Reframing the Prophet -- Portrait of John the Baptist | John 1:6-8, 15-34
Topic: Gospel Passage: John 1:6–1:8, John 1:15–1:34
Christopher Rich – Sept 16, 2018
Reframing the Prophet – Portrait of John the Baptist |John 1:6-8, 15-34
Introduction | Prophets or Cult Leaders?
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work,Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are continuing our series REFRAMING JESUS: Portraits of Glory from John’s Gospel.
In Reframing Jesus, our desire isn’t to reinvent Jesus into someone He is not or make Jesus into an image we are more comfortable with. Instead, we seek to have our portrait of Jesus reframed by the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit recorded in John’s Gospel to see Him as accurately and glorious as possible.
What do you think of when you think of a prophet? A prophet is someone who Listens to God and tells people what He says. One who is inspired by God and tells people what His will is. Those are pretty general. In the Old Testament of the Bible (Hebrew Bible) there were several “prophets” spoke for God, reveal His will to His people, called people to turn from sin, care for the poor, to obey God, and also who gave people clarity and Hope of what God is going to end the problem of sin, when will he bring justice to the wicked, when will he again dwell with His people. However, we cheapen it down to someone who claims to know the future or interprets current events saying they know what God is up to. I think it’s too easy to equate prophet with cult leader. Here are four of my personal favorites in historical order:
Muhmmed- Founder of Islam Who claimed he heard Allah from the angel Gabriel over 23 years
Joseph Smith- Received from the angel Moroni had a “testimony” from some golden tablets.
Bhagwan Rajneesh – Wild Wild Country led a bunch of hippy terrorists to try to take over central Oregon.
Before there was Fixer Upper David Koresh was the most famous thing out of Waco, TX
What do they all have in common? They have/had significant/devoted followings. They claimed divine revelation. For three of the four the claimed to know the will of the God of the Bible (or at least borrowed some similar terms) What proceeds from their “prophetic” activities that began with telling people how to get closer to god or achieve peace quickly turned into self-exaltation and sexual exploitation. The point is with these “prophets” they became the focal point of worship and devotion, either by their own design or made it clear of their desire to have that role. That is not who we have in John the Baptist. Here in the first chapter of John before ever hearing the name of Jesus we hear the name of (another) John.
PART I | Reframing John the Baptist | v6-8
John 1:6-8 | 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
Who is this John? He actually a relative of Jesus. His mother Elizabeth is likely a cousin of Jesus mother Mary. He is born slightly before Jesus. Luke’s gospel says he was filled with the Holy Spirit before his birth. He had a rural preaching ministry that was attracting attention of those from the city (Jerusalem) and the region (Judea), he was a bit of an odd duck who wore camel hair, he ate locust/grasshoppers dipped in honey, (ya know for flavor) with awesome sermons like “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”
John IS sent from God. He is a messenger of God. He is a prophet, with a purpose. He is to be a witness about Jesus, the light, so that all might believe. While Jesus is eternal, His earthly ministry was predated by John the Baptist. John was sent from God and assigned this specific task. John begins this tradition of witnesses that continue throughout the Gospel: the Samaritan woman (4:39), the works of Jesus (5:36; 10:25), the Father (5:32, 37; 8:18), the Old Testament (5:39-40), the crowd (12:17) and of the Holy Spirit and the apostles (15:26- 27) All these witnesses present a powerful case the Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God. But it is important to note His role and status as being secondary was clear from the beginning. John is significant, John plays a key role, but don’t look for your life to be defined or have your identity tied to John because he is not “the light” he comes to point people to the light, let’s talk about that light.
PART II | Reframing Grace | v15-18
John 1:15-18 | 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
John knew from the beginning that Jesus is eternal and more significant. Jesus’ fullness gives us grace (incarnate Jesus among us). When it says “received grace” this is echoing back a few verses 11-12 about the contrast of those who do and do not receive Jesus as the light and life. He’s talking about the community of those we can now claim to be “children of God”. Jesus light is universally available and particularly received. Its received creating a new community. The people of God had been defined by the law that had been given to Moses by God. This was grace (getting something not earned) of God to give his people clarity and instruction. This included how they could engage with God through temple ceremony a priest, layers of barriers. However, they needed more than good instruction the needed good news of a God who would make them new. So enter God, through Jesus (the) Christ, who comes with “grace and truth”. Until Jesus, no one has ever seen God (except for an afterglow), but Jesus has broken the barrier, God has made himself known. More on this from Jesus in later (6:46 and 14:9). Back to John…
PART III | Reframing what we are not | v19-34
John 1:19-23 | 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 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.”
The concepts/ideas of who Jesus is now going to be rooted into the narrative of Jesus public ministry, starting concerned not about Jesus’ ministry (yet), but with John’s. With John’s preaching and baptizing ministry up and running for well over a year he had begun to attract quite an audience. The religious and political leaders have sent a group of investigators on a fact finding mission to get information on who John is for the religious authorities so they can decide what their (and thus the official) disposition towards him should be. John responds with what he is NOT and eventually what He is:
Not the Christ – Savior King of God’s people. For us this is clear in hindsight. But with the following John had with people thirsty for deliverance from Roman oppression, a quick “I am the Christ!” could have spurred on a mini rebellion/insurrection. There were many different leaders who had claimed to be the one who would lead God’s people to freedom and a return to glory only to be put down violently by Rome. Most clearly John is saying “I am not the Christ” because he can confess clearly who IS the Christ.
