What God Alone Can Reveal
By Chuck Alley
Reading from the Gospel of John, 1:29-34
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
Even for one called by God, recognition of Jesus as the incarnate Son and Redeemer of the world only comes through revelation. John the Baptist was quite sure about his identity and what he was called to do, but he was ignorant of the identity of the one he was to proclaim. God, the one to whom John had committed his life, told him what he was to look for in the one who was to follow him: “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John remembered the sign so that when he saw it manifested with Jesus, he knew that Jesus was the one. God spoke, the Spirit revealed, Jesus came, and John believed.
If we are to recognize the revelation of Jesus, we too must study and remember God’s Word. Most of the time we function at the level of our own expectations and experiences with perhaps a smattering of scripture thrown in. So when we seek to know Jesus, we tend to get it wrong. Our lack of a formative understanding of Scripture causes us to take our partial knowledge, supplement it with our preferences, and then proclaim a personal version of Jesus — another “Messiah.” We need to learn to be like John in that we will only settle for or recognize Jesus as he is revealed by God.
Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.