It’s been a big week for the music industry with the release of a new album from Adele. It’s a big deal because her last album, ‘21’, was one of the most successful albums of all time and is the international bestselling album of the last decade. Refreshingly, Adele couldn’t be described as a manufactured artist, she can sing (her father was Welsh) and writes her own songs and has achieved success without the use of sexual imagery. She has of course won numerous awards and accolades and wrote and sang the theme song for the last Bond film; Skyfall. What I’ve found noticeable this week, is that she is actually quite shy, she shuns the spotlight and protects her private life.
I don’t know if the person in today’s passage was shy but it’s very clear, he knew who the main attraction was.
John chapter one is just loaded with information about Jesus. We’ve had layer upon layer of truths about him and the density of the teaching has meant that we haven’t had time to look at a major figure from Scripture who is actually quite prominent. We read about him in verses 6-8 and again in verse 15. Today we can look at John (the Baptist, not the John who wrote the gospel), the prominent figure that we haven’t studied yet. The strange thing is; he only wants to talk about Jesus.
John has moved from dealing with great theological facts to narrating events. We know about John (the Baptist) from the other gospels and we looked at this miraculous birth when we were studying Luke. John has been preaching repentance and people have been responding by being baptised. This has led to the authorities in Jerusalem sending men to question his teaching.
John refused to be labelled, Jesus would later say of him;
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?”
The Jewish authorities seemed to have a series of questions; are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet? John’s gave a straight answer; no. The questioners seem exasperated and plead for an answer to take back. They wanted to put John in a category. It’s a pity they didn’t listen and respond to his teaching.
In response to their questions John said;
“I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’”
It’s a quotation from Isaiah 40:3 and it tells us a couple of things;
- John knew his role was to prepare people to hear the message of the Lord Jesus
- The quotation refers to the ‘way for the Lord’, and they would have seen this as applying to God himself yet John is preparing the way for Jesus
- The experts from Jerusalem would have been familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy and should have picked up that it goes on to say; “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5) So the glory of the Lord is to be revealed in Jesus.
John began by saying I am the voice but by stating he was unworthy to untie his sandals, now he says effectively; ‘I am the slave’.
“A menial task, fit for a slave. Disciples would perform all sorts of service for their rabbis (teachers), but loosing sandal thongs was expressly excluded.” (NIV Study Notes)
John’s view of the one to come was so exalted that he considered himself unworthy to even be his slave.
When we consider the things we have already learnt about Christ from this chapter, it is hard to argue with John’s assessment. And if John, one who Jesus described as the greatest of all those born of women, is unworthy, where does that put us? It places us in need of grace. If we are relying on good deeds then I’m afraid there is no hope at all. Remember grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. He is the one who has revealed God’s glory. He is the one who we will see later stooping down to wash the dirty feet of the disciples. He is the one we can receive and who gives the right to become children of God. Hallelujah!
Our Judge and our Defender,
Suffered and crucified.
Forgiveness is in You.
Descended into darkness,
You rose in glorious life,
Forever seated high.
I believe in God our Father.
I believe in Christ the Son.
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
Our God is three in one.
I believe in the resurrection,
That we will rise again,
For I believe in the name of Jesus. (Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker)