(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)
Again with John. 🙂
John the Baptist looms large in all the gospels, particularly in the early part of the story. We know him best as the camel-hair clad, wild-eyed prophet of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In the Fourth Gospel, as we’ve seen, John is not so much “the Baptist” as he is “the Witness.” And so in the earlier verses, John the Evangelist makes it clear that John is not the light but only comes to bear witness to the light. And later, as we’ll see, John goes out of his way to confess that he is not the Messiah.
Here, however, John the Evangelist takes up material common to all the gospels, where John professes that Jesus is greater than he is. It may be that there was some confusion among the earliest Christians about that, such that the Evangelists each felt it necessary to make it clear that John was the forerunner to Jesus.
If it feels like this is a bit of an odd placement for the testimony of John the Witness, that’s because it is. Whether this was the work of a later editor, or whether the original author wanted to slide it here, we don’t know. What we do know is that John is wrapped up intimately with Jesus from the earliest traditions as the one who came before to point toward Jesus.
In this way, John isn’t just the forerunner of Jesus but also of each of us as he models the disciple’s task of pointing others to Jesus.
Prayer: Dear God, let us, like John, point to Jesus in word and deed that others may know of your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.