Not Elijah – So you’re not the Christ but then you think you’re the prophet Elijah, right? This is a reference to: Malachi 4:5 |Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. This is part of the last words God has given to His people. They are asking are you the end times figure who is going to precedes the arrival of God? This one is a bit confusing, 1 Kings talks about Elijah wearing animal hair and a leather belt (so he sorta looks the part), later Jesus actually says John’s ministry is that of Elijah in being one who will come before. Luke 1:17 say when an angel was talking to John’s dad he said John will have a ministry in the spirit and power of Elijah. So he’s being clear that he’s not Elijah reincarnated. In this case Jesus sees John’s ministry and role as more significant than John does.
Not The Prophet- So they’re not asking if he’s “A prophet”, but rather if he is “THE Prophet.” This is a specific promise that one would come who would be a prophet like Moses who is the one who acted both as a proclaimer of the will of God but also a mediator between God and his people. Deuteronomy 18:15 ||“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— John, are you like Moses? Are you a priest like him? Are you a prophet like Elijah? Are you a savior king like the Christ will be? To all of these John is clear on what he is not. He is not either.
What John is not, Jesus IS! Hebrews 1:1-2 | Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Jesus is THE great prophet who speaks for God, because He is the Son of God. Cool bible info but what does that mean for us? You are not the priest or mediator for your own sin or the sins of others, Jesus is. There is great freedom in knowing what you’re not, and great comfort in knowing what pastors and leaders are not. You are not your savior or king, and you cannot save or be the king of anyone. Only Jesus can be. You don’t speak for God or need to know the mind of God or be the prophetic voice of God to people, Jesus does, and gives us God’s will/thoughts through His word. This should be freeing so we do not bear pressure we’re not meant/equipped to carry.
Who is he? When given a chance to be clear on his identity and purpose of his ministry it’s not one that will lead to people revering him like a victorious king or relying on him like a priest but responding to him as a prophet who comes not with a message from God of instruction but of introduction, God Himself is coming.
Isaiah 40:3-5 | 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
John’s role is significant but limited “I am here to prepare you for the arrival of God, to tell you to make a high way for the king who will come.” I am not the message, I am only the messenger.
PART IV| Reframing Humility | v24-28
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
We know what John isn’t, but we can learn a lot about who John is. The Pharisees’ investigators question why if he’s not this messianic figure is he baptizing people a symbol of cleansing and conversion. Does he think of himself so highly that people need to be baptized by him in order to be right with God?
John IS Humble. John has some pretty strong credentials he could be resting on when he responds to these guys. I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit since birth. My Dad was visited by an angel before I was born. I’m Jesus cousin. I am the man Jesus says among those born of women no one has risen as high as John, there is none greater. Says of himself, “I am not WORTHY, of untying Jesus sandals.” I am not worthy enough to be Jesus’ disciple, I am not even worthy enough to act as slave would towards his master. John has seen Jesus for who He is and his response (in the Holy Spirit) is to respond to Jesus as the eternal Son of God with humility. John know he’s not Jesus, so He can be humble. John knows where he ranks in the universe. He is greater than I. Humility comes not when we just think of other people as greater or more important but true humility can only be considered when we are seeing who we are in relation to God. It should cause us to pause, to tremble, then for those who have received Jesus to have peace in His presence.
PART V | Reframing the Son of God | v29-34
John 1:29-34 | 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
John IS Bold- Humility is not a lack of boldness. Humility is boldness properly directed and empowered not by pride but on recognition of and reliance on a greater source of power. Knowing what we are not gives us the ability to humbly and boldly be who we are called to be in the time and place we are. John declares, Behold the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world…. It would be hard to overstate how remarkable John’s testimony is. He pointed to Jesus (a man – dressed in ordinary clothes, and who walked and breathed like you and I) and said that Jesus is how God is going to take away our sin, our brokenness, our rebellion. So the focus is less on how he’s going to do it and more on what he is going to accomplish. John has been calling people to repent to turn from sin, to be baptized “with water”. John is a prophet pointing people to God, saying God is with us and what is God going to do as he dwells with us, as He breaks into this dark world? Why is God here? He is here in Jesus to take our sin and make us clean.
John IS used by Jesus All of John’s work, ministry, influence, was not expand his influence or increase his platform. All that John has done in His ministry, weather he knew it or not at the time was for the purpose of Jesus being revealed for who He is in Glory to God’s people. Jesus got baptized by John so He could identify with His people, and so His people could identity who Jesus is. We are to be used by Jesus.
John IS blessed to see and know Jesus for who He is- Jesus is God, God the Son, who takes our sin and gives us new life with Him in the Holy Spirit. His baptism of repenting of sin, of having people convert from who they were into disciples who were grieved by sin is not as great as us participating in baptism signifying being made clean by the lamb of God who takes our sin and pledging allegiance to Jesus as the Christ eternal the Son of God. We don’t worship John, we don’t follow John because he’s not the point. We Trust Jesus.