As famous as John the Baptist was, the most remarkable thing about him was his avoidance of calling attention to himself. When the religious authorities went out to question him, John’s response is essentially this: it’s not about me. I am not the One. I’m not very important at all. What a remarkable re-direction! They went to interrogate, and it is they who are exposed.
To look around our time and our place, there are a lot of people who are focused on themselves. As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman told the National Press Club, "In a world where everyone has a cell phone with a camera, everyone's a paparazzi. In a world where everyone has a blog, everyone's a reporter. Now everyone else is a public figure, leaving digital footprints everywhere." We live in a Selfie culture, among people not particularly interested in looking beyond themselves.
The Gospel of John is not surprised by any of this. We live in a world that is turned in upon itself. We live in a world that is suffocating on its own self-absorption. We live in a world that justifies whatever it wants to justify. As one old crotchety Presbyterian teacher once said, “Sin is nothing more, and nothing less, than being inclined in our own direction.”
John the Baptist gets it right. He says, “It’s not about me.” The One who is coming is so great that we can’t even untie the thong of his sandals.