noting, just a voice preparing for YHWH to walk in their midst, but that he is not even worthy to be the lowest servant. Notice, he does not even say he is only worthy to be the lowest servant, but that he is not even worthy to be THAT servant to Him.

This shows us that Jesus is exclusively God with the Father and the Spirit. He does not share His divinity with us. We do not have a divine spark. We are not little Christs. We are completely different than He is. He is God. We are just the voices that should proclaim Him and what He has said. His Word is God's Word. Our words must repeat His words, not our own. He is more important. He is everything. As the Baptist will later say in the Gospel, "He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son does not have the life, but the wrath of God remains on him."

If John isn't worthy, how much less am I? This tells me that I need to seek Him, not others, and not myself as my source of life and salvation, my hope and the purpose of my being. He is my Creator. He is my Savior. The Baptist is a godly man, but he is nothing compared to He who is God. And neither are we.

"[John] himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light." (John 1:8)

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