6 A man named John was sent from God. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. 8 He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.
9 The true light that shines on all people
was coming into the world.
10 The light was in the world,
and the world came into being through the light,
but the world didn’t recognize the light.
11 The light came to his own people,
and his own people didn’t welcome him.
12 But those who did welcome him,
those who believed in his name,
he authorized to become God’s children,
13 born not from blood
nor from human desire or passion,
but born from God.
14 The Word became flesh
and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
glory like that of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.
The “man named John” in verse 6 was not the man who wrote this gospel, but the preacher/prophet known as John the Baptist. He lived out a calling to “testify concerning the light.” The gospel writer clearly defined what he meant by “light.” Jesus, he said—the Jesus he had seen, heard and known—was the light who broke into the world’s darkness. As darkness couldn’t put out light, so Jesus could deliver us from the darkness of our world, and within ourselves. Then we, like John the Baptist, could “testify” to the light.
Lord Jesus, I choose you as the Lord of my life. Help me, even when it challenges me, to always keep my heart open to welcome you. Amen.
I’ve long been a fan of comedy acts from the old vaudeville shows. Vaudeville shows were traveling troupes (1890-1930) that would feature everything from classical musicians, trained animals, jugglers, one-act plays, & comedians. Many of the great comedic duos like Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, and Burns & Allen, got their start in Vaudeville.
Aside: With the husband/wife duo of George Burns & Gracie Allen, George played the straight man & Gracie portrayed the slightly ditzy wife.
Gracie: You know, they laughed at Joan of Arc. But, she went right ahead & built it.1
Gracie: My husband will never chase another woman. He’s too fine. Too decent. Too old.2
Gracie: I like to put boiling water in a bag in the freezer. That way whenever I need boiling water, I simply have to defrost it. 2
George: Welcome to tonight’s Award Show! Or as it is known in my house, “Passover.”
Each comedic duo would have a Top Banana & a 2nd Banana role. The Top Banana would have the lead in the sketch & the 2nd Banana would be the straight man to set up the punch line. (The Top/2nd Banana jargon came from an old vaudeville skit about 2 guys trying to buy 3 bananas. It eventually became a shorthand description for parts in all routines.)
When we think of “Top Bananas” & their partnering “2nd Bananas” today, we probably would consider duos like Batman & Robin, Simon & Garfunkel, & Bert & Ernie. However, I would submit that the greatest “2nd Banana” of all-time would have to be John the Baptist (JtB). Let’s consider his resume’:
For his opening act, JtB’s father, Zechariah, proclaims upon JtB’s miraculous birth that JtB would be called a prophet of the Most High and would go before the Lord & prepare the way. JtB’s ministry starts off-off-Broadway in the wilderness of Judea urging people to leave their comfortable lives & to experience moral renewal, receive baptism, & prepare for the coming of the Messiah. JtB was uniquely God-serving, not self-serving. Upon seeing Jesus, JtB urged his disciples to follow the “One who is more powerful than I.” He fearlessly spoke the truth to King Herod, which led to his imprisonment & eventual execution. As a showstopper, JtB received the endorsement of Jesus Christ: “Among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than JtB.”
So what might JtB’s ministry mean for us today? We know Jesus calls us to be the “light of the world,’ but that can be intimidating & overwhelming - so we pass on serving opportunities because we feel unworthy. Since we aren’t particularly skilled, like say a heart surgeon, we might defer from joining a mission trip, even though most mission trips don’t involve heart surgery - just showing the heart/love of Christ to others. Or since we don’t know the books of the Bible in order, we might pass on leading a Sunday School gathering, even though most Bibles have a table of contents. Or since our knowledge of Methodism & its history is a little sketchy, there’s no way we could assist worship as an usher or greeter, even though when congregants or guests ask about a john, they are rarely referring to Wesley. (That is a very vaudevillian quip – one can sense your flop sweat as you look offstage to “get the hook” – Editor. It's a tough crowd – DL.)
But what if we modeled our idea of ministry after JtB? Perhaps we could try to reflect the light of Christ to others so they could better see/hear/experience Christ for themselves. We wouldn’t have to have all the answers or have already perfected our walk with Christ, but we could simply be a believer who says come join me on my journey as we both seek to learn more about the God Most High & we both strive to live a life worthy of His name. Now that would really “bring down the house.”
Burns: Say good night, Gracie.
Allen: Good night.
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