Third Sunday of Advent
John 1:6-8, 19-28
God has called John to an important work. John “came as a witness that he might testify about the light” .
This gospel makes it clear that John the Baptist is subordinate to Jesus. John “was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light”. Our purpose is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to point to the risen Christ.
Priests and Levites are religious professionals—men who handle holy objects and conduct holy services. The dialogue between John and these men from Jerusalem takes on the flavor of an interrogation. Apparently John is aware of talk that Jesus is the Messiah, and wants to curb rumors before they go any further.
“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said”. God has sent John to call the people to “make straight the way of the Lord.” What does it mean to “make straight the way of the Lord”? A straight highway is much easier and faster to travel than a route that has lots of hills and twists and turns.
When John says, “I baptize with water,” we expect him to say that the one who is coming will baptize with the Holy Spirit or fire—but instead he uses the opportunity to simply bear witness to the greatness of the one who is to come. John says what he is not. He is “not worthy to loosen the strap of (Jesus’) sandal,” a menial task required only of Gentile slaves. John is saying that the degree of difference between him and the one who is already in their midst is greater than that between a master and the lowliest slave. We have to admire John’s courage, because his questioners are clearly hostile, but John pulls no punches in his witness to Christ.