Donald R. Elly, M. Div.
John’s description of assisting Jesus in finding the disciples has always been a favorite passage because John the Baptist, unlike many around him, experiences no role confusion with Jesus. Born six months ahead of Jesus, John no doubt learned from his mother Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin) that he was to be the one who prepared the way for Jesus.
It was what he said to those who sought baptism of repentance from him, including Jesus. Many thought John might be the Messiah. But when John proclaimed, “Look! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This statement of faith is made twice. John noted, “This is he of whom I said, ‘after me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’
John also reminds the disciples of what he saw as Jesus was baptized, “I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove, and it rested on him.” John the Baptist not only prepares the way for Jesus, but is the first witness to who Jesus is. John the Baptist is an effective witness because he testifies to how this happened.
Prior to the Baptism John had intellectual and family knowledge of Jesus. He knew him as a cousin. Here John becomes an effective witness when he comments, “ I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it remained on (Jesus) and the voice that said “He (Jesus) on whom you see the Spirit remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. …I myself have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
John proves he’s effective as a witness when he directs the disciples with him to follow Jesus. One is Andrew who then testifies to his brother Simon Peter. An effective witness is not about what happens in you but what you see in others. How open are our eyes to what God is doing in others? Are we, like John, able to point others to the Holy Spirit at work in them? Then they too can discover for themselves who Jesus is?
Secondly, an effective witness is not a lonely individual, but bears witness to the activity of the Holy Spirit in forming a community. Want to be an effective witness? Open your eyes and look for God at work in unexpected people and places—right where you live.
January 19, 2020; Cycle A 2nd Sunday of Epiphany
Isa. 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1st Cor. 1:1-9; *John 1:29-42