Who Are You
Now this is the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you? 20 He confessed and did not deny but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” and he answered “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the LORD.” As the prophet Isaiah said,” 24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying. I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to lose.” 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing. John 1:18-28.
Over the next three posts, we will explore three different aspects of John’s ministry. Each Christian should have these same three aspects to their ministry as John did. The first aspect of ministry will be from today’s passage which is John 1:18-28. The second will be from John 1:29-34 and our final aspect of his ministry will be verses 35 and 36 which will then begin Christ’s ministry on earth.
In I Peter 3:15, Peter admonishes us to, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
Jerusalem and Judea were all abuzz because of the preaching of John the Baptizer. John was a Levite, his father was a priest, yet John had not gone through any of the Rabbinical schooling, so this puzzled the people greatly, yet by John’s clothing, and manners it was clear he was a prophet. Therefore, the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish authority of that time, sent a delegation to John asking of him, “Are you the Christ? And if not the Christ, then who are you?
The extent of John’s influence is apparent from the fact that his audience included not only vast throngs of common people, but the religious and political leaders as well.
By the time the Sanhedrin sent its delegation, the influence of John had reached its peak. Therefore the people had pressed their leaders for an answer of just who this John is. At the heart of the issue was Johns authority to baptize.
Now the concept of baptism was not foreign to them for when a gentile, upon accepting the Jewish faith was baptized it was called a rebirth or being born again. You get some flavor of this in the story of Nicodemus which takes place in John chapter 3:1-21 (see John 3:3).
The people thought, if we press our leaders for an answer then they will acknowledge the right of a prophet as a direct spokesman for God, to teach without their authorization. But, the Jewish religious leaders also had a stake in this, for they felt if they could establish the validity of his credentials then they felt they would then have the right to exercise control over John and all his teachings. So, the Pharisees, because of their concern over the matter came to John investigating upon whose authority John taught and baptized the people.
I believe the Pharisees, that came to quiz were really hoping that John was the long hoped for Messiah. John answered by quoting Isaiah 40:3, which states, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.”
They continued to press John, “Why then do you baptize if you are not Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet? John answered by pointing to one that would come after Him. He further stated that of the one coming, he John would be unworthy to even buckle the strap on his sandal.
Here in lies the first principle of the three outlined in John’s ministry. Our authority to preach the gospel message comes from God, and not of man. Therefore, since our message comes from God to direct men’s hearts to the Saviour of the world, then be always ready to give a defense to everyone who asks of you the reason.
John was quick to point out to the people the reason he was sent, for he was sent to turn the hearts of the people to repentance and to prepare for the coming Messiah. He took no credit for what he was doing, but with sincerity and truth presented the gospel as he knew it to all that would listen. He did it with meekness and with genuine love, love born of God for all those that came to hear him speak.
John becomes our example for these last days, God is once again looking for those that will lead the hearts of the people to repentance, pointing the way to Christ as their hope for salvation and the nearness of Christ’s second coming.