How Christmas Continued, 13

ARE YOU THE ONE WHO WAS TO COME? (Mt.3: 1-19; 11: 1-15; Mk.6: 14-29; Lk.1: 5-25, 57-80; 3: 1-22; Jn.1: 15; 3: 22- 36)

I am John, the man that introduced the Christ to the public. I was predestined, born and prepared for that task. For that purpose, I was endowed with the spirit and power of Elijah. It was still in my mother’s womb and He in his mother’s womb, that I felt that my Cousin was the future Christ. From that day on, I knew who He was, but I had to wait thirty years to announce Him to the world as the “One” chosen to take away the sins of the world. Even then, I was uncertain as to what the Christ had planned to do for us. I had mistakenly expected different things from our Messiah. We were hoping and praying for a man with the power of Moses or for one with the military skills of David. When Jesus appeared before me and demanded to be baptized, He did not carry a miracle rod, but was accompanied by a dove – the symbol of peace. Then, when He began to preach and the crowds grew around Him and there was no indication when He was going to move against our enemies, I became disturbed and send some of my students to ask Him directly whether He was the One or were we to wait for another?

Jesus did not give my messengers a direct answer but pointed at what He was doing. He was healing the sick and preaching hope to those who, in no way, could assist Him in disposing of the Romans and our false leaders; particularly, our adulterous king. The crowds He gathered were not in a position to carry a sword or knew how to use one. To my dismay He told his follower to love our enemies, make peace with them and return kindness for being abused. We were to turn the other cheek, walk the second mile and hand over our coats. My Cousin was not at all what I expected from Him being our Messiah. I envisioned and understood that God was giving me a glimpse of a man that was on fire. He had a winnowing fork in His hand and the power to clean the wheat and burn the chaff. I was certain that He was the ax that was about to purge us of our leaders that were in my estimation “a brood of vipers.” I became confused as to what kind of a kingdom my Cousin Jesus was sent to establish. It did not occur to me that God had a totally different idea as to what the Messiah’s kingdom would be like. Even my idea of repentance was too severe for a society to be transformed overnight. That is what got me into Herod’s dungeon. I should have consulted Jesus before I took matters into my own hands and not after I got myself in trouble.

Cousin Jesus spoke well of me. In His eyes, I was told, that there was no one greater born of women than I was. Somehow, I was not even as big as the smallest in His kingdom. How could I have been so great and yet so small? Obviously, the Messiah saw greatness differently than I did. He also told the people that I was the expected Elijah, and that I was the last one to have something to do with His Coming. He ranked me with the greatest of our prophets and informed the people that the Messianic predictions had come to an end. Herein after, people would force their way into His kingdom. I would not be privileged to see how men would turn the Messiah’s kingdom into their advantage. I should not be surprised because I was in the hands of such people that have used what God had intended for all of Israel to their advantage. My hope for my people, like that of Isaiah and Malachi, was vanishing before my very eyes.

It was not easy to carry the mantel of an Elijah. Elijah, the prophet, was a hermit and spent most of his life in the wilderness. In a noisy public, he could not hear or understand what God’s message was. He took on single handed the false prophets and the idolatrous king. God protected Elijah and took him away before he could be harmed. I had similar notions. I, too, had convinced myself that God would protect me when I began to assault our adulterous monarch and announced that God was about to bring back His kingdom. All my dreams that were being stored in me from the day I was old enough to learn and understand, began to unfold. My father Zechariah had kept reminding me endlessly that I was to be great in the Lord and possess a spirit and power similar to what Elijah had. I was to arouse the people and get them ready to follow the Son of David, to free us from our enemies and thereby, from our sins. Our sins were being associated with our enemies and not with our guilt. For us, freedom from our enemies meant freedom from our sins. We longed for change, but not for changing our hearts. We were in a vengeful mood and ready to cast the first stone.

My priestly parents expected me to follow in my father’s footsteps, but I was drawn to the kind of life Elijah had. I bonded with nature because it was free, pure and undefiled. My clothes came from animal skins and my food from the bees and the locusts. I did not touch wine or women and no one was allowed to touch my hair. It looked wild and curious. I drew crowds and pointed to the Christ. My followers declined and His increased. The biggest difference between my Cousin and me was that He out foxed the fox and the fox outfoxed me. Imagine what I could have become by joining Jesus’ followers instead of attacking the immorality of the king and his mistress? My life is an example of what happens to great people when they become seduced by small, even very serious problems, but miss taking part in much greater opportunities. I, myself, had cut myself off from the people that needed me to lead them on to greater blessings. I had to tell them not follow me, but to follow Jesus!