As we dive into the depths of the Gospel of John, we are faced with a sharp question. One that’s designed to cut us to the core and reveal who we are.
I invoked the Color Method again and one question echoed in the passage and my heart.
Who. Are. You.
A lifetime of discovering the depths of the answer.
The priests and Levites ask John, “Who are you?”
Still confused, they press again. Different words, same question. And again. Still baffled they echo, “Who are you?”
Don’t be tricked by the simplicity of the question.
The potency reminds me of Genesis 3:9. After consuming a forbidden afternoon snack, God asks, “Where are you?” Endless layers packed into the inquiry.
Who are you?
John, the one sent by God, the one who bears witness, responds to the Jewish leadership in the negative.
John tells them who he is not.
This is an emphatic negation. A hard no. Yet the counter response sets the stage not just to reveal John’s identity, but Jesus’s identity.
John is not the Christ.
John is not Elijah.
John is not the prophet.
Then John shifts to reveal himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3).
John introduces himself as one proclaiming a new exodus. God is about to free his people from captivity like in the days of Moses.*
The answer confounds the religious leaders more. In ancient times, different types of baptism were practiced, most notably used to mark the moment a Gentile decided to convert to Judaism. But John is baptizing fellow Jews.
Yet John uses the inquiry regarding baptism to illuminate Christ. John the Baptist says he is unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals—a menial task. The response reveals the greatness of Christ.
When John sees Christ, he proclaims “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
This is not just any lamb, but the Ultimate Lamb. In upcoming readings, we will discover the layers of meaning in John’s declaration. Jesus is the epic fulfillment of the yearly Passover lamb who will take away sin through a brutal, sacrificial, substitutionary death.**
I’m still wonderstruck by John’s answer to the question, “Who are you?”
John didn’t just know who he was but whose he was.
These elements were intimately intertwined.
This has been an ongoing prayer of mine. God, show me who I am and whose I am.
Often when I speak, I’ll start by taking off my shoes. My bare feet make me feel like myself.
Vulnerable. Real. Free.
For years, I struggled with a paralyzing fear of public speaking. I felt like I was going to throw up for 2-3 days before a presentation and then 2-3 days after.
But one day, I remember felt the Holy Spirit whisper:
“I’m calling you to this: you be you and you be mine.”
Those words became a sacred echo and lodged me free from the paralyzing fear.
I still get scared sometimes. But nothing like before.
To be wholly ourselves and wholly God’s is a holy invitation that will undo you and set us free.
Because we no longer must try to be something we are not.
Like John, we are free to say, “I am not that and I’m not that and I’m not that and that’s okay.”
Because I know who I am and whose I am.
Now let me ask you:
What did you least want to read but most need to hear in today’s reading?
(If you have any questions post them below. We’ll be collecting and gathering responses for insight from New Testament scholar, Craig Blomberg in the upcoming weeks).
Day Two: John 1:19-34 Discussion Questions:
In what ways were the Jewish leaders confused by John the Baptist?
How do you answer the question: Who are you?
How do you respond to the question: Who are you not?
List 3 adjectives you’d used to describe John the Baptist based on this passage.
What do you find most challenging about today’s reading? What do you find most comforting about today’s reading?
*Keener. C. S. BBC (IVPNTC: Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1993) p. 266.
**Kostenberger, Andreas. John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) pp. 14-17.
Psst… I’ll be popping on Facebook Live from time to time during this Lenten Journey. Follow along, here.