“AND HE CONFESSED”
Saint John 1. 19-28
Rorate Coeli: 4th Sunday of Advent—23 December Anno Domini 2012
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The + Name of Jesus
“And this is the record of John…” by the word of John the Evangelist, brother of James, about John Baptizer. These are the words of said Baptizer about Christ Jesus! Jesus is the Word of God—the Word made flesh.
John was not a cloistered monk. John was not an ivory-towered “lecturer” with no stomach for the parish. John was a Spirit-called and Spirit-filled Prophet of the Highest. He spoke in public, in the open, to great crowds. His light was set high on a pedestal—bony-framed, camel haired covered, leather cinctured, dripping of honey and smelling of sweat and locust.
A Temple delegation came to John for answers. John did better than respond, he confessed; he gave more than answers, he gave Truth and Truth-enfleshed. The Council’s legation wanted to know who John was and why he had introduced this new doctrine of public baptism for the forgiveness of sins. They were concerned, possibly worried, and not amused. They wanted to know if John was the long-awaited Messiah.
As Aaron the High Priest and Levite was the forerunner and spokesman for Moses, so too John the Prophet and Levite was the forerunner and spokesman for the Christ. Moses and his brother were the two most prominent men in the Old Testament and were always together—especially in the minds of faithful Jews. John and his Nazarene kinsman are the two most prominent figures in the New Testament and are forever linked in the minds of the faithful. Moses sent to rescue and redeem the captives of Pharaoh, with Aaron going before his face to speak for him and announce the great Law. Blessed Jesus sent by The loving Father to rescue and redeem you, and all the world, held captive to sin, death, and the devil, with John Baptizer going before His radiant face to announce repentance unto faith.
That Jerusalem committee at least knew some of the Scriptures. They knew about Malachi 4 and the prophesied “return of Elias (Elijah)” prior to the terrifying “day of the Lord.” Whether they actually believed any of it is another matter. John said that he was not Elias. This was true, even though Jesus at a different time [Mt. 11.4] did in fact call John: Elias. Both Christ and the Baptizer simply meant that John was not the original historical Elias come back to terra firma. Rather John was the “Elias to come,” i.e. he ministered in the spirit of Elias. This is exactly what Gabriel had told Zacharias [Lk 1.17] when he told the old man that his son-to-be would come in the “spirit and power of Elias.”
John was the greatest of all Prophets; so, when he also denied that he was not “the Prophet” he meant that he was not like the other Hebrew holy men looking into the distant future. John was not prophesying from afar, but he was the Aaron, standing right next to the Moses…the kinsman right next to his God brother, in place and in time! John testified that he was what God has made him to be—a wilderness preacher of repentance. His “call” was to prepare the way for the Messiah. He was what every pastor is to be! John both denied himself and preached Christ. This is all the Lord’s will. The Baptizing one was not some protestant, self-chosen, made-up ministry, schwermerai (i.e. enthusiast) but a man in Holy Orders, in the Pastoral Ministry of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, called and ordained by the Holy Trinity.
John was not “The” Light, but, he was the torch handle. John was that final “hinge” between the receding darker night of the Hebrews and the dawning of a Son-shine brightness. John pointed to The Lamb and said the Son is rising.
Jesus shone forth through His own God-lit little torch John, because Jesus is Himself the uncreated and eternal Light of Light. Jesus also sprouts forth the Righteous Branch from a withered root—the stump of Jesse. Yes, Christ born from a blooming Virgin even as John closed out the Old Testament lesson by being born from an old woman. John carried the Missal Stand of his service, to the Gospel horn of the altar and let Christ sing into your ears!
As the Levites blew the trumpets calling the Israelites together; as they sounded the horns to lead the 12 tribes into battle and to precede before the Ark of the Covenant; so too John trumpeted the arrival of the Incarnated God/Man—the Ark of the Godhead Itself. As you prepare during Adventide, you are waiting for that final trumpet blast wherein Gabriel will herald the return of the Christ in glory.
Thus the Gospel is always preceded by the Law, the Absolution by the contrition, and the Peace, by the Person and Work of Jesus!
For John, and all of us, it is only and always Soli Deo Gloria! His confession, your confession, “The” confession—“the only way to the Father is through the Son; there is no other Name under heaven whereby you are saved!” [Jn. 14.6; Acts 4.12]
The Sanhedrin was a very smart group. They got it all wrong. Your “old Adams” get it wrong on as well. So Jesus does it—does it all.
Jesus through John then, and through His called ones now, Jesus baptizing you and cleansing you from sin; Jesus’ voice preaching and forgiving you from trespasses; and Jesus’ hands feeding you His Body and Blood. Christ does it all for you as the Apostle reminded the Corinthians “for God exhorts through us.” That too is why the fiery light, the tongue of flame. was atop the heads of the Apostle’s at Pentecost; it shows that the Light of Jesus, the Word of The Word, is now on and in His called ones: Christ speaking through them!
John was born first from Elisabeth, before the Blessed Virgin went to Bethlehem, yes, but the Light, Logos, Son of God, existed before John. The Christ is God and is eternal. John said he was not worthy to untie the Lord’s sandal strap—quite true, but in fact, the Messias let the Sanhedrin’s thugs and torturers, the Roman executioners, do that very thing to Him; as well as take off his tunic. Jesus let Himself be bound and tied to a Tree that He might untie you, loose you.
Christ stepped into the midst of the Jordan for you; into the middle of the crucifix for you! Aaron burned incense in the presence of the Easter—Lilly Lord, and, Paul acknowledged that it is Jesus Who offered Himself up as a sweet fragrance. [Eph. 5.2]
Today Messias has brought you to Bethabara—the place of crossing, the passage way. It was probably there that hundreds and hundreds of years earlier, Jesus had led the Children of Israel across the Jordan into Canaan. The Ark was carried by Joshua’s Levites into the midst of the river wherein the water flood pooled up and let the Israelites pass on dry ground. Christ, your true Ark, Christ the real Throne of Grace stepped into the same river, steps into the + same font, steps into the same line-of-fire that your sins have created, and is your Mediator and Advocate. The flood of divine wrath drenches Him so that you may pass into the Fatherland safe and secure.
“And this is the record of John…about the One Who standeth among you.”
In The Name of The Father and of + The Son and of The Holy Ghost