Who are you? A question with all kinds of answers, you could simply say your name, or your relationship with other people, or an institution, or one of the many roles you fill…
Who are you? Is a question that rides with us our whole life long
—after all we are often creatures of re-invention, never fully settled in one identity. Who you are will change
—with a new partner,
after a serious illness,
in a new job,
at the in-law’s house,
And today’s back and forth between John and Jesus, asks us to take this question very seriously.
Who are you?
“Who are you? Asks John.
As we read last week, he kinda knows
—he gave a speech about the one who is coming who will baptize with fire, taking a winnowing fork and banking good fruit and burningthe bad.
But, perhaps imprisonment is one of those experiences that makes identity unclear
—part of why John is asking about Jesus’ identity is that John is wondering about his own.
King Herod is free and John is jailed
—did Jesus’ pitch-fork miss its mark and pick up the wrong person?
John’s asking, “What’s going on man?”
“Are you,” he wonders, “the Messiah? The one who will save us and bring about the reign of God, the Kingdom of Heaven?”
A dangerous question to be sure, the kind of question that got John behind bars in the first place. Not the kind of thing King Herod would take lightly.
And so, Jesus answers the question carefully—he doesn’t want this start of his ministry to also be his end. He responds,
“Look at what I’m about,
enabling the disabled,
healing the sick,
empowering the poor,
and raising the dead.
-That has some strong resonances with scripture, right? -That echoes Isaiah and the Psalmist’s description of God’s salvation, doesn’t it?”
In short, Jesus answers John, “Yes, I am the Messiah.”
“Who are you?”
The question is flipped, who is John? Jesus reminds his disciples that John is not someone like Herod, a leader controlled by foreigners, who basks in opulence
—he is a prophet.
a man in the same ranks as Jeremiah, or Isaiah, or Ezekiel or Huldah
—those strange people who look at the world with God glasses
—they have eyes that see the earth in a sacred way, and act accordingly, telling people their visions, living them out,
Sometimes performing them in bizarre ways
—shaking old moldy underwear at people to show how far they’ve fallen,
choosing names for their kids to give hope to people during a siege—you think it’s bad being a Pastor’s kid, being a Prophet’s kid is so much worse!
Point being—if people went out to see John thinking they were getting someone polished and presentable, there thought wrong
—they got a prophet.
And not just any prophet, they got to glimpse the greatest of prophets. All prophets catch a peek of what God is doing,
how the world looks to God
—John gets to glimpse God’s Son, Jesus, in the flesh, right there.
In a prophetic act he baptized him, with prophetic eyes he eyed the Messiah!
…You know how at the Optometrist they have you look through a Phoropter (4opter), and they ask, “Is A clearer or B” well, John gets to see through the clearest best lens at what God is up to in his time, it becomes so focused he gets to see Jesus, and hear what he is up to!
Who are you?
This question packs one final punch. John, the greatest of the prophets, Jesus declares, is least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is one of those constant refrains we find in Matthew’s Gospel
—the first will be last and the last first.
John, this great prophet, is least in the Kingdom of Heaven. And strangely enough, we, all of us here today, along with the blind, lame, lepers, deaf, dead, and poor, are elevated by the coming rule of God—the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now, we as Christians spend a lot of time recognizing our sinful nature, trying to be humble in the face of our tendency toward boasting and turning in upon ourselves
—it’s what human do when unconstrained
—but give a moment’s thought to the precious place we find ourselves in. Think of the strange answer we can give, thanks to Jesus Christ, to the question, “Who are you?”
We can say, surely with some hesitancy—we are greater than John the Baptist.
What John could only see through bars of Iron and hear from his disciples far off and never fully
—the act of God taking place in the person of Jesus Christ
this is really cool!
We get to see and hear in a greater way than John.
We live after the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, and so we can marvel at it with multiple God Glasses.
The Spirit Herself points us to Jesus and his continued work among us.
Scripture tells us about Jesus’ time in Galilee and Jerusalem and interprets its meaning to the earliest Christians as guideposts for our ongoing life.
Our life together, as Christians, itself, is a kind of God glasses that help us to see the Kingdom of Heaven, how God is still at work in the world through Jesus.
Who are you? Jesus is the Messiah. John is the greatest of prophets. We, however improbable it may seem, are a people allowed to peek in at what God has, is, and will do! A+A