Same Story, Different Perspective
The text this week is John 1:6-8, 19-28. This is frankly a rehash of last week’s text about John the Baptist. However, this is from the Gospel of John. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic Gospels. Synoptic, according to the dictionary, means “presenting or taking the same or common view”. They are so called because they are so similar. All of Mark is contained in both Matthew and Luke, and even the parts that are not are very similar in nature.
John, on the other hand, is strikingly different in tone. He starts his narrative with a poetic, sweeping account of the creation and Jesus’s place in it. John speaks of “in the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In the part of this first chapter that our passage skips over John writes “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). All this is quite a bit different in tone than the other three Gospels.
John was also written quite a bit later than the other three Gospels, probably sometime between 90-100 AD, a good 30-50 years after the other three. So, when we see the same story retold in John that was in the other three, we should pay attention. This additional attestation means that it is surely important. There is much we can gain from hearing the same tale told from a different perspective, which is one of the things so valuable about this passage.
The Continuing Importance
The repeat of this tale is a real reminder of its ongoing importance. Whether the language is poetic or mundane, as in Mark, the point is that Jesus is God, and has been from the beginning, from before the beginning in fact. This is not the place to dwell on the mystery of the three-in-one Triune God, but rather to note that all the Gospels communicate the divine nature of Jesus. This is the stunningly Good News, that God so loves His children that He sends His own Son to be human as we are and to “dwell among us”.
The other important point that this passage repeats is the nature of human prophets. John’s Gospel sees the same John the Baptist out proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. It shows this prophet citing the same passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. It also has John the Baptist subsuming his role to that of Jesus, right down to the same point about being unworthy to untie Jesus’s sandals that Mark makes.
In both Mark’s version from last week, and John’s version this week, we are reminded that our role is like that of John. We are to boldly proclaim the Good News of the arrival of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, whom God promised us. It is our joy to proclaim that God’s word is true, the resurrection is real, and that Jesus Christ is Lord. Regardless of whether we do this in workmanlike fashion ala Mark or in the more highfalutin poetry of John, we are to proclaim that God came to “dwell among us”, and to live into the reality that He is here among us now, in all we are and do. We must take the opportunity to proclaim that we celebrate this arrival during this Advent and Christmas Season, but also to proclaim that our wait is over, and it is now time for our response. Whatever version or style we employ in that response, we obey in this because we believe.
Praise Be to God