There has been some fascinating discussion this past week about the sign WWJD displayed on posters at the Occupy London protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. The BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16068178) has also produced quite a lot of subsequent blog comment.
The following comments are taken from “Lives Jesus Changed” (http://www.christianfocus.com/item/show/1310/-) and reflect on why it might be better to ask “What would John do?”
What Would Jesus Do?
In John 1 John the Baptist tells us of two tasks which the Messiah/Christ will perform.
He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (v29, v37)
It is a staggering claim. There are at least two possible thoughts in mind here. In Isaiah 53 we are given a prophecy about a character who will be led like a lamb to the slaughter (v7) and one who would have the iniquity of us all laid upon him (v6b). Many people see a strong allusion to the servant-messiah who will take away the sins of the world through his saving death. Is John at least strongly hinting here that finally the servant-messiah figure is among them now?
The Passover celebrations (recorded in Exodus 12) may well be the more likely insinuation which John has in mind. As a yearly memorial each Jewish household was to recollect God’s rescue fromEgyptby killing a lamb. This helped them remember the day when God passed over faithful Jewish homes and spared them from God’s wrath, whilst killing the first-born in every Egyptian home. The blood of the lamb that had been slain then was splattered on the lintels and posts of their front door, showing God that a lamb had died in place of the firstborn. In that way sin had been atoned for and God passed over them. Later in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 5:7) the Apostle Paul makes a direct link between the death of Jesus on the cross as our sin-bearer and the picture of the Passover lamb.
Whichever of these two pictures is mainly in John the Baptist’s mind, the conclusion is amazing. Jesus will do what neither John nor any other religious ritual ceremony (water baptism included) can do: He will take away the sins of the world through His sin-bearing death. Isn’t that fantastic news?
He is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (v33)
The second thing that Jesus alone can do is baptise with the Holy Spirit. This is the internal work of washing away sin and the new birth that comes to make us true children of God (see v.13, “born of the spirit of God”). The Christian life begins with baptism. Not baptism by water (which is merely a symbol, or better, a sacrament), but baptism in the Spirit. Whilst we constantly need to be filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit as He takes over God’s rightful rule in every part of our life (see Ephesians 5:21ff.), baptism happens once, and it is our Christian beginning (See Acts 1:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13).
This is great news for all people! Jesus did what we couldn’t do to or for ourselves. He deals with our guilt and sin on the cross and puts that remedy straight to work at the very heart of our being: our spirit.
It has become trendy to wear little badges or bracelets with the four letters WWJD. The letters stand for “What would Jesus do”. In any and every situation, to be reminded “What would Jesus do” is quite a challenge to act as he would act.
However, with John the Baptist’s testimony in front of us, I wonder whether that is quite the right question. At one level of course, Jesus did for us what we could never do for anyone else. I cannot die to atone for other people’s sin. And as a local Church minister I often remind parents of children brought for baptism, that all I can do is make their baby’s head wet! Only God can take sin away. Only God can baptise in the Spirit. At the heart of John’s witness is a humble signpost to Jesus. John will decrease. Jesus must increase.
I wonder, then, would it not be as useful to think “What Would John Do?” whenever we see those four letters WWJD. John’s witness to Jesus is stunning and costly. He did not fail to speak up nor did he deny he knew Jesus. He stood before his accusers with a simple testimony: It is not about me, it is all about Him!
It has sometimes been said: if you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to bring you to conviction?!
We live in a day and age where the scenario with which I began this chapter is becoming an increasing possibility. I hope and pray that should that day come, I will think and act like John thought and acted, even if it costs me as much as it cost him.
The all important question is not: “who do you think you are?” but “who do you think He is?” Have you taken John’s own testimony seriously? What would John do?