April 17, 2017

Bright Monday; Venerable Father Simeon of Persia; Venerable Acacius, Bishop of Melitene

Acts 1:12-17; 21-26; John 1:18-28

Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!

Today’s gospel is a bit confusing – priests and Levites ask John the Baptist who he is and what he’s doing, but instead of giving them a clear reply, he avoids their questions. They ask him who he is, and he quotes Isaiah; they ask him why he is baptizing, and he talks about the One who is coming after him, whose sandal strap he is unworthy to loosen. Simple questions get confusing answers.

Today’s gospel is giving us a preview for many of the passages in the Gospel of John we’ll read in the coming weeks: people ask Jesus straightforward questions, but instead of giving them direct answers, he starts talking about something totally different. As we read John’s Gospel, we’ll encounter this again and again. Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the Paralytic: whenever someone talks with Jesus, it’s impossible to predict what He will say, and usually his answer comes out of left field.

Perhaps the point of these confusing answers is to change the thinking of the people who ask the questions. The priests and Levites who come to John the Baptist in today’s gospel are curious about who he is, but he wants them to be curious about who JESUS is. John’s job is to prepare the people of Israel for Jesus – the Lord is coming, and a straight path must be ready when He arrives. John is not baptizing for his own sake, but to prepare us for an encounter with Christ.

When I was a kid, I loved the water-fight on Easter Monday, and I always thought that it had something to do with this gospel: John the Baptist, river Jordan, water – that sort of thing. But today’s gospel is really about changing my thinking so that I’m focused on Jesus. That’s the point of the confusing answers.