Like John

I would like to start this week’s blog by officially and wholeheartedly congratulating everyone who was baptized on Sunday. I’m so happy for you, and I’m excited to see what God’s got planned for each and every single one of you.

I was baptized when I was nine. It was in what I suppose you would call a creek. The water was cold, and I was nervous. I can still picture it well. The grass was turning green. The sun was out and warming the earth, breaking through the leaves and branches of the one tree on that side of the creek. There was a small gathering there to celebrate with those being dipped in the water, and a small group of singers stood in the shade of tree and sang before we started. It was very old-timey and very nice, reminiscent of the baptism scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou. (If I’m not mistaken, the picture that my dad kept of his soaked, post-ceremony family is still taped to his bedroom mirror.)

I was thrilled when Alan preached on John the Baptist on Sunday because John is one of my favorite people from the Bible. John was very minimalist. He didn’t have a lot because he didn’t need a lot. John was very natural, and by that, I mean that his food and clothes came from nature. (I imagine if John were alive today that he would be a tree hugger and a vegetarian and that he would wear shirts made from recycled materials and TOMS.) On top of all that, John exhibited many qualities that I greatly value. He was honest, self-aware, humble, and confident. And he must’ve been extremely in-tune with God because he immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah when it took everyone else forever to figure it out.

That being said, John’s not in the Bible very much, probably due to his short lifespan. There are few passages that involve John, but I’ve somehow managed to find a favorite. It’s not when he leapt in his mother’s womb upon hearing Mary’s voice. It’s not when he baptizes Jesus or when he sends his disciples to Jesus for some affirmation. It’s when everyone’s trying to figure out just who John is.

John 1:19-27 (NLT) says, “This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, ‘Who are you?’  He came right out and said, ‘I am not the Messiah.’
‘Well then, who are you?’ they asked. ‘Are you Elijah?’
‘No,’ he replied.
‘Are you the Prophet we are expecting?’
‘Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?’
John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
‘I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
“Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!”’
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, ‘If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?’
John told them, ‘I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.’”

Here we truly see who John is. From the way he talks, we can tell a lot about John. He’s blunt, but not inconsiderate. He’s bold, but he knows his place. He’s entirely aware of his role and what Isaiah called him in the prophecy, and he’s not denying it or backing down from it. At the same time, he points them all to a man they don’t yet know who is much greater and much more important than he is. He openly and gladly speaks about it.

I love watching people talk about something or someone they love. They instantly become adorable. They smile and they get this particular twinkle in their eyes. Sometimes they talk faster, and sometimes they gesticulate more. Their energies change, and it becomes so clear that they’re happy. All they’re doing is talking, but they’re happy because they’re saying out loud stuff that they’ve thought repeatedly or kept to themselves.

Nowhere in the scripture does it say that this happened to John, but I believe it did a little. I believe his face lit up and his eyes sparkled for a moment. The corners of his mouth may even have turned upwards when he spoke. But I know John was happy to talk about Jesus because he spoke lovingly and highly of Jesus and spoke more when talking about Him.

I particularly enjoy what John says about him not being worthy to untie Jesus’s sandal. I find it beautiful. To tie (or untie) someone’s shoe (apart from a helpless child) seems so lowly. Feet in general seem lowly and kind of gross. It wouldn’t be difficult for dirt and grime to find their way onto a pair of sandals. I also imagine they would smell pretty bad. So by saying he isn’t worthy to untie the straps on Jesus’s smelly, dirty sandals, John is really lowering himself. A man so outrageous, powerful, and influential so far below this other, unknown man? That’s saying a lot.

But John was absolutely right. And the rest of us are just as worthy.

There’s a lot we can learn from John and a lot we can do to become more like him. John knowing his place and his role in the Kingdom of God is part of what makes him so fantastic, and it’s something that we can also achieve.

But that would’ve been easy for John, right? He had this huge, awesome calling: the forerunner for Christ. He knew he was going to make a difference in the world. And he was content with the lifestyle he had. That all sounds great.

What if we’re not called to do anything big or go anywhere exciting? What if what we feel called to do seems small, borderline meaningless?

Squash such thoughts right now. If you’re looking at things that way, you’re looking at them with human eyes, not godly eyes. There is no small job with God. They’re all equally important. And if you want a call to go do something grand, there’s a possibility you’re doing it for your glory and not God’s, so be careful.

I can’t tell you your role. I can tell you what I think you’d do well at, but that’s not necessarily the same thing. To figure it out, you’ll have to talk to God. Seek Him and listen to Him.

And I hope that whatever you do, you do with the confidence and passion John had. I hope that when someone mentions it, you heart swells with joy and the overflow appears as a light in your eyes and a smile on your face. I hope that whatever you do, you know it’s important, and that you’re making a difference in the world.

By Carrie Prevette

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