Weekly Meditation: 15th January 2017
There is the shock of sudden recognition in the gospel reading today. It is an experience some of us have, perhaps once in a lifetime, when we see in someone or in an event, the fulfilment of a hope or longing. I experienced it, the first time I saw the man who was to be my husband.
John the Baptist may have known Jesus well – they were cousins. However, John had spent time in the desert before he began his work, preparing the way for the Messiah; perhaps he had not seen Jesus for some time. Either way, he did not know who the Messiah was – only that it would be someone who would surpass him by far (John 1:30). When he saw Jesus coming, however, John immediately recognised him – not as his cousin, but as the One for whom he had been waiting; the One whom he was to reveal (John 1:31), the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.
John spoke as a prophet; he possibly did not fully appreciate the significance of what he said, and he could not have known exactly how the Messiah would free the people from their sins. He had known, however, that his own mission to call the people of Israel to repentance and baptism was necessary in order to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah.
The next day, two of John’s disciples had a similar experience of instant recognition. They followed Jesus and spent the day with him. One of them – Andrew – then found his brother and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (John 1:41). What convinced them we are not told, but we can appreciate the stupendous excitement bound up in this simple statement of faith. The Messiah was he whom the Scriptures had foretold for centuries. Law, Prophets and Psalms (see Luke 24:44) had spoken of him and promised his coming. People had put their hope in him, longed for him, sought him and expected him. He was the One who had come to do God’s will (Psalm 40:7-8), who would be ‘a light for the Gentiles ... and [who would] bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth’ (Isaiah 49:6). Finally he was revealed to the followers of an itinerant preacher, including a couple of fishermen.
With the baptism of Jesus, John’s ministry was almost over; his disciples became followers of Jesus. Andrew’s brother was Simon, whom Jesus renamed ‘Peter’ (John 1:42) and he was eventually to spearhead the work of spreading the gospel first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (see Acts 2:14-41; 10:1-48). Thus, at the very start of Jesus’ ministry, all was in place for the whole world to receive the light of the gospel of Christ. It all began, however, with the recognition in the hearts and minds of individuals who knew the Scriptures and who were expectant and watchful, waiting for the coming of the Messiah.