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Our Central Identity
Reflecting on the Seventh Sunday of Easter: Three Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 99
Old Testament: 1 Kings 8:54-65
Gospel: John 3:31-36
Creator of the universe, you made the world in beauty, and restore all things in glory through the victory of Jesus Christ. We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed, the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace, to the glory of your name. Amen.
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:31-36).
In the Gospel of John chapter three, it is difficult to know where Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus ends and where the narrator begins. However, in verses 31-36, it appears that this is John the Baptist’s final comments prior to his imprisonment.
There’s nothing John says here that is new. They come within the setting of conversation with controversy. John describes himself as the bridegroom’s friend, the bridegroom being Jesus. John has experienced in his own life the welcome of Jesus, who is the central figure. Just prior this passage, John says that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. John knows that his ministry is not centrally about himself. The Baptist points to the center of the gospel story. That center is Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that the conversation with John begins about baptism and rights of purification. John really doesn’t attempt to answer the question of the religious leaders. He pushes it aside. We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the matter of washings and of ritual purification were very important issues in the first century Jewish world. John however, focuses on what he perceives is the greater matter—not questions of baptism and purification, but of whom is most important. For John, God has now spoken in Jesus Christ.
That is the fundamental question of all Christian theology. Who is Jesus? What has Jesus done? Jesus is the focus of our discipleship; and that is the question we still face today. John’s Gospel asks us, just as the other three Gospels do in their own way, who is Jesus Christ? The great theologian Karl Barth writes in his book Dogmatics in Outline, “Tell me how it stands with your Christology and I will tell you who you are.” The Apostle Paul talks about being “in Christ.” Our identity is formed and shaped by Jesus Christ. He is at the center. All of our identities find their meaning in that one singular and central identity.
PRAYER: O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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