6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
We’ve been introduced to the Word, the exact representation of God, who has come to bring Light and illumination to those who were dwelling in darkness. Now we’re introduced to another player, John the Baptizer.
John the Baptizer, according to Luke, was Jesus’ second cousin, but there is no mention of their relationship prior to their meeting as adults when Jesus appears to be baptized by John. So we’re not told how close they were or if they were virtual strangers. The two men have grown up under very different circumstances. John’s birth to the post-menopausal Elizabeth and her aged husband was a cause for great celebration. In her culture, not being able to bear children to carry on the family name was a disgrace, so her community rejoiced with her miracle pregnancy and delivery of a healthy baby boy. Christ’s birth was nearly anonymous far from his parent’s community. Even if it had happened in Nazareth, it would be plagued with rumors of infidelity and scandal (they could count the months between her marriage to Joseph and how pregnant Mary appeared) there would be no community gathering around the young girl and her new husband. According to Matthew, Jesus’ family had to be on the move quickly for fear of the local political powers, and He grew from a toddler to a young child in exile in Egypt. John was raised in his home town until he came of age when he chose to live the life of a aesthetic hermit out in the deserts near the Jordan River. Jesus would return from His own exile as a child and would grow up in Nazareth where he would likely take up the family business of a craftsman: either a mason, builder, or carpenter.
The two men’s lives would converge decades later as each took up the role that they were to play. John was the prophet, the voice in the wilderness calling the people to repentance so that when Jesus came, they would be ready to hear Him and follow Him. John knew his role was just to be the setup man and he accepted that and never claimed to be anything else.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
Jesus appeared in the world without much fanfare. There were two small groups of people who seemed to receive a special message about His birth: local shepherds and mystics. The Light had come, but it had appeared quietly. And though it was the Word that had made the world, we did not recognize him. How could we? We were in darkness, fumbling about trying to perceive what God was like. Our tales and myths construct gods based on what we’ve seen in nature and in ourselves. The Gentiles had perverse, power-hunger, fickle gods who dispense fortune and misfortune in equal measures upon mankind, the Jews of the day believed in a nationalistic God who only cared for them and would send an agent, a king, to smite their enemies with the sword and establish a Jewish national dominance over the world.
So when a small child appeared in a barn, born under questionable circumstances, to a young couple, He wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. And when He grew up and spent His days helping the sick, comforting the afflicted, and delivering people from their own (or an external) darkness, He really wasn’t what we were expecting.
So it was that the priestly establishment, at least, rejected Him and plotted against Him with the political authorities.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
But those who would see Him and believe in Him, they would share His life. They would share in His death and resurrection. They would be children of God, as the Word was called the Son of God. Unlike the Word, they would not be the exact representation of God, but they would be an expression of God unmarred by sin and death. They would be a part of that Divine family that pre-existed them. And they would be a part of that family not because they had earned it or because they were worthy of it, but because that was what God had always wanted for them: to be a living child of Divinity that found joy in perfect fellowship with one another and with God.