Short Meditations in John 1: 27. The Superior Messiah
Jn 1:27 “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
Sometimes there are things in Scripture that are so obvious that we just don’t see them. John is being questioned again and again by these men from Jerusalem about whether he is the Messiah. No! Elijah? No! The prophet? No! So why are you here then? Because I’m not alone! Out there is someone else, someone you don’t know – I’m not alone! Inference? He’s the one you should be worrying about!
Look, says John, I’m just an ordinary, humble man calling people to repentance. Beyond that there is nothing special about me – but the one who is coming, that is something else! I’m not even worthy enough to be the slave who undoes his shoes for him. I’m ordinary but he’s not! He’s super-special, he’s the one you should be concerned about, not me!
That essentially is what John is saying – you’re looking at the wrong person, I’m just the forerunner, I just baptise in water, but him…. Now what is frustrating here is John’s reticence to say more. Later he is going to speak about how Jesus baptizes people but for the moment he says no more.
There is a sense perhaps that these men from Jerusalem obviously come with a hostile, challenging and belligerent attitude. They are not seekers of God, they are seekers of the apparent truth so that they can control it. Perhaps for this reason John holds back. He doesn’t quite say it but it’s almost hanging in the air: if you want to meet this one, then stay around for he will be coming soon, but he doesn’t quite say it.
We in the modern church try and make the way so obvious for people in nice, easy little sermons with headings all beginning with the same letter (well some do!) to make them memorable, but actually that was not the way of either John or Jesus, and as God’s representatives we should perhaps follow their approach more.
God is looking for seekers not critics. These men from Jerusalem are critics. The religious authority is in Jerusalem and whatever is going on here needs to come under that authority, so who are you? Just a forerunner, just a messenger, just an office boy – but be warned, the boss is coming shortly and that’s all I’m going to tell you, so let me get on with my job with these people!