|John 1:19-28||Read Online|
[John] said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord—just as Isaiah the prophet said.”
—John 1:23 (HCSB)
Verbose commentaries and speeches bloated our TV screens this past fall during the 2012 Election. We endured pre-debate and post-debate analysis along with the hours of debate. The tweets, blogs, and proliferation of videos all clogged our airspace whether we wanted it to or not.
John the Baptist would not have fit into this 21st century information explosion—nor did he in Jesus’ time. You’ll find John’s confession in this passage refreshingly short and succinct when the priests and Levites asked him who he was.
He confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
They asked, “Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
These religious leaders did have legitimate authority to question John the Baptist. After all, they were the guardians of the Jewish faith, so they had an obligation to test for false prophets and verify witnesses.
Frustrated with John’s answers, they pointedly asked, “Who are you?” Again, leaving out the fluff and needless words, John quoted Isaiah 40:3, his life’s mission: “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord…”
In the immediate, Isaiah was calling the exiled Jews in Babylon to prepare a road that would make a quick and easy access to God as they returned to the Promised Land. But John the Baptist was referring to the deliverance of Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ. John called them to prepare for the coming Messiah.
Don’t imagine John as a flag man using limp, unidentifiable signals to direct cars slowly around road construction. Rather hear John shouting, “Look for the One who comes after me. Prepare yourself for Him! He is the way to the Father!” Eugene Peterson aptly translates this voice in The Message as “thunder in the desert.”
Not satisfied, now the Pharisees interrogate John: “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
Baptism wasn’t new. Gentiles did get baptized when converting to Judaism as an initiation rite, but John was calling Jews to be baptized. This was foreign and the Pharisees wanted an explanation.
John, however, didn’t answer their question, but rather redirected their attention back to Jesus. In humility, he showed his subordination by declaring he wasn’t even worthy to loosen Jesus’ sandals, a job so lowly it was usually left to a Gentile servant or the individual himself.
John was content at this time and right up to the end of his shortened life to be the forerunner and herald of Jesus. Tragically, the leaders of the Jews—even with all the warnings—couldn’t see that “among you stands one you do not know.”
With the newly elected President, there will be a State of the Union Address. Before the address begins, protocol calls for the Sergeant at Arms to announce to Congress, “Mister Speaker, the President of the United States.”
In essence, John the Baptist was saying to us, “(insert your name), the One and Only Savior of the world—Jesus Christ.” Maybe we could learn a lesson from John the Baptist and point others back to the only One who can take away the sin of the world.
- What do you believe is your life mission? What are you doing to walk out that mission?
- Why do you think the Jewish leaders wanted to know if John the Baptist was the Christ? The Prophet? Elijah?
- What is preventing you from being a witness for Christ? What can you do to remove the obstacles?
- If you had to give your testimony in 20 words or less, what would you say?
- Do you consider yourself a type of John the Baptist pointing others to Jesus, or are you the person who has been pointed to Christ but has not yet heeded the warning?