Gospel of John #17
Note: I am reproducing the biblical text for today’s discussion, underneath this post:
Today I turn your attention to the preaching of John the Baptist in John 1:19-28 and to the wilderness inside of you: your own longing, that undomesticated place, where your voice — song, desires, dreams — are birthed.
In John 1:19-28, an embassy from Jerusalem, having heard about the preaching of John the Baptist, comes out to check on John’s credentials. These religious leaders are experts in the scriptures; they know the Jewish traditions. On that basis, they interrogate John.
The religious leaders expect the arrival of the messiah (messiah= God’s anointed one), possibly preceded by the messiah’s forerunner (Elijah revived) or by a new prophet like Moses (who is predicted in Deuteronomy).
Is John one of these expected figures? And if he’s not, what gives him the authority to baptize?
John replies in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23)
In our own spiritual lives, we may be interrogated too, in this manner: Are you a Baptist, a Methodist, a Christian, a Jew? Give an account of your beliefs! Which catechism do you follow? What is your creed? If none, then what right do you have to do rituals or to pray? Under whose authority do you do so?
Actually, like the apostle Paul himself, who is called by Christ not by the Jerusalem church, or like Mary Magdalene, who speaks out on behalf of the risen Jesus, you may be prompted to speak on the basis of your own longing alone. You are a Voice in the wilderness. That voice belongs to you.
The wilderness within you, if you step into it, is an uncultivated place. There are no churches inside of it, nor religious leaders. Your longing is sufficient.
Long for the Spirit, even if you have no name for it. In longing, you will be preparing. “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Be still and S/he will come.
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” 24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with[e] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.