John 1:29-34
Clerical Gossip Monologue

by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’  I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”  John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain un him.  I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

“What do you make of that fellow by the name of John, the son of Zechariah, the rather eccentric priest who died years ago? It must have been more than 30 years since the old man lost his marbles during his temple assignment. I have only a vague recollection of the story. But there was something about Zechariah receiving a vision during his temple worship and then losing his speech for the months before John’s birth. Very odd, but he pretty much dropped out of sight. The son was a pious sort in his youth, very serious about the Torah and the prophets. More serious than most rabbis, I’d say.

“I seem to recall when Zechariah and his wife died his son drifted off into the desert and disappeared for many years. Now he’s back, a grown man and causing a bit of a stir across the Jordan.

“Apparently he’s quite a spectacle. They say he dines on locusts and wild honey and cloaks himself with camel skins. Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d have him committed to one of Herod’s jails, if only for his own safety. He certainly lacks the tact necessary to deal with the people around synagogues — including Pilate’s soldiers. Yet people are coming from all around just to hear him preach. They think he’s a prophet or maybe even the Messiah. Can you imagine that? That’s all we need around here, another messiah to draw the attention of Herod and the Romans. Without Roman circuses, the centurions and the low life lurking about Jerusalem always are looking for fresh meat for their entertainment. Round up the usual suspects and crucify the loudmouths. Looks like John might be their next celebrity.

“The chief priests in Jerusalem sent a delegation of scribes and Pharisees to check the guy out. (I’m sure glad I wasn’t sent.) They included the usual weasels who find any reason to bilk our temple pilgrims. Do you know what John did? He gazed at them, I’m told, with fierce and determined eyes and, in front of everyone, called them a ‘brood of vipers.’ I would have loved to have seen their faces. Well said, old boy. He surely sized them up correctly. The poor guy said something about ‘the wrath to come.’ He’s right about that one, too, but not in the way he thinks. These fellows have long memories and I’m afraid John himself will learn something about ‘wrath’ before it’s all over. But it will have nothing to do with the wrath of God. He won’t know what’s hit him.

“Collections? No, I haven’t noticed any change in my collections. Pretty much holding steady, although more folks are showing up on the Sabbath. Mostly transients and riff raff, though. I can’t expect them to pony up the collections in any significant way. Yet they speak warmly of John and are persuaded he’s up to something very good and noble. Something about, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’ Nice thought, that. He’s dunking them at the Jordan River and calling it a ‘baptism of repentance.’ John obviously doesn’t know our rituals, how carefully we purify ourselves and the inside and outside of our drinking cups. He clearly needs to spend some time in formation with the Pharisees.

“You mean he actually accused Herod of living in sin with Herodias? You’ve got to be kidding? Nothing new, of course, but Caiaphas will be furious. He warned us to keep our religion on the inside of the synagogues and within the walls of the temple. We are not to judge, certainly not Herod and the Romans. At the annual gathering of scribes, if he said it once, he said it a dozen times, we need to be careful and, if necessary, it is ‘better that one man die than the whole Jewish nation.’ Sounds like John will be matzah bread sooner rather than later.

“He’s already in jail? When did that happen? Well, the chief priests won’t lift a finger to help. Just as well. Things will calm down now and we can get on with our lives. Makes me all the more grateful I never satisfied my curiosity by paying him a visit.

“Still, there are a few disturbing things he said. What do you suppose he meant by ‘He must increase and I must decrease?’ Well, decrease he did. That’ll teach him to throw sand at Herod and ignore the wise counsel of Caiaphas. But who is it that ‘must increase’? John also said he wasn’t worthy to untie the man’s sandal strap. John doesn’t sound like one of us, does he? Imagine that flea-infested camel-hair-clad desert nomad at one of our fine banquets. I bet he’d even refuse to sit at the head table.

“What do you suppose he meant when he told his followers — and this I heard just the other day — to ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’? He said that the fellow ‘existed before’ him, ‘ranks ahead’ of him, and that he, John, baptized Him with water so that this mysterious stranger ‘might be made known to Israel.’ And most disturbing of all, he called the mystery man the ‘Son of God.’ The last time there was talk of a messiah around here Herod’s daddy slaughtered 40 male babies in Bethlehem to make sure there would be none of them arriving on his watch.

“Now that John is in jail, though, with a little luck, nothing will come of any of this. I hope the synagogue collections don’t take a hit.”

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