–By Elizabeth Ahlman
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing (John 1:19-28 ESV).
This reading is paired with a reading from Deuteronomy 18 in which Moses promises the people that, just as they asked at Mount Horeb, the LORD will send another prophet who will speak His Word. The lectionary suggests that when the Pharisees ask John the Baptist, “Are you the Prophet?” they are asking if he is the one promised by Moses. This Prophet is the one long-awaited and desired by the Israelites. They asked that he would come as a mediator between them and Yahweh, Whose presence at Mount Horeb overwhelmed and terrified them. Could John be it, the Pharisees wonder. But John answers truthfully. He is not the one they are seeking. He is the one who prepares the way.
Today, as then, many are searching. They are searching for a Prophet, a King, a somebody who is worthy of following. They run after many a different personality — anyone who spouts what they think ought to be the the prophet’s message will do. They long, deep down, for someone to mediate between them and the God who makes Himself manifest in wind and sea, flower and field, sun and moon.
The truth is, He has come already. The Prophet promised by Moses, the one all people deep down seek, has come. And the Jews of Jesus’ day and the unbelievers of our day did not and do not recognize the one for whom they asked. They make it clear that they do not even understand what they are asking: they ask John first if he is the Christ, then if he is the Prophet. If they truly understood, they would know that these are one and the same. And so they do not recognize the Christ who is the Prophet for whom they search. Though the Word of God is in His mouth, they do not heed Him. Though He is as promised, “one from among their brothers” (see Deuteronomy 18:18), they have not known Him.
And so the Church stands just as John the Baptist, and points not to herself, but to her LORD, the Prophet who has come, comes now, and will come again. She calls out to the world “here is He whose sandal I am not worthy to untie. He is the Prophet you seek. Here is the one Who speaks the whole counsel of God. He came as the Babe of Bethlehem, He comes now as the crucified and risen Son of God, and He will come again.” The Church continues her work of proclaiming the Prophet Who is Savior of all and Who is one of us, and yet God Most High.
Let us Pray: Jesus Christ, You are the Prophet promised by Yahweh through Moses, draw all those who seek to You through Your Holy Church, so that they might hear the Word that saves and be found in You; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Be sure to follow our Facebook Page, LCMS Eurasia, for Throwback Thursdays. We’re posting devotions based on Advent hymns during the Advent season from our 2013 Advent Season in Song series. During the Christmas season, we will be posting devotions based on Christmas hymns on Sundays from our previous Season in Song series.