“And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
One of the most powerful things I learned in my training for the ministry is to remember that, whether I like it or not, I was going to be viewed as a “representative of the sacred.” Regardless of my comfort level with being “God’s spokesman,” in many cases, that’s exactly how I would be viewed. As such, I developed a habit of reading myself in the character of Jesus in all of the Gospel stories. Whatever Jesus did, I thought I also had to do. If I was going to represent God to a particular community, then I had better bone up on what, exactly, I was supposed to be representing. And, truly, when one sends another in their place, don’t they expect to be well represented?
It is like when my parents used to say to me, “You are a Whitsitt.” I always had to remember that I was carrying that name into public. Whatever I did was going to reflect – well or poorly – upon my family.
But as pastors, I think this has gotten us in trouble. We have confused ourselves for Christ, when we should instead be playing the role of John the Baptist.
In this text, John is standing at the banks of the Jordan, calling people to repent and prepare for the Messiah, and then the Messiah shows up. John wants everyone to know it, and so he shouts to all who would hear everything that is important about this man, culminating with “This is the Son of God!”
Just prior to this scene, John has said point blank, “I am not the Christ.” John is clear with the people who are showing up that he is not the one that they are waiting for – the one who will take away the sins of the world. That job belongs to someone else.
As pastors, we are guilty of allowing our ministry to be about us and what we do. We are not strident enough in our protest that we are “not the Christ.” To be sure, there are people in our congregations who love to remind us that we are nowhere near being the Christ, but they are sure happy to ask us to perform miracles, aren’t they?
John offers pastors a great model for the posture of ministry: He continually knocks himself off the pedestal people try to put him on.
How have you been placed on a pedestal?