John the Baptist lived the first thirty years of his life in the obscurity of the Judean desert. The story of his miraculous birth is told in Luke 1.
Read Luke 1:5-17
Here is what the angel says about John the Baptist
For he will be great before the Lord.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
Mark’s Gospel also begins with the testimony of John the Baptist saying,
Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
So John is the promised voice calling out and preparing the people for the Lord.
He is the announcer that the Lord has come.. but more than the angels who announced his birth.
No, this is a special man chosen by God and led by the Holy Spirit to ready God’s chosen people for the work of Christ to save them from their sins.
John 1:6-7 says, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him”
But John the Beloved (the Author of the Gospel of John), unlike the other Gospel writers is not concerned with the history of John the Baptist but instead he is concerned with the message of John the Baptist.
So to John it doesn’t matter where he lived; it doesn’t matter what he wore;
it doesn’t matter that he had a camel’s hair coat;
it doesn’t matter that he ate locusts and wild honey.
The history of this man as remarkable and wonderful as it was, isn’t the focus of John.
What matters is what he said. So that is what we must focus on.
We will see this as we dig into verse 19, the priest and the Levites are trying to focus on who John the Baptist was and all John is concerned about is what he has to say. Look with me..
A. Not the Christ
John 1:19-20 And 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.”
Huge numbers of people were flocking to hear this strange preacher in the wilderness, and many had been baptized by him. A great stir had been made, so much so that many began to wonder if he was the promised messiah. Remember that Christ means Messiah. Here he says, clearly, I AM NOT THE CHRIST. Why is it a big deal for him to say this so bluntly?
→John’s ministry had become so big that it drew the attention of the Big Time Jewish religious leaders of the day… so much so that they traveled to come and see what all the buzz was about… To understand, Why John was growing such a big following, we have to understand the culture at the time..
the Roman Empire was over everything and dominating life..
so the Jewish world is already on edge & now they are hearing lots of talk about the coming of the messiah, the greatest news they could imagine, the promised one of God. People were ripe for a deliverer. John was testifying of one. He was preaching a new beginning. Come repent of your old ways and look to the Messiah.
What I love about John Is…. here come the top guys in his game..
the coolest cats in town.. the guys that you want to be known by & recognized by..
and instead of letting the fear of man sway him.. instead of putting the light on himself… he is all about pointing to Jesus and wants no credit.
This is why he says so bluntly, I am not the CHRIST and leaves it at that. He doesn’t say, Hey, but check out my portfolio, let me show you have I have accomplished. Again, this is big considering that in these guys eyes he would have had a lot to prove considering he wasn’t an established or trained Rabbi.
Now, realize that John is a nobody in the Jewish elite circles.
He had not been trained in the schools of the Rabbis. He had held no position of honor in the temple and he was not identified with either the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the Herodians.
So from whom then did he receive his authority? Who commissioned him to preach and call men to "Repent."? By what right did he baptize people?
What I love is that he boldly stood his ground. WHY? Because he knew who sent him. The Holy God.
He knew who he came to proclaim. But the inquiry continued….
B. Not Elijah
John 1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”
Now, why did they ask him if he was Elijah? Elijah had been carried into heaven almost 900 years prior.
It is because Elijah didn’t die but was carried into heaven that people believed Elijah would come again to the earth. This is common held belief is confirmed later by the disciples who answer Jesus inquiry about who they thought he was this way.
Matthew 16:13-14 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Now, This expectation of the Jews to look for Elijah did have a scriptural foundation because in the last verses of the Old Testament , it says,
Malachi 4:5-6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
The problem is, This prophecy has reference to the return to earth of Elijah, to perform a ministry just before the second coming of Christ. What we will see is that the work of John the Baptist just prior to the beginning of the ministry of Christ in his first coming is very similar.
So much so that the word given to John’s father was that “he (speaking of John) will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. Luke 1:16-17
The grilling inquiry continues….
C. Not the Prophet
John 1:21b “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
Who is “the Prophet” a reference to?
the answer is, The "prophet" was predicted through Moses. This is a prediction recorded in…
Deuteronomy 18:15 & 18
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen & I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him”
This was one of the many Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament times, which received its fulfillment in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, again, John says, NO.
2. The Voice
John 1:22-23 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
When John referred to himself as "the voice," he is employing the very term, which the Holy Spirit had used of him seven hundred years previously, when speaking through Isaiah the prophet.
Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Stop and consider with me the difference and yet the tie between John’s title of Jesus as “the WORD” and the title of John “the voice”.
AW Pink points out something wonderful in its connection here:
“In the first place, the word exists (in the mind) before the voice articulates it. Such was the relation between Christ and His forerunner. It is true that John was the first to appear before the public eye; yet, as the "Word," Christ had existed from all eternity. Second, the voice is simply the vehicle or medium by which the word is expressed or made known. Such was John. The object of his mission and the purpose of his ministry was to bear witness to "the Word." Again, the voice is simply heard but not seen. John was not seeking to display himself. His work was to get men to listen to his God-given message in order that they might behold "the Lamb."
We need not miss how we can apply this to our own lives today.
Like John, may we embrace our God given call to testify and share witness of Christ to others.
To be his "voices". But most importantly, that we be heard but not seen!
IN other words, To make our lives about Him not us. When they hear us speak or see us live may we be like John and constantly point to Jesus. May our hearers and watchers see and know Jesus as a result of their time spent around us.
Another great point is this, once the voice or the testimony goes silent it is the word that endures.
The word endures after the voice is silent.
Again, may this be true of us also. That long after we have left the scene or even this world that the word, Jesus Christ, is the one people remember. If you forget who Joshua Kristine is but as a result of my life and testimony and preaching and influence, you know and walk with and enjoy Jesus. Praise be to God.
When approached to speak of what I have done, I want my answer to point to all that Jesus has done. To him be the Glory. To him be the fame.
So when John says, he is the voice. He is saying, it is my great privilege to point to Jesus.
John is essentially saying:
I am just a Man … who has been called to point to the one in the spotlight.
I am just one voice in a big land that is very lost… saying,
Get ready, the Messiah is Coming! Hope is coming, the one that can save us from ourselves, our fleeting pursuit of our fame, the lie we have lived in far to long, FREEDOM IS COMING!
He is saying:
I am just a little, tiny, galactic nobody of a man….
The one who is coming…. the one whom I live for and point to.. He is the Holy God!
He is everything and I am not. Please don’t mistake me for Him.
John is saying: My name is, “I am Not” ……you are looking for “I AM”
3. Jesus First
The inquisition and challenge of John’s authority to Baptize continues.
John 1:24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Did you see what John does in this answer? He doesn’t engage them about his merits to practice water baptism. Instead he confirms that he does indeed practice water baptism but makes it clear that the formality or religious practice of baptism is not the issue.
The issue is Christ. The most important topic is Jesus and who is Jesus to them.
For he declares, that they do not know the one whom among them stands.
The one whom he has been sent to point to and announce the one who will change everything.
The only one through whom one can have new life. Jesus Christ.
This is another big take away for us today.
We, the body of Christ, are often guilty of allowing the religious world and the secular world who do not know Jesus personally to argue and debate over secondary issues about form and function or secondary doctrines when the doctrine that brings new life is ignored or set aside. When, the Issue of Christ is ignored or set aside.
These people claim Jesus but they know him not! We must first and foremost talk about Jesus.
I watched an interview once with a prominent pastor who was on a TV show and was being interviewed and he was being grilled about what he thought on one issue after another but the pastor simply said, what we must first talk about is who is Jesus and who is Jesus in your life.
Why is this so important? Because until one has new life in Christ, until their heart is spiritually discerned they can not obey God’s law, the word of God and the ways of the Christian will be folly to them.
So too major of the secondary issues is to talk about something they have no power or will to obey. Not until God has given them new birth and new heart and a trust in Christ as Lord and Savior of their life. So Jesus must come first. John doesn’t get caught up in the secondary issues. He keeps it first and foremost on Christ.
4. Humbly living for Him
Next John says, This one I speak of, the one whom you do not know, is so important and big that,
“even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
Even though he is physically younger than me.. Even though I am his elder, I am not worthy to do the work of the lowest slave and untie his sandals.
Remember, John 1:15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This is he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.
John knows that even though Jesus was born after HIM, He was already in the story way before Him. Why? Because as we have already covered, Jesus is Eternal. John knows that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He is so vast and worthy and magnificent that John is not even worthy to untie his sandals.
We have to get this, too! We have to start seeing what John saw so clearly….
<>This thing called life you & I do every day is not for all the stuff we typically do life for!
HEAR this from me today: In recognizing our place in the shadow of the Lord Jesus.
we should feel humble not humiliated. Recognizing who Christ is compared to ourself doesn’t mean we are to wither into a hole and feel lonely, miserable, unloved and down!
John did not do that, He joyfully lived LIFE. Even though he has a RIGHT view of who he was in comparison to Jesus.
Let’s think about this for a moment:
John has a lot of reasons to proclaim that he was someone important.
-John was No ordinary man.
-He was the key subject of Old Testament prophecy,
-the son of a priest, born as the result of the direct intervention of God’s power.
-He was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, engaged in a ministry, which drew great multitudes unto him.
And yet he understood rightly who Jesus was. And therefore who he was in his shadow.
The shadow of the Holy Divine. Not even worthy to hold his sandals at the door.
The ? for us is: What else, what other STUFF, what little waste of time, trophy or personal glory do we make our lives about instead of Jesus?
No matter where you are with God coming in here today.. you have to hear the massive revelation this is to our everyday lives…
You have to see that Jesus is this what your entire existence is about.. He is why you breathe, why you go to school, why you work, why you parent, why you date, why you eat and drink, why you do anything…
We are to live and lead like John did… making a big impact on the things we do and people we are around… →but realizing every step of the way that when we accomplish great things or taste success… we do so knowing that God has been on the seen a long time ago and that He is the source for our vision, giftedness, opportunity, creativity, energy and breath!
It is for His Glory not our own that we do good things and succeed!
John says, he is not even worthy to untie his filthy sandals….
You have to understand how LOW it was to even touch someone’s sandals in that day.
They are covered in feces and filth and grime. To do this was to interact with nothing you would ever want to touch with your bare hands.. and John says, he is not even worthy to do that job.
Now this is either a recognition of how low you are or how HIGH the person you speak of is.
In this case I believe it was both!
John understood how low he was in the towering shadow of the Son of GOD!
John new: who “he” wasn’t (*point at myself) and who “ HE” is! (*point up)
Do you get this in your life? If you say you get it, does your life truly represent this fact?
One of the greatest blessings we can give each other is to model this for each other.
Or what about the world.. When the world see’s us get low and serve… that they see us point to Jesus who humbles the proud and lifts up the downtrodden.
There is a lot we can learn from John the Baptist. This is just a taste. I pray it is helpful and inspiring as to how we can better live humbly for our King.