John 1:19-34

June 30, 2013 Continuing our study through John we’ll see that Christ is on the Way as Predicted by the Prophets and John Is His Forerunner:

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? These priests and Levites are the worldly-wise who are always seeing but never perceiving, always hearing but never understanding (Acts 28:26), and always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (II Tim. 3:7). They’re hearing about John so they go out to interrogate him. This doesn’t come across as a friendly encounter, but rather it seems more like a confrontation between the established religious authority and this prophet of God.

And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

Apparently the first question put to him is whether he was the Messiah. They want to know this because they want to know by what authority he’s baptizing people. A lot of other people were also wondering if he was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15), so this is a good place to start. I imagine if he had claimed to be Messiah they probably would have treated him the same way they did Jesus. But he denies,

And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not.

Elijah, of course, was a great prophet in the Old Testament. You’ll remember that he didn’t die (II Kings 2:11), and God promised to send Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). John denies this too (even though Jesus affirms it in Matthew 11:7-14), but they accept his answer and move on: Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Moses promised a prophet would come in the future: The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; […] 18I 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 (Deut. 18:15, 18). “Are you this prophet?” Again he denies it because (as many will later see) Jesus is this prophet (Jn. 6:14; 7:40).


Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? They press the matter so he tells them:

He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. This comes from Isaiah 40 and it’s very important. Everything we need to know about him and his time of history is answered in this: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. John admits to being the forerunner of the promised Messiah. Now, if he’s telling the truth, then Messiah should be right behind him and these Jews ought to be looking for it, but look at this:

And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

It’s no secret that the Pharisees were the enemies of Christ. His harshest rebukes were reserved for them. He calls them blind guides and unclean, whitewashed tombs. They didn’t believe Christ, and they don’t believe John:

And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

This might surprise you, but baptism existed before Christ started His earthly ministry. As I understand it, it comes from the Jewish Laws of ceremonial cleansing. They washed everything, and when a Gentile was converted they literally dunked him all the way under water to symbolize the removal of his sins; he was cleansed. Well, John comes along and starts baptizing, and what does that say about the Jews and their religion? Are people being purged of sins without Judaism? Does this mean the priests, Levites, and Pharisees are all pagans too? And this is why they’ve come to challenge him. What is his authority? Who told him he could do their job? And these questions have that purpose in mind: “You’re not Messiah are you? How about Elijah? How about the prophet? Well, if you’re none of these, then how are you doing this?” But we know he did have authority: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And 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 (Lk. 1:5-17). And when the time is right he goes out and starts to just this very thing. We read more about him in the other gospels: As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and

they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins (Mk. 1:3-5). There’s a similar account in Luke 3:2-17 where he quotes even more from Isaiah 40: the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 7Then said he to the multitude (we know this to be the Pharisees and Sadducees from Matt. 