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John 1:19-34, A Voice in the Wilderness

Sunday, December 31

Voices of Truth

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

At this point in John, we haven’t yet met Jesus face to face. We have only learned of him through the prophet, John. This prophet proclaiming the coming of Jesus was no ordinary Joe. Although there were other prophets roaming the countryside, it was not an ordinary occurrence. Nor was baptism an ordinary ritual. John certainly called attention to himself with his clothing and food (cf. Mark 1:6), his sharp words, and his baptizing. It is no surprise that the Pharisees were drawn to him, worried about what he might say and how he might rile the crowds.

People who speak truth, especially truth that is hard to hear, are often met with suspicion. We are living in a time when the truth is hard to find. There are so many voices, so much shouting, so much fighting, how are we to discern truth? Shall we listen for the voices of those who are unorthodox? Shall we listen only for the voices who speak what we want to hear? Shall we risk opening ourselves to truths we don’t want to hear?

John was very clear in pointing to the truth. “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” One of the reasons we know John is speaking truth is that John was not calling attention to himself. He was pointing toward someone else. He was paving the way for Jesus. We also have the benefit of time – we can look backwards in time to see that what John spoke was the truth. The things he prophesied came to pass.

We might use similar measures to determine truth even today. Are the ones speaking – or shouting – pointing toward themselves or something that benefits only them? Or are they speaking of a greater good that benefits humanity? Are there words consistent with the words of Jesus? Does their agenda proclaim exclusivity, hatred, and inequity, or does it proclaim peace, justice, and love? Truth is hard to discern among the too many voices we are inundated with, but it is still there. Often a small sound, but a powerful one. “This is the Son of God.”

Narrative Lectionary Text: John 1:19-34

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.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”