The Gospel text of today is one which appears immediately after the prologue in the Gospel of John and narrates the witness of John. John is the first witness to Jesus, who is the one who is to come. His preaching attracted such large crowds that the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem decided to investigate him. The priests represented the theological authorities of the nation; the Levites were concerned with the ritual and service of the temple. John did not seem to fit into any ecclesiastical category familiar to the Jewish authorities, and his unusual success demanded an explanation. In his response those who enquire of him who he is John clarifies that he is not the light, but the one who points to the light. Though he is not asked whether he is the Christ, John emphatically states that he is not. Neither is John Elijah or the prophet. Both Elijah and the prophet were figures upon whom some of the messianic expectations of Judaism came to rest. While Elijah was expected to return as the herald of the messianic age, the prophet was a figure like Moses who was expected to lead them in a new Exodus and overcome their enemies. John is neither. He is but a voice crying in the wilderness, the voice that witnesses to and prepares the way for the one who is to come. This is the one who will reveal the glory of God in all its fullness.
In order to recognize this God who is to come, it is necessary to get rid of all stereotypes and preconceived notions that we may have of how he is going to come as these might prevent us from recognizing him when he does come. The reason many of the people of Jesus’ time could not recognize him as the Messiah, is that they had definite ideas on how the Messiah was going to come. The Messiah, they thought, would suddenly descend from heaven in his divine power and majesty and establish his reign by destroying the enemies of Israel. No one would know where he came from, humanly speaking, because he would come from God. So, when Jesus came, born of a woman like every other person, they could not recognize him. He was too ordinary, too unimpressive. He did not fit into their expected categories. He was not the triumphant, conquering, aggressive Messiah that many would have liked him to be. His presence did not instill fear in people or fill their hearts with guilt and remorse. Rather, he was incarnate love and mercy, and came to transform the world through his message of unconditional and eternal love.