john davies
notes from a small curate


    Blue Coat School 03/12/03

    Matthew 3.1-13

    If you needed someone to act as a witness for you, who would you choose?

    If you had to pick someone to provide you with a character reference, who would that person be?

    If I had to do that I'm sure I'd select the most respectable person I could think of, someone with a title perhaps, someone well-known like a headteacher, someone respected like a doctor or even, you never know, a priest...

    Now we can assume that God could choose anyone at all to witness to the coming of Jesus Christ. Makes you wonder why he chose John, a wildman from the desert, oddly clothed, shouting strange, provocative messages sometimes bordering on the rude or obscene.

    John used dark imagery - talked about the coming wrath, the axe at the root of the trees, people being winnowed like wheat, the Holy Spirit coming in fire. This is what we call apocalyptic language - and contrary to what we may imagine, people still use such language today, because it carries truth for today.

    Apocalyptic language always comes from people under pressure, like John's people who were under occupation by Roman forces, in the same occupied territories the Israelis and Palestinians are disputing today. Apocalyptic language is the voice of the underdog, the defeated peoples, the cultures becoming extinct.

    It tells it like it is, because these people can see more clearly than anyone else what is wrong with the world and who is to blame. It's truthful language. And it's always hopeful language. People like wild desertman John always look to a better future, where wrongs will be righted and peace, security, and goodness will triumph.

    In 1963 Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood." Seemingly ridiculous at the time, history saw the words of that witness come true in Georgia, USA.

    Only two weeks ago the people of former Soviet state Georgia made their dream come true as their peaceful protests put an end to their unpopular government which had become corrupt. "Freedom," said Irma Merabishvili, a 34-year-old teacher handing out flowers in a street in Tblisi. A witness to the start of a new world.

    Why did God choose John to be his witness to prepare people for the coming of The Son? Presumably because, however strange, provocative, rude or obscene people thought his messages were, God must have known they were true.