Advent Devotion: Who Are You?
Sunday, December 17, 2017
“In the beginning was the word. . .
The following is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘You – who are you?’”
In the first scene of the courtroom drama that is the gospel of John, representatives of earthly authority are trying to establish the identity of a “person of interest” and failing to get a straightforward positive answer out of him. He, John the Baptist, is answering a different case from his interrogators’. First, he will only tell them “I am not . . .,” and then he deflects the focus from himself to another, the “one in the midst of you whom you do not know.” From this point on throughout the gospel, this as yet unnamed one will be the target of the “who are you?” question posed in various ways by various interrogators and met with similarly baffling answers.
One of the clearer answers is Jesus’ response to the Samaritan woman at the well as she speculates whether he might be the Anointed One who is to come: “I am, the one who is speaking to you.” Another is the response to the Jews debating him in chapter 8; when they ask, “who are you?” Jesus replies, “Basically I am the fact that I am talking with you.” Jump forward to the climax of the story where Jesus is on trial before the religious and civil authorities: Like John before him, Jesus is answering in a different court from those who are trying him. Brushing by Pilate’s yes-no question, “Aren’t you a king?” with, “You say so,“ he moves on to a statement seemingly off the point, “for this purpose I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.”
To the question “Who are you?” the answer– “Word,” or discourse as dialogue and testimony—has been there since before the questioning began, indeed before the world began. And this incarnated discourse has come to turn the interrogation on its head: In the process the interrogators will end up incriminating themselves rather than the one they have brought in for questioning.
Dr. Polly Coote
SFTS Former Faculty, Associate Dean, and Registrar