This week we again hear about John the Baptiser, this time from the Gospel of John. While both Mark, who we heard from last week and this gospel writer are using a similar tradition about the Baptiser, how this gospel writer presents him is very different.
This gospel writer is very focussed on Jesus. So focussed that he is not interested in the Baptisers own contribution apart from his pointing to Jesus. We hear very little about his ministry other than his pointing. And that is because this gospel is also not so interested in what Jesus did but to help us see underneath the outward observable actions to see the inner true meaning of who Jesus is. For this Gospel it is all about Jesus the Word, the Logos, the Logic by which all of creation makes sense. In Jesus we encounter The Eternal Word in flesh and blood.
There are interestingly a number of similarities in how John and Jesus are presented. Both are sent by God. Both are referred to as Moses or Elijah. Both bear witness to God. But the baptiser is clearly being presented as simply a sign post to Jesus, who in turn is the means by which we are pointed to God. The light and life that is God’s is now made accessible through this Jesus, the Word.
Bill Loader suggests that, “Ultimately God is the central focus. This is reflected in the fact that the author uses the same language of Jesus as he does of John: being sent, bearing witness, etc. This characterises the so-called spirituality of the fourth gospel in which everything, including the earthly Jesus, is enveloped in central symbols which speak of light and life, water and bread, sourced ultimately in God alone. In the Advent season such a reading encourages our focus on that centre, to look where John is looking (especially 1:29) and to know the one whom Jesus has made known (1:18). Ultimately it is about a spirituality which makes sense of life or doesn’t make sense at all.”
In the first week of Advent we also heard from Isaiah. We heard of hopes not realised and were invited to reflect on our own experience of unrealised hope and what that meant as we approach Christmas. This week we hear again of hope in the passage made more familiar by Luke 4. This time it is not our hope that is in question but all that God hopes for. We hear that God loves justice. God’s hope is in justice. Of course, how we hear this hope will depend on whether we are the ones with the land, or the ones longing for a return of the land; whether we are the ones with resources, or the ones longing for enough to live by. As we enter into the second half of Advent we are invited to made God’s life and love our central focus, and to join God yearning for justice no matter the cost.