And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
I sat in the library of our seminary many years ago and overheard a student near me in full-blown crisis mode. One of our introductory courses explored questions of calling, and as he had listened in class that day he had found himself uncertain about everything that had brought him to seminary in the first place. Was he actually supposed to be in ministry? Was he actually called to be a pastor or was he chasing the wind, pursuing something that just wasn’t for him? Was he even called at all? If we’re honest, most of us have likely struggled with the very same questions along the way whether we’ve received a formal call to pastoral ministry or not. Could God actually call a sinner like me? Doesn’t He know what I’ve done? Is He sure I’m the one for this job? The right one to parent my children? The right one to carry this particular burden? Most of us probably sound a lot more like Moses – “God, are You sure you don’t want to pick someone else?” We’re happy to present a long list of reasons we’re not qualified.
John the Baptist is an example of one who has embraced his calling and purpose with clarity and conviction. When pressed, he’ll clearly identify not only that which he is not; he will also state very clearly what his actual call is. And in all things, he points toward the One who gave him that call to begin with.
Some spend their entire lives exploring questions of identity, and yet God’s desire is not for us to spend every waking moment in wonder about such things. We need to answer those questions. Who am I not? Who am I? And how is my life intended to point to Jesus Christ?
Years ago I heard of a mother who, in dropping off her kids at school, would declare to them, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” She had instilled within her children from a very young age that they were representatives of their family when they entered the world around them; but more importantly, they were representatives of Jesus Christ – and they belonged first and foremost to Him.
Remember who you are and whose you are, and bear witness to the world around you of the Son of God.
I remember, Lord, that You knit me together in my mother’s womb and formed my inmost being. In everything, let me remember who I am and whose I am. Speak to my soul, Lord, of the identity I have in Christ Jesus. Remind me of that which I am not. Pour over me the reality of who I am. Above all else, I am Yours. As I speak, as I walk, as I breathe, may I point those around me toward You and toward Your lovingkindness. May I bear the divine image with faithfulness and grace. You are worthy of it.