It is a strange season in life for a father when you know more about cartoons, toys and Disney movies than about almost anything else. I do not miss those days. In fact, I think I have been a little damaged from some of the stuff I have repeatedly watched over and over again with my kids; especially the original "Alice in Wonderland."
Have you ever really watched that movie? I'll bet Mr. Caterpillar wasn't the only one who was puffin on the hookah pipe -- the person who put that movie together must have been smoking something too?
And speaking of that Caterpillar, he continues to haunt me to this day. His incessant questioning of Alice is what creeped me out the most, "Whoooooo are You?"...puff...puff. Alice replied, rather shyly,"I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."
"What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar sternly."Explain yourself!"
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir" said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."
"Who are you?" ENOUGH ALREADY!
You know, the more I think about it, maybe the reason this question haunts me so much is because it is a vital question for all of us to answer: "Who are you? Really?" This same question was directed to one of the greatest men who walked on this earth, John the Baptist. In John 1:19-28, he is confronted by a group of painfully serious men, the Pharisees; and they ask him, "Who are you?" John was making them mad because he had the nerve to confront & baptize people who were already considered part of God's covenant family. It was proclaimed as a baptism of "repentance" - something which pushed the Jewish leaders into a slow boil rage. So in their anger they wanted to know who gave him the right to turn the nation upside down. Who in the world John do you think you are?
He answered them very bluntly: "I know who I am, and who I am not."
FIRST - THE "I AM NOT'S" (We would do well to adopt these opinions for ourselves as well)
1) "I am not the Christ." John was no Messianic Savior, he knew it, and he wanted no part of the hero worship of himself. John knew he could not save, he had no right to rule over others, he was not the answer to every man's needs. And you know what, neither am I, and neither are you! Did you know people often forget that?
2) "I am not The Prophet." John was not the authoritative oracle of God. Moses predicted a man would come who would carry the very words of God by which all men will be called to account. John knew he was not that man, and he knew his words weren't the final word. There are many people running around these days forgetting that "they don't have the final word."
3) "I am not Elijah." This is a tricky one. Old Testament prophecy (Malachi 3:1 & 4:5-6) said a messenger would be sent right before the Lord appeared. Jesus said John was the man in Matthew 17:12-13. But Jesus is coming again, and the real Elijah will precede him. Commentators like to say, "John came in the 'spirit' of Elijah, but he would never presume to be Elijah himself." Humility never presumes upon importance, nor wants it. How about you?
SECOND - THE "I AM'S"
1) "I am a Voice." John knew his role, to proclaim truth and persuade people. He sees himself only as a servant to bring about God's will: wanting, compelling, pleading for people to turn! Sadly, my voice is often quieted by the civilized & sophisticated side of me who has bought into the lie of "Share the gospel and when necessary, use words." Ohh, it's always necessary!
2) "I am a Baptizer." I like how the commentator Frederick Bruner puts it, "I just do human work with human means, so if anything divine or significant happens through my ministry, it will be because the One whom I herald chooses to use my ministry." Often ministers think holy things are happening because the cadence on their voice changes, incense is wafted, or an icon is painted. They are only human works, human means - God is the one who brings life.
3) "I am Unworthy." Ouch! To unstrap the sandal for a human master was considered undignified for a slave to do - it was considered too demeaning, too low. But John is saying, "Unstrapping Jesus' sandal is way too above me. Too significant. I am unworthy." Yes, Jesus is my friend; but not a couch sitting buddy we joke with, not someone we let Will Ferrell slyly mock as Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. "Oh, Chris, but it is so funny how he prays to little baby Jesus." Wait, did you just hear John? Unworthy to unstrap a sandal on my Savior, my Lord, & my God!
So in conclusion, "Who are you?"
You want a better world? Start thinking, acting and living like the person you are meant to be.