Do we activate God by our devotion and discipleship? Do we make God real and active in our lives, relationships, work, church, ministry, and places in life? The religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought so (verse 19): “And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’” Why do the religious leaders need to know, who John the Baptist is?
John is famous. He is a sensation, a phenom. His YouTube viewership is setting records. His Twitter followers are more than Justin Bieber. However, the religious leaders are nervous about it all. Why? They believe they activate God in Israel by their devotion and discipleship: “Who is this guy doing our job?” The religious leaders constantly measure (think about) their devotion and discipleship, as well as that of others. Their ability to emotionally function in life, from rest to anxiety or happiness to sorrow, depends upon their devotion and discipleship. “Who are you?” They answer, “I am my devotion and discipleship.”
This means if they were ever to discover real failure in their devotion and discipleship, then it would completely traumatize them. They would lose themselves. Therefore, they must resist self-discovery, a true understanding of themselves. They must live a life of self-justification, comparison, blame-shifting, superiority, and anxiety.
This is where things get a little crazy. Self-discovery is exactly what John the Baptist’s ministry is all about (verse 25): “They asked him, ‘Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the
Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’” Can you feel their anxiety? In their minds baptism is for non-Israel (the irreligious) to become Israel (the religious). In other words, baptism is for bad people to become good people – to become the devoted and the discipled. But John is doing the unthinkable. He is baptizing Israel. He is bringing about self-discovery to the devoted and the discipled.
What is this self-discovery for the good people of the world? No one is devoted enough. No one is good enough. No one ever activates God. Ever. John summarizes all true self-understanding in verse 20. It ranks number two on the list of, “The greatest words ever spoken by a human being on the planet.” What John says will set you free to finally be yourself. What John says will give you a solid self. “Who are you?” the religious leaders ask. John finally answers in verse 20, “I am not the Christ.” Great women, men, teenagers, and children believe these words deep in their bones.
How do we stop thinking, feeling, and living like we activate God? The answer in the text is stunning. We do not stop it. We do not take away our sin (verse 29): “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
When you see Jesus coming toward you as the Lamb of God, you will feel deep in your bones, “I am not the Christ. He is. I don’t activate God. He does.”