The Gospel of the Day – 2016.12.11
John and Jesus
John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’
As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:
‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.
‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’
Politics and The Way
John came before Jesus. It is said that they were cousins, but the evidence for this claim is scant.
It is said that the James, the apostle and the bishop of Jerusalem was Jesus’ brother, but that claim has long been rejected by the church.
There is no way for us to know the veracity of these claims, and it does not matter.
John came before Jesus, for a time the worked as contemporaries. It is said that they met at the river Jordan, where John was carrying out his ministry of baptism, healing, and repentance.
John baptized Jesus at that time, the moment is presented in the Gospel as a passing of the torch from John to Jesus.
John prepared the way for Jesus as the Gospel for today indicates. He was arrested shortly thereafter, and shortly thereafter he was murdered.
John and Jesus belonged to a movement, a movement of the people, for the people, a movement calling for justice, for unity, for salvation.
They saw their work as something connected to the prophets, they were reformers, they were people whose preaching synthesized the sacred texts. They boiled the commandments down to their essence and returned them to the people in their simplest form.
“Love God, with all your strength and all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
That is the whole of the law, and all the words of the prophet were summarized therein.
Many of John’s followers became followers of Jesus. Leaders in John’s group became leaders among Jesus’ disciples.
But not all who had followed John came along. It is to these people that this gospel is pointed.
It was written to remind them of the sequence of events; first John, then Jesus. It was an ancient theme among the Hebrews. It is a story reflected in the most ancient narratives, God’s expressed favoritism for the younger son; for Able over Cain, for Isaac over Ishmael, for Jacob (Israel) over Esau, for Joseph over all of his brothers.
The gospel of today is a piece of politics. It is a message to the holdouts among John’s camp, expressing love and pride in the work of John, while telling them in no uncertain terms the way forward was with Jesus.
This was the beginning of Church politics. And as with all such actions, it healed some aspects of the divide, while exasperating others.
Such is the way of human beings.
3rd Sunday of Advent