Who is This Baptist?

I have always found John the Baptist a bit troubling.

That is, in spite of the fact that I find him most appealing.

He has that rogue contrarian eccentricity about him that I find compelling.

Everyone knows somebody in their family who is like that. Someone who is a non-conformist. Who speaks their mind, who is unconventional.

John surely fits that bill.

His parents were alerted both before and after his birth that he was special, and that he had a special place in the future of the Jewish people. Read Luke’s early chapters if you have any doubt.

He was “different” from day one.

And, in most of the scriptures, he was quick to recognize Jesus as the one for whom he had come. There is little doubt of that either.

In today’s Gospel, he merely says, “Behold, the lamb of God,” and Andrew, son of Peter, follows without question. John’s voice is powerful, his announcement carries weight. It is no different from in other parts of Luke and Matthew. John knows Jesus for who he is, and proclaims him without question or hesitation.

That is until later in Luke when John sends two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?” (Lk 7:19).

What? Is John now confused?

Or is John simply mirroring us?

We all, somewhere along the line of our faith journey, create a vision of who this Jesus is. We define him and his mission. We are assisted or hindered in that creation by a plethora of others, mostly well-meaning if often horribly wrong. They tell us who Jesus was and is for us today. To hear some, he was against socialism and unions, and for self-reliance. It gets a bit confusing.

But, in the end, we are left with this mosaic of Jesus, compiled, erroneously or not, in part or in full, of all of our learnings and experiences.

Is it any wonder that we wonder sometimes? “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?”

John, it seems to me, was reflective of this.

He had notions of who Jesus was supposed to be, and however that was, certain reports must have come to him about the Lord that were not what he expected. And so he began to doubt.

This man whom I touted as THE one, the one I sent others to, perhaps, just perhaps, I was wrong. Perhaps this Jesus is not the one my parents told me I was to herald.

So too do we wonder. Not so much about whether “this is the one” as whether we have a clue who this One is.

From time to time, he acts not at all like we would wish or expect. We are called upon to rethink the whole thing.

And as we do so, it seems to me, that most of the time we are called upon to let go of our self-serving definitions and explanations. We find that this savior is not an easy man to know or to follow. He demands of us a good deal more than we expect, and in ways wholly different from we thought.

And yet, or so it seems to me, we find this savior more worthy of following as we chip away our self-imposed lacquer. We find Him radically different from we had supposed, and we are again and again stunned with the brilliance of his light. If anything we find Him more compelling, rather than less as we discard the childish simple veneer we have so simplistically applied to Him.

One wonders what John thought as he discovered, if he did, that his vision of Jesus was quite different from the reality of the Lord.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Jan 15, 2012 @ 18:50:54

    Sherry, you were so right–although we explored different passages, the Spirit alive in the Word steered us to very similar, almost identical, realizations. I so love how God works to keep the Body moving in synch, even when inexplicable anomalies (like arbitrary lectionary choices by various committees) would point us in different–though never opposite–directions.

    I too love the Baptist, though you’re right, he doesn’t make it easy. He’s just so out, so comfortable in his own skin, and not at all fazed that his unrefined bluntness isn’t admired by the powers that be. He doesn’t need Jerusalem’s approval, because he’s of a sort that rarely appears–the very thing Peter urges us to be, one who makes his “calling and election sure.” If speaking what he’s been given to say costs living apart in the desert, so be it. What heroism!

    That’s why my heart breaks when he reappears as a broken, disillusioned man, not a has-been by any means, yet one who clearly hasn’t been fully appreciated. How right you are to connect his shining hour with his shadowy despair. And I can’t help but think John falls prey to a weakness lurking in all of us, a tendency to lose touch with understanding our individual stories figure into Christ’s story. (The “meta-narrative,” as hifalutin’ professors call it.) His question reveals a tragic sense of displacement and Jesus’s answer–“Tell John I’m doing what I was sent to do”–is meant to get him back on track.

    I wish the Gospels paid John closer attention, explaining how he lost his connection to Jesus and whether or not Jesus’s response brought him around. Yet there is also wisdom, I think, in letting his doubt speak on its own. As you teach us so well here, his “are-You-Who-I-believe-You-are” question nags at us, too. We just can’t avoid moments when our Lamb of God confession sounds tinny and hollow. But it’s a quandary we must recognize, embrace, and wrestle with if we are to balance knowing where we fit in redemption’s story and how to live in our skin.

    In the coming days, I see myself wrestling much with the challenges you present-and being much richer for it. Thank you.

    Many blessings,


    • Sherry
      Jan 16, 2012 @ 14:01:56

      I thought it was such a beautiful example of a message being sent and received. lol. I have also admired the Baptist for his willing to just be what he is called to be, and wished of course that I had that sort of courage in many things. I can’t help but think as you might surmise as well, that under all the gospels, there was a story about a “break” that has never been told. Somewhere along the way Jesus seems to have left the Baptist and moved on his own path, and I can’t help but think that there were some hard feelings and disillusionment suffered by both men. John it seems began to question what had been before unquestioning. Ironic. I think you are right….I too need to spend a good deal more time on this issue. Blessings, Sherry


  2. Hansi
    Jan 16, 2012 @ 12:40:08

    John the Baptist was sure one tripped out dude, what with his diet of grasshoppers and all.
    I think it’s so cool you have a second blog that is more personal in nature. One which the concern is the expression rather than number of “views” or comments each post receives. That’s why I have my The Blithering Idiot blog. Just for my drawings, and if anyone cares to look at it …good for them. This is an interesting Blog!


    • Sherry
      Jan 16, 2012 @ 13:55:56

      Why thanks Hansi, and I do enjoy it a lot. And it’s a once a week kinda thing. And frankly I am so tired about statistics! And these other blogs, I pay no attention at all. They serve a purpose that has little to do with whether anyone else cares. lol..I do like Blithering Idiot btb. I’ve stopped a time or two.


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