Advent Devotion for December 17
Candle Lighter says: “God sent a man…”
Response: “…to tell us about the light.”
6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.
19 This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
“No,” he replied.
“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”
26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”
28 This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.
SOME THOUGHTS: We saw early on that the Season of Advent was about watching, waiting, and paying attention as we await the Lord’s return. Through parables and stories, Jesus told the people to prepare for His return. In this pericope, we see the care to detail as God’s plan unfolds. It says simply “God sent a man.” He names the man. He gives the man specific instructions about what he is to do. He is to point to the Light. In addition, God used Old Testament prophets to foretell of this person. So, when John the Baptist arrived on the scene and began fulfilling his God-given task, the Jewish leaders had questions. “Who are you?” was their question. It was a question much deeper than a name that is borne out in John’s responses. The Pharisees and priests were looking for the Messiah. They were watching, waiting, and paying attention to the Scriptures. Much of what they saw in John fulfilled what they read in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures. But, John’s first response was simply, “I am not the Messiah.” The next question concerned Elijah. There was some thought that since Elijah had not actually died but went to heaven in a chariot of fire, that he would actually come back to earth to announce the coming of the Messiah. So again, to this question, John answered, “No.” Then the first question was asked in another way. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” In Deuteronomy 18:15, the prophet Moses spoke of another Prophet who would rise up from among the Jews to speak the very words of God. This Prophet was understood to be the Messiah. How do we know this? In Acts 3:22-23 Peter quotes Moses in the passage from Deuteronomy and proclaims Jesus as the Prophet to which Moses referred. Back to our passage. To the Prophet question from the priests and Levites, John again answered, “No.” John only wanted to be known as the voice pointing to the Lord’s coming. Authority was important to the Jewish leadership and so their next question to John was about the authority to baptize. In spite of their “watching, waiting, and paying attention,” the leadership was still missing it. In John’s words, “right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize.” They had in their minds an image of what the Prophet, the Messiah, should be and do. Jesus did not fit that image. Eventually, some of the leaders did discover the Christ, the Messiah (Nicodemus). We are surrounded by people who do not recognize the Savior. You and I are the present-day John the Baptists. John pointed people to Jesus. Can you point someone in that direction today? Look for the opportunity.
MUSIC: Angels We Have Heard on High by The Piano Guys (YouTube)
PRAYER: Thanks be to thee, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which thou hast won for us, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. And may ours be a voice crying in the wilderness, “This is the way. Walk ye in it.”
—Richard of Chichester, 1197-1253, altered.