The John in this text is John the Baptist.  In this

text he is investigated and questioned by the Jewish


    This is an official investigation and is somewhat

equivalent to an investigation by a senate investigating

committee in our day.


I.  The attitude of the Sanhedrin Council


    In that day the Romans ruled Israel.  However, the

Romans allowed the Jewish Sanhedrin Council to rule in all

matters pertaining to the Jewish religion.  There was but

one limitation.  They were not allowed to impose the death

penalty.  Thus, the Romans ruled in all civil matters and

the Sanhedrin ruled in all religious matters.

    Therefore, when John the Baptist started preaching in the

wilderness of Judea the Sanhedrin Council took special notice of

him.  It must have bothered them that John never asked their

approval for him to preach.  Their interest in him became more

intense as John became more popular.  It bothered them also that

people from all over the land were going to hear a man whom they

had not endorsed and many were being baptized by him.  Matthew

3:5 says, "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all

the region round about Jordan."  They must have desired even then

to investigate John and see whether or not he should be allowed

to continue his ministry.  But they didn't.  They feared what the

multitudes might do if they were to interfer with John's


    However, the Sanhedrin became all the more interested in John

when people began to say that John might be the promised Christ.

Luke 3:15, "And as the people were in expectation, and all men

mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or

not."  The common people were expecting the Christ at any time

and many began to suspect that John is the Christ.

    By this time the Sanhedrin decided that it was time for an

official investigation of John.  They especially wanted to find

out if John claimed to be the Christ.  Somehow, those Sanhedrin

members felt the same way Hanes lady does on television.  She

says, "They are not Hanes until I say they are Hanes."  The

Sanhedrin thought, "He is not the Christ until we say he is the

Christ." That is the way they felt about John the Baptist and

that is the way they would later feel about Jesus.  They did not

understand that God reserved for Himself the right to determine

who is the Christ.


II.  A delegation finally sent to quiz John the Baptist


    So finally they Sanhedrin sent a delegation from Jerusalem to

meet with John the Baptist and to question him.  V. 19, "And this

is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites

from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?"  When the delegation

arrived they did not at first ask John if he is the Christ.  They

simply asked, "Who art thou?"

    What they really wanted to know was whether or not he claimed

to be the Christ.  But if they directly asked that question, the

Scriptures does not mention it.

    V. 20, "And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am

not the Christ."  John the Baptist knew what they reallyu wanteed

to know and answered their question accrodingly.  He confessed,

"I am not the The Christ.  They wanted to know if he claimed to

be the Christ.  So John set them straight right off the bat.  to

    The Jewish leaders must have been relieved to hear this, but

that still did not settle all the questions they had.  V.  21,

"And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?..."  Elias is the

New Testament spelling of the Old Testament word, Elijah.  One of

the Old Testaments prophets had said that before the great and

terrible day of the Lord would come, that Elijah would appear on

the scene.  This prophecy was not intended to mean that Elijah

would literally come back to life.  Rather, it was to inform them

that one like Elijah would come.  One would come in the same

spirit and manner of Elijah.  Later Jesus would tell His

disciples that John the Baptist is that Elijah who was to come.

He was not literally Elijah, but he did ocome in the spirit and

manner of Elijah and he was the fulfillment of that prophecy.

    But the Jewish leaders had misunderstood the prophecy about

Elijah and they understood it to mean that Elijah would literally

return in the flesh.  (V. 21), "...And he saith, I am not..."

John was the fulfillment of the prophecy in that he had come in

the spirit and power of Elijah, but he was not literally Elijah.

So he answered, "I am not Elijah."

    (V. 21), "...Art thou that prophet?..."  He had already told

them he is not the Christ and so that is not what they are asking

here.  In view of Matthew's account of this question they must

have been asking if he was Jeremiah.  (V. 21), "...And he

answered, No."  He was not Jeremiah.

    By this time the Jewish leaders were very perplexed.  V. 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?"

    V. 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."  John quoted from the Prophet Isaiah.  He said

that he is the voice crying in the wilderness that Isaiah

prophesied about.  He was a messenger who had been sent to cry

out -- to herald the arrival of the promised King.  Christ, the

King, was coming and John had been sent to tell the people that

Christ the King is about to arrive.  He would tell them that they

should repent of their sin and get ready for the Christ to


    V. 24, "And they which were sent were of the Pharisees." The

Pharisees were not the only ones in the Sanhedrin Council.  They

were not even the largest group.  The Sadducees by far

outnumbered the Pharisees on the Council, but apparently the

Pharisees were the most outspoken.  Apparently they were the ones

who had been kicking up most of the fuss about John.  So the

Pharisees were the ones who were sent to interview John.

    V. 25, "And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest

thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that

prophet?"  By this time the Pharisees were getting bold with

their questions and they were putting more and more pressure on

John with their questions.  They asked, "Why then are you

baptizing people?  If you are not the Christ nor one of the old

prophets, what are you doing trying to change up the religious

customs of the Jews without our consent?"

    V. 26-27, "John answered them, saying, I baptize with water:

but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who

coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am

not worthy to unloose."  In effect what John said was, "The

Christ that I have been telling you about is already living among

you and you do not yet know who He is.  I am sent to inform you

about Him.  You fellows do not have to worry about why I baptize.

What you do need to do is get to know the Christ."

    Then the John who is the writher of this book adds an

additional note.  V.  28, "These things were done in Bethabara

beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing."  The Jews from

Jerusalem had come to Betharbara to see John the Baptist.  John

was baptizing in the Jordan River nearby.


III.  Questions in the minds of people today


    Listen, people today are somewhat like the Pharisees.  They

are filled with all manner of question.  They ask, "How can we be

sure that there is a God?"  They ask, "If there is a God, where

was God before the world was created?"  They ask, "Why does God

allow such things as the bombing of the federal building in

Oklahoma?" They ask, "Why do you Christians come together every

Sunday and listen to preaching?"  "Why did John the Baptist

baptize and why do you Baptists baptize if it won't get you into

heaven?"  "Where did Cain get his wife?"  "When will Jesus come

back to this earth?"  "When will the rapture take place?  Will it

be before the Great Tribulation, in the middle of the Tribulation

or at the close of the Tribulation?"

    The answer that I have is this:  I will never in this

lifetime be able to answer all the questions that men may ask.

But there are some things that I do know for a certainty.  I know

that God is real.  I know that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to

this world to be born in human flesh.  I know that Jesus died on

the cross of Calvary in order that we might be saved.  I know

that I trusted in Jesus when I was sixteen years old and I know

that Jesus saved my soul.  I know also that Jesus will save every

man, woman, boy and girl who calls on Him, trusting in Him for

salvation.  I know that every one who will not call on Him and

trust in Him will spend eternity in the fires of hell.  I know

that if you want to be saved, you had better stop wasting time on

endless questions and get right God.




    What unsaved person will come this morning and take Jesus

Christ as your Savior?

    What saved person will come this morning and place your

membership in this church to serve the Lord?