Meditating on the Gems of the Bible: 16. I am not God
Jn 1:19,20 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”
I have just been struck by the clarity of the two Johns, John the Baptist and John the Gospel writer. It is probable that John the writer included these verses to speak against a cult that existed at the time when he wrote near the end of that first century AD, a cult that declared that John the Baptist was the Messiah. John the writer is quite clear as he writes about the other John, that he openly declared that he was NOT the expected Messiah. Indeed he recounts the conversation he had with priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem to find out who he was: “They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” (v.21) As others have commented, I like the way his answers get more brief as he goes on. Instead of seeking to explain more and more, having made his simple declarations, he leaves it at that. But they persist.
“Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” (v.22) Come on, they say, you must give us some answer! “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.’ “ (v.23) Do you see what I meant about the two Johns. John the writer understands exactly who the Baptist is quoting and so John, further amplifying his previous denials, merely says in our words, I am not him. The best I can say is that I am one seeking to prepare his way to make it easier for him to come but, no, I am not him!
Now you may wonder why I have included this passage is a series of gems from the Bible. I do so because of the crisp clarity with which John recounts what happens and the implied significance that we can take from it.
The first of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” (Ex 20:3) It is based on the truth that there is only one God. When you look at our modern world we tend to make little gods of celebrities. Merely because they act well or sing well or play football well, we pay them an excessive amount of money and they live expensive lives that seem so high and lofty and above ours, that we tend to elevate that as superstars, almost little gods. Super-heroes have become a thing, beings with powers greater than we have and we sometimes look at people and almost elevate them to this level. The media loves championing clever people who come up with silly thoughts about why God doesn’t exist and why Christianity is make believe and we, foolishly, cower before these giants like Israel cowered before Goliath. They are little gods and we elevate them to great heights.
The story of John the Baptist, as he prepares the way for the coming of Jesus says two things about Jesus: First, I am not the Messiah from heaven; second, he is! John knew his place, he knew his calling and therefore his role and it was to be no more than a messenger who said, “Get yourselves ready to meet God.” It therefore comes as a reminder to us that we are not God, we cannot do what God does beyond that which He gives us to do. We can speak words but beyond that we cannot change people. Only He can do that. We can plan our lives in a limited way but we will ultimately be limited by circumstances because have neither the wisdom, the knowledge, the strength, nor the power to overcome the obstacles that crop up in life – ill health, accidents, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, and so on. Without God we are prey to these things. But He is God and He is not affected by such things for His knowledge is unlimited, His wisdom is unlimited, His strength and His power is unlimited. We are not God but He is.
When it comes to Jesus, there is no competition. Sometimes we are foolish enough to believe we can be the answer to people’s problems, but we can’t, only Jesus can. He is God and so He has the knowledge, wisdom, strength, power and authority to bring changes to people’s lives as they give him access. You may not think this is a ‘gem’ in the Word, but it is because it is a fundamental and basic truth and as far as we are concerned all else hinges on it. No, says John, I am not the Christ, just his messenger. No, we must say, I am not the Christ, just his messenger. You want life changing? You must talk to him. That’s his business. I can’t deal with your sins but he died on the Cross to deal with them, so you must go and talk to him about them and receive his forgiveness.
Perhaps some of us need to look in mirror and say to ourselves every morning, “I am not God. I cannot save my family, only Jesus can. I can tell them about him, I can pray for them and I can seek to be an example for them but beyond that I cannot change them. I cannot change my husband (or wife), I cannot change by employer, I cannot change…(?) but I can tell them about him, I can pray for them and I can seek to be an example for them. I am aware and thankful for the gifts and abilities that God has given me but I still need Him to lead, guide and inspire me and show me the way to go and who to speak to and what to do. He is God. I am not.” This passage with the two Johns is like a beam of light that shines on us. May we heed it.