Who are you? the representatives from Jerusalem ask John (v. 19). They know he is somebody—that much is clear. Is it something in the wildness of his eyes? The steady way he lowers people into the water?
What they don’t know is just who he is. He doesn’t fit their categories, the boxes they have established for who God might send. The Messiah. Elijah. The end-times prophet. All these they understand. With each there are plans in place, protocols established, flow charts to follow. There is comfort in categories.
But a clear voice coming from a wild man standing in the middle of a river? This is not a role they recognize, and that is troubling.
They would soon need a new category to understand Jesus, too. Yes, he would claim to be the Messiah, a familiar title, name, and office. But they would find that he intends to wear that word differently. And the conflict between their expectations of Jesus and the reality of who he is will finally lead to his death.
But this is only the day after Christmas! Let’s not rush to the cross just yet.
Here at the start of a new church year, brimming with all the possibilities of a newborn baby, let’s simply consider the necessity of imagination to faith. Let’s expect God, in the coming year, to throw our plans out the window, make a mockery of our protocols, and upend our flow charts.
Let’s open ourselves to holy surprises and new categories of hope and wonder. Giving up the comfort of what we know for the risk of what could be. Letting go of our need for survival in favor of the promise of abundant life.
How has God surprised you in the past year?
God, open me to divine possibilities today and in the year ahead. Amen.