Sunday, January 20, 2008

I myself did not know him

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." —John 1:29-31

There was a good bit more to today's Gospel lesson than that; but there's such a lot in those few words, I'm stopping there. This morning our celebrant pretty much placed his focus there too.

I myself did not know him. I used to think this was a really stupid thing for John to say... Jesus was his cousin; of course he knew him. They'd no doubt spent a zillion afternoons together during their growing up years, especially if the holy family made the trek to Jerusalem on an annual basis. I thought maybe he said it to squash any rumors that they (as cousins) might be in cahoots over the whole Messiah thing, but it was stupid nonetheless. Family ties are too easily traced.

Okay, I get it now. I was getting there, but this morning's sermon clinched it. Sure, he knew Jesus, but not until John saw the spirit descend and stay put did he know that Jesus was the one. In the movie The Matrix, everyone is all a dither over whether Neo is the "one". Morpheus is sure, the Oracle says no, and Neo, meanwhile, is trying to work it all out for himself.

I see a parallel (duh) with John and Morpheus, Jesus and Neo. John witnessed the sign... which our celebrant described: a "deep peace" that settled on Jesus after his baptism. The Gospel calls it "something like a dove" and he reminded us that the dove is, in fact, symbolic of peace. John is convinced. It will take Jesus a while longer... an agonizing soul-searching time in the desert, before he arrives at a similar conclusion.

Our celebrant took the concept of knowing even further. exploring the difference between knowing about and knowing... How well do we know Jesus? Who do we see when we picture him? How does he rank in our priorities? John said, "...he ranks ahead of me..."

Is that true for any of us?
We were asked to look deeply... to pay attention, to see past just-one-more-face-in-the-crowd. Until then, we all can truthfully say "I myself did not know him."

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