“I am not the Messiah.” – Jn 1:20
According to John’s Gospel, these are the opening words of John the Baptizer’s “testimony” to the Lordship of Jesus (Jn 1:19). The Baptizer doesn’t open his “testimony” with words about Jesus. He opens with words about himself. “I am not the Messiah.”
In a very real sense, all authentic testimony – and all sane thinking for that matter – begins with these words. We must humbly confess who we are not. We are not responsible for saving ourselves. We are not responsible for saving others. We are not responsible for saving the world. We are not the Messiah.
Now, this may seem obvious. Only a few people in our world have claimed to be the Messiah. That Jesus was one of them rules out the possibility that he was a normal guy with some nice lessons about highly effective living. Normal guys don’t claim to be the Messiah. Only the Messiah and disillusioned, misguided nut jobs make such claims. That being said, we still need to declare – over and over again if necessary – who we are not. Because at a subconscious level, we all act from time to time as if we were the Messiah – as if we were the central figure around whom our world revolved. And we’re not. Our testimony must begin here. We are not the Messiah.
This word – testimony – is central to John’s Gospel. The Baptizer, we are told, came to “testify” to the light, and the author of John’s Gospel invites his readers to do the same. The word translated “testify” and “testimony” comes from the Greek word marturia, which is also where our word martyr comes from. In other words, inherent to the word testimony is the “death of the self.” To testify to Jesus’ lordship, we must first lay down our own life. To testify to Jesus’ lordship, we must first confess – “I am not the Messiah.”
UNTIL WEDNESDAY: Make a list of the ways that you still subconsciously act as if you are the Messiah. Maybe you’re preoccupied with your own self-effort and willpower. Maybe you get frustrated when you can’t get others to see what is “best for them.” Maybe you feel responsible for “how things turn out.” Maybe you take yourself way too seriously. Maybe you’re compelled to always have the last word. Maybe you can’t relax. Maybe you’re the center of every choice you make. Maybe you think God “owes you” for all your hard work. Maybe you can’t stop managing things beyond your control. Anyway, make a list. Look at it. Take a deep breath. Tear it up. Have a good laugh. And say, “I am not the Messiah.”