Friday, 24 June 2011

St John the Baptist - the Last Prophet

Today’s feast is one which is deep in significance for many reasons.

We are taught that St John is the last of the Old Testament prophets. With him, prophecy closes and the time of prophecy closes. What do we mean by this? Well we understand that prophecy is one of the means whereby the world is prepared for the coming Messiah. In the faith of our elder brothers the Jews, the Church teaches that the Law, the Prophets and the cult in Jerusalem (guarded and guided by the priests) were given so that in the fullness of time Christ could come.

As an aside, classic Protestantism will play down the ‘dry’ law while playing up the free wheeling spirit of the Prophets. And don’t believe for a moment that the cult in Jerusalem could do any good whatsoever! The reason is obvious. The Protestant reformers saw themselves as being filled with the Spirit, as against the law bound wicked Roman Church. They are wrong of course, but one of the odd unintended consequences is that in much theology and even in Old Testament theology, ‘the Law’ has a bad name. Pity really when it is there to get the Israelites to Heaven. Sound familiar?!

But I digress…

St John the Baptist is the last of the Prophets. This is the completion of the preparation of the coming of Christ. This is why he in himself has so many strange prophetic characteristics; a miraculous conception, a name given to him, a life lived in ‘liminal’ places, a call to personal conversion and most of all the physical pointing to Christ. Not just as the one who is to come, but rather, that one, there walking by the crowd - “Ecce, Agnus Dei”!

St John stands on the fulcrum of history. He closes one period of the world, and points to the next. From preparation to completion. From prophecy to fulfilment.
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