Among You Stands One Whom You Do Not Know

The lectionary returns us once again to John the Baptist’s testimony (see last week’s resource for reflections on the parallel passage in Mark).  Two differences in this Johannine version are v. 8’s assessment of John: “He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light” (providing an opportunity to address the theme of light); and John’s words in v. 26, “Among you stands one whom you do not know.”  When John first spoke these words, he was alluding to the fact that Jesus had not, as yet, stepped forward as a public figure.  Yet there is another, ironic sense in which these words may speak to us today: for is it not true that, even for us who profess to be his disciples, Jesus remains in some respect “one whom we do not know”?  Every time we allow ourselves to be distracted from the true meaning of Christmas, we demonstrate that, to one degree or another, we still do not fully know him.

"He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side.  He came to those who knew Him not.  He speaks to us.  He speaks the same word: Follow me! and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time.  He commands, and to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself, in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is."

– Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (MacMillan, 1985), p. 487.