Reflection on John 1:19-28

Scripture: John 1:19-28

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.


I spent a lot of my time in seminary studying the works of Swiss theologian, Karl Barth. His writings are so broad in scope and his thought so profound that I say without hesitation that he has had more influence on my worldview than anyone else. However, my affinity toward him came slowly. And it wasn’t until I heard a story about him that everything he said started to click. Legend has it that in Barth’s office, hanging above his desk, there was a painting of Jesus’ crucifixion. This painting was a little peculiar, though, because also portrayed in it was John the Baptist, who died well before Christ’s crucifixion. Nonetheless, John was there, and he was depicted simply with an outstretched finger pointing directly at Jesus and the cross. Barth said of himself, “I want nothing else than to be that finger.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear this story, I want to be that finger, too. My desire is that my personal life and my community of faith will be more concerned with revealing the Christ who loves us than anything and everything else. Friends, we can complicate ministry and worship so much sometimes, but, in truth, our task is simple: Point to Jesus. Like the picture in Barth’s office suggests, John the Baptist did nothing other than try to redirect attention off of himself and onto Jesus, even while people proclaimed him as a prophet, a resurrected Elijah, and the Messiah. The Christian calling is the same as that of John the Baptist. We live in a way that celebrates Christ above ourselves. We live to reveal and to spread the hope of Jesus wherever we may be.


God of hope, grant me the desire to point others towards you and your love. Help me to live in such a way that your abundant mercy and grace will be revealed through my life. Amen.

Thought for the Day:

Humility is key to the Christian life.


Matthias Grunewald "isenheim altarpiece"

Matthias Grunewald’s “Isenheim Altarpiece” The painting thought to have hung above Barth’s desk.


6 thoughts on “Reflection on John 1:19-28

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