Wednesday, December 11, 2019

11. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

There is almost nothing in this Gospel about John’s preaching, but the other Gospels give us a picture of a man who lived simply in the desert, clad in camel hair clothing, challenging people to deal justly with one another and offering them a baptism of repentance, not unlike the regular ritual washing which was already part of the Jewish tradition. John’s baptism, though, was meant to prepare them to be a part of God’s coming kingdom, to share in God’s work in the world.
John had a large following both during and after his death. One follower is mentioned in Acts 18.25, and a whole group in Acts 19. There is still a group in the Middle East, the Mandaeans, who claim to be direct descendants of these followers of John the Baptist, and acclaim him as the last and greatest prophet. John’s Gospel takes the greatest pains of all the Gospels to emphasize that John himself had pointed to Jesus (see yesterday) and had not claimed to be the Messiah himself, which probably indicates that his followers believed he had! Biblical scholars suggest that there may have been tensions between the community this Gospel was written for and those who still followed John.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of tough but fair criticism or challenge? How did you react to it?
What do you think might have attracted people to John’s teaching, which was often tough and uncompromising?
What might you need to sort out or repent of in order to be able to do what God calls you to do?


Give something up for the day – anything which you might regard as a treat. How difficult is it, and how do you feel about it?  

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