7.  John 1:19-28  The Record of John the Baptist.

Introduction:  The Apostle John wrote these words that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and that believing ye might have life through His name.  In our text today we shall see that the Jewish leaders wanted an official statement from John as to whom he was and by what authority he baptized.  John’s official position is revealed leaving now doubt that Jesus is the Christ.

I.  John 1:19  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

          When John the Baptist began his ministry he went out into the wilderness and began to preach to the people in the rural areas outside of Jerusalem.  He preached that men should repent of their sins and trust in the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.  He was a prophet of God and the people of Judea readily believed him to be a prophet of God.  The Jewish leaders had no problem with John and would have ignored his ministry all together except that the people began to think that he was the Christ.  Luke 3:15, says "And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not."  When questions arose and much debate about John the Baptist being the Christ it was time for the Jewish leaders to investigate and to take an official stand concerning him.    Our text today is the record of that inquiry.

          They sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him who he was.  It was the priests that had the right, and they only, to intercede on behalf of the people toward God.  The priests were of the tribe of Levi and descendants of  Aaron.  The Levites were those men who were of the tribe of Levi yet not descendants of Aaron and who lived and worked among the people teaching them the word of God.  John the Baptist was a Levite and a descendant of Aaron.  We know this because his father was a priest.  John had every right to live and work among the people teaching them the way of God.  Notice that they do not question his right to speak for God.  Their questions concern his identity and by what authority he baptized the people.  

II.  John 1:20  And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

          Their first question is not stated but from John’s answer we know that they got right to the heart of their concern.  They asked him point blank “are you the Christ?”  To this John gives an emphatic reply.  As earnestly and forthrightly as he could speak he told them strait out ‘I am not the Christ”.

     John did not fit the Old Testament description of the Christ.  He was not born of a virgin.  He was not born in Bethlehem.   He did not come out of Nazareth.  He did not heal the sick or cure the lame.  He did not restore sight to the blind.  He did not die on the cross nor was he raised from the dead the third day.  John does not fit the requirements.  John is not God.  David said “the Lord said unto my Lord sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy foot stool.”  David prophesied of the Christ that He was God.  Jesus would use this text to confound the Jewish leaders and stop all of their questions.  John was not God the Christ had to be God.  God the father never said of John “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”.


III.  John 1:21  And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

          They now having heard from John himself that he was not the Christ had all they needed to set the people strait.  When people would muse that John was the Christ they could respond that according to Johns own record he himself said he was not the Christ.  Having this burden lifted they proceeded to see who he did claim to be.  They asked him if he was Elias.  Elias is the Greek transliteration of the old testament name Elijah.   They are asking him if he is Elijah.  This would mean that Elijah, who had been translated, had returned to the earth.  John responds to this question with and emphatic “I am not.”  A small puzzle arises here.  Jesus said in Mat 11:13-14  For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14.  And if ye will receive [it], this is Elias, which was for to come.  Jesus said that John is Elias.  In Mat 17:10-12 we read  And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.”  Jesus seems to say that John was Elijah.  John says that he is not.  How may this be reconciled.  It requires us to hear the explanation given by the angel Gabriel to Zacharias in the temple at the announcement of the coming birth of John.  Luk 1:17  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.   John was not Elijah.  The prophet Malachi speaks of the coming of Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord.  Isaiah spoke of his mission to tell the people to make the Messiah’s path strait.  John came in the spirit and power of Elijah.  He rebuked a king just like Elijah did.  He spoke boldly as did Elijah.  He was not Elijah but came in the spirit of Elijah.

       The next question refers to an un-named prophet.  They asked are you THAT Prophet.  This is not a redundant question.  They are not asking him twice if he is Elijah.  The prophet they refer to is the one referred to by Moses in  Deu 18:18  I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.   The Prophet spoken of here is a reference to Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the one whom they will listen to for every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ.  There was controversy in that day as to who this prophet would be. No such controversy need arise for as Adame Clark has well stated in his commentary on this text concerning this prophet who would be like Moses “ a prophet, a legislator, a king, a mediator, and the head or chief of the people of God…… Every word spoken by him is a living infallible oracle from God himself; and must be received and obeyed as such, on pain of the eternal displeasure of the Almighty.”   John, I believe, understood about this prophet spoken of by Moses.  He knew that this prophecy spoke of the Christ and thus he denied being “THAT Prophet”. 


IV.  John 1:22  Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

     The priests and Levites are now through with the guessing game they have been playing.  They want to hear from the mouth of John who he is.  They want John to know that he will be quoted.  The thing he says will be told to the highest authorities.  If his words are blasphemous he will be in serious trouble.  John must answer carefully here.  But John has no need to fear for he will speak the truth and they will not be able to condemn him for doing so.


V.  John 1:23  He said, I [am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

     The response of John to their question is wonderful indeed.  When ever men raise questions concerning us we should learn from John to give them an answer from the scriptures.  John quotes to them from the book of Isaiah chapter 40 verse 3.  John was the fulfillment of that which was prophesied by Isaiah.  He is the fore runner of Christ the Lord God almighty.  What makes this such a wonderful answer is that he points them to his purpose which is more important than who he is.  His purpose is to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Christ.  He did this by preaching repentance of sin.  He gave them the reason to repent that being that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  Time was short and they needed to repent immediately.


VI.  John 1:24  And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

     The Apostle John tells us here a piece of information which will be needed in order to understand the following verses.  Pharisees are a group of Jews who believe in the resurrection of the dead.  The other major sect of the Jews was the Sadducees.  The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead nor did they believe in angles.  They did not believe in a life after death.  The Pharisees believe in all these things.  John preached repentance of sin.  Those who repented of their sins he would baptize.  Baptism is a ceremony where by a saved person expresses publicly that he has repented of his sin and identifies himself publicly with Christ His savior.  We know from God’s word that baptism does not cleanse one of sin.  It does not wash away sin.  It pictures the burial and resurrection of Christ.  It pictures the burial and resurrection of the believer.  We Identify with Christ’s death for us and as Christ was raised from the dead so we are to walk as if we have been born again.  Keeping in mind that the Pharisees are very much into ceremonies and pictures, after all the Law of Moses had and abundance of these, We proceed to examine their next question.

VII.  John 1:25  And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

     The question they now raise is Why are you baptizing.  If he was the Christ or Elias or THAT prophet they would understand that he was authorized by God to perform the ceremony of Baptism.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness they did not see as a specific person who would come having this authority.  They took Malachi’s prophecy literally the Elijah would come first. They took Isaiah’s prophecy less literally.   They are questioning the authority of John the Baptist.  Jesus will later ask them “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men?”   They feared to say it was of men for all believed that John was a prophet of God.  John gives the answer that these men needed.


VIII.  John 1:26  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

Joh 1:27  He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

     John responds to their question by doing what God has called him to do.  He tells these men about Jesus.  First that Jesus was standing among them.  They knew that the time for the messiah was right.  They knew the place was right.  They needed to prepare themselves to accept his presence among them.  The Law of Moses required them to wash themselves and to sanctify themselves when they were in the presence of the Lord.  These needed to realize that God was already among them and they needed to get ready.  They needed to repent and believe in order know He was among them.  They did not know Him because their hearts were not right.  Jesus will tell Nicodemus “except ye be born again you can not see the kingdom of God”.   John further tells them that Jesus is far superior to himself.  He is not worthy to even untie His shoes. 

     Remember that we like john are not worthy to be even the lowliest servant of God.  We need to acknowledge His worth and deny ours.


IX.  John 1:28  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

     John went to the river to baptize.  The word Baptize is a transliteration of the Greek verb which means to dip or immerse.  It is the same word translated dip in the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man asked Abraham to let Lazarus dip his finger in water.  The proper mode of Baptism is immersion in water.  John should be known as John the dipper.  John immersed people in water he did not sprinkle or pour water on them.  We are Baptists.  We have nothing to be ashamed of, or to apologize for.  The scriptural method of Baptism is immersion by proper authority and of a proper candidate.  This verse lets us know that John was indeed the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He did not minister in the city where most people lived and worked.  His ministry required people to leave those places and come out from among them and be separated people.  A people who have repented and trusted in the lamb of God for salvation.  These were to live a separated life.  We should also leave this world behind and live holy lives before men.  Separated from their sinful ways but in the world with them as a light to guide them to God.

Conclusion:  Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and those who believe this will have life through His name.  The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.