John the Baptist is baptizing many people from all walks of life. We know this because we've read it in the Bible. Only this information really comes from the other gospels. Here, we see the story of John fixate entirely upon pointing toward Jesus.
All four gospels as well as the Book of Acts have John attest that he is not worthy to untie the sandals of Jesus. This is a phrase that we don't think about today. Our footwear covers our feet so that they don't need washing when we come into our homes. We don't trod in sandals down dusty roads. We don't share these paths with domesticated animals.
|We don't often encounter dirty feet|
with the regularity they would
have in the first century.
In the day of Jesus, the subordinate washed the feet. If a slave were present, this would his or her job. In the Hebrew Bible, when Abigail becomes David's wife, she shows her subservience by stating, "Your servant is a slave to wash the feet of the servants of my lord." Later in John's Gospel, we will see Jesus surprising the disciples by washing their feet.
John is stating in today's reading that he is not even worthy to wash the feet of Jesus. His glory comes in pointing to the glory of Jesus.
In John's version, we never actually see John baptize Jesus. You can read it again if you need to. This may be because the baptizer would be seen as superior to the baptized in that culture. This gospel makes no confusion as to where Jesus falls in the hierarchy of the narative.
Within modern culture, we have become so comfortable with Jesus that we may not share the kind of respect portrayed in today's reading. In fact, some may be uncomfortable with the subservience. How do our actions point toward the Christ? How do our lives reflect the honor we would place upon Jesus today?
Prayer for the day:
You alone are unutterable,
from the time you created all things that can be spoken of.
You alone are unknowable, from the time you created all things that can be known.
All things cry out about you;
those which speak, and those which cannot speak.
All things honor you;
those which think, and those which cannot think.
For there is one longing, one groaning, that all things have for you...
All things pray to you that comprehend your plan and offer you a silent hymn.
In you, the One, all things abide, and all things endlessly run to you who are the end of all.
Gregory of Nazianzus, Archbishop of Constantinople, 329-389
Photo by Kevin Hale via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.