John 1:6–8, 19–28 (NRSV)
Verse 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. Verse 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. Verse 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
Verse 19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" Verse 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." Verse 21And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Verse 22Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" Verse 23He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said. Verse 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. Verse 25They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" Verse 26John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, Verse 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." Verse 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
In his own words, John the Baptist has said that he is not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet (1:20–21). The opponents on the scene latch onto what John has said—gotcha!—and question what business he has baptizing people (1:25). More will be said by John about baptism as the Gospel of John continues. But for now he declares that the Coming One—still unknown to the opponents— is already present on earth, and the time of his earthly ministry is about to begin. John says more about the Messiah. He is great, so great that John cannot do such a menial task as to untie even one of his sandals.
As the season of Advent continues, we are getting close to celebrating the coming of Jesus, Son of God, son of Mary, into our world to carry out his earthly ministry. If yesterday we emphasized our preparation for his coming, now we turn attention to the one who is to come. We are humbled by the panorama of God’s grace, which comes to its highest point of revelation in Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord, grant to us the grace to know your Son, whose sandals we are unworthy to untie. Amen.