Today I invite you to rejoice for a while in the light of John the Baptist because John’s light reflects the light of Christ.
I rejoiced for a while in John’s light yesterday, and that joy surprised me. As I mentioned last week, John called religious teachers like myself a bunch of snakes, and I usually associate him with vipers, wrath, axes, and unquenchable fire. (See Luke 3:7-10.) Yet according to Luke, John “preached good news to the people,” (Luke 3:18), and that good news came home to me as I studied John 1:19-35 and related passages in preparation for the third Sunday of Advent.
In John 1, John the Baptist preaches Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) John also preaches Jesus as the Son of God who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:32-34) So John calls me a snake in order to lead me to the Lamb. The Lamb takes away my sin and gives me light and life. In that gift of repentance, I find myself rejoicing with John in relation to our Friend, Jesus Christ.
In John 3, John the Baptist’s disciples come to him with a lament. They say to John in effect: Remember that fellow who came to you at the Jordan and to whom you bore witness? Well, “here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3:25) In response to that seeming decline in his own ministry, John compares himself to a friend of the bridegroom, who “rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.” (John 3:29) And then John speaks a word fit for every believer and for religious teachers especially. John says, “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
In John 5, Jesus calls John the Baptist “a burning and shining lamp” and tells his listeners they “were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” (John 5:35) I think we can share in John’s joy by sharing in his humility and even more in Jesus’ humility. We can burn and shine with John when, like Jesus, we seek not the glory that comes from one another but “the glory that comes from the only God.” (John 5:44) I hardly know what that means for me, much less for you. But I do know that if we humbly trust the words of Jesus, God will exalt us and we will rejoice.
Have you meditated on any words from Jesus yet today? Here are Jesus’ first words from the Gospel of John: “What do you seek?” (John 1:38)