Here is a sermon that I’m preaching on Sunday nights during the Wednesday night Bible study. On Wednesday’s I go through a book of the Bible, verse by verse. We just started in John. This is part 2 in John.
JOHN PART 2
THE TESTIMONY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST Part 1
John 1:19-23 TNIV – 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.’ “
INTRO: Imagine if you would with me this scene. It takes place at the Jordan River. At one of the bends in this river, which winds for some 60 miles, a crowd of people have gathered. They have come for a variety of reasons. Some have come to hear a prophet. Others have come to have their curiosity satisfied. There are those who are present because their lives have been changed and they wish to identify themselves with this new movement. There is one group that has been sent to investigate the recent happenings. The speculation is rampant of just who is this John the Baptist is rampant.
The ministry of John is a forerunner. He suddenly appears, prophesying that One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This would be One who would be so great that John would not be worthy even to loosen His sandal. This is the One who would judge, not only the Gentiles, but the Jews as well. His story is what we will look at tonight.
Now last week we looked at what is commonly called the prologue in John’s Gospel. Most commentators feel that it is a poem that introduces Jesus as the Word that has always been, and that became flesh and dwelt among people. In this prologue were introduced to John the Baptist as…(1) A man sent from God (v. 6); (2) As one who came as a witness of the light (vv. 7-8); (3) As one who bore witness of One coming who would surpass him because He existed before him.
Let’s look further into what John the Baptist, and the Author of this book, John the Apostle, have to say.
1. John declares the he is not the Messiah.
Verses 19-20 TNIV – 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.”
John the Baptist had been sent as a witness. A witness is one who tells what he has seen or experienced. And here we see John telling his story of what has taken place. His witness has one central focus: and that is Jesus Christ. But before John does this, he has to answer questions concerning himself.
This witness is too those sent from Jerusalem by the Jewish leaders, i.e. the Sanhedrin. This delegation is made up of two groups of people (v. 19). (1) Priests. These are men who had been set apart to do the work of God within the Temple; (2) Levites. Now while all priests are Levites, not all Levites are priests that work within the Temple. These constituted a lower order of the priesthood. They were not allowed to administer the sacrifices like the higher order priests were, but they were allowed to do other work within the Temple. This delegation was sent by the leaders in Jerusalem. This is the Sanhedrin, basically the Supreme Court of Israel. They came for the purpose of investigating the ministry and preaching of John the Baptist. The reason was that he and his message was growing in popularity, and possible they were feeling intimidated by him and his message. You see, they didn’t like anyone rocking the boat. They had it good, they were popular with the people, plus they had made some underhanded deals with Rome so that they could stay in power.
John’s declaration to them was that He was not the Messiah (v. 20).
2. John reveals His identity – He is a voice with a mission.
Verses 21-23 TNIV – 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.’ “
If John was not the promised Messiah, then the Jewish delegation reasoned that perhaps he was the prophet Elijah. They were familiar with the writings of Malachi.
Malachi 4:5-6 TNIV – 5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
The Jews knew of this promise that Elijah would come before the coming of the Day of the Lord. They believed that this meant the coming of the Messiah. John’s claim to them was that he was not Elijah.
Now here we must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. While John was not physically Elijah come in the flesh, he did fulfill this passage in Malachi by coming in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Luke 1:17 TNIV – And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Matthew 11:11-15 TNIV – 11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Matthew 17:10-13 TNIV – 10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
So what do we make of this, is this a contradiction? Of course not. John wasn’t physically Elijah, but he came in the spirit and power of Elijah preparing the way of the Lord and thereby fulfilling the prophecy.
John isn’t the Prophet either. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses promised that one day God would raise up another prophet like himself.
Deuteronomy 18:15 TNIV – The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your own people. You must listen to him.
John declares that he is not that prophet. Most scholars and commentators will tell you that Jesus is that prophet that Deuteronomy was prophesying about. I think that this is possible referenced in John 1:17.
John 1:17 TNIV – For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Notice that they do not ask John about his preaching concerning repentance. Instead they are very superficial in their questioning. They are only interested in having their specific questions answered, not necessarily seeking the truth of God concerning John’s coming and message.
John finally gives an answer as to who he in verse 23, I am a voice crying in the wilderness. John could have declared that he was a son of a priest, for that in truth was what he was. He could have declared that he is the greatest born among men, or that he was a prophet, which all would be true. But he identifies himself simply as a voice with a mission. By identifying himself this way, John declares a very important principle that can be applied in our day and time as well: The message is more important than the person who is bringing the message.
What can we learn from John here? As followers of Christ, our task is similar to his as the forerunner: (1) We also need to deflect attention away from ourselves, and point people to Christ; (2) No matter how honored we may be, we are not Jesus. Keep Him the focus of our ministry, teaching, and life lived before others.
CONCL: Well, we are going to end it there tonight. John the Baptist is a great example of a life that is lived in humility before God. He was obedient to the message God wanted him to deliver, and when asked about himself, he pointed to Jesus Christ. We must do the same. Live a life in complete obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And don’t let the limelight fall on us, but always point it back to Him. It is alright to recognize your call, but know that we serve someone who is greater than us. We serve the creator of all things – Jesus Christ – who has redeemed us by His precious blood so that we might no longer be slaves to sin, but servants to Him.