19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
(John 1:19-28 NIV)
Last time we finished up with the Apostle John’s prologue to his gospel account. Today we continue and jump into the life and times of Jesus from John’s perspective.
Before we jump into today’s text, there are a few things we should note about John and his Gospel account:
- John was likely an old man when he recorded his gospel account. As one of the last remaining apostles, he wrote from an eyewitness perspective.
- As an old man, John had spent his years preaching and teaching about Jesus as Messiah. John had told and retold these stories hundreds of times. The questions arising from these stories become parenthetical statements to help us understand the stories, such as chapter 1, verse 15a.
- While the other three Gospels focused on the Law and the Prophets as their base, John focuses on the Wisdom books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) for his base of preaching and teaching about Jesus.
- While John taught about Jesus from a Wisdom perspective, he also showed us that Jesus was incredibly misunderstood. The Israelites were expecting a ruler to free them from the reign of the Romans; Jesus came to give them eternal freedom from sin. The Israelites were expecting an iron-fisted ruler; Jesus came in humble love. Jesus started with throngs of people around Him, but eventually died alone for our sins.
John moves from his prologue to telling about Jesus’ life. John jumps in at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, at the time of Jesus’ baptism.
John wastes no time pointing out the misunderstandings of the story of Jesus. The first story we see today is that of John the Baptizer being misunderstood. The religious leaders sent a team of investigators out to the edge of the desert where John the Baptizer was ministering to understand what he was doing. John the Baptizer did not fit into their hierarchy – they were not sure how to deal with him, or what to make of him.
The religious investigators had a simple question for John the Baptizer: “Who are you?” They thought he might be a reincarnation of Moses, or Elijah, or even the long-awaited Messiah. John gives a clear and affirmative “no” to each of these questions.
Tired and frustrated, the investigators pleaded with John the Baptizer. “We have to give a report – tell us who you are.” John the Baptizer merely quoted Isaiah 40:3 – “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”. John the Baptizer pointed the investigators to Jesus.
Like John the Baptizer, may we be Christ’s witnesses to the world around us. We will be misunderstood, questioned, and otherwise maligned, just as John the Baptizer was. But for the ones who listen and seek to understand, Jesus reveals Himself to them with great joy. Our role is simply to point others to Jesus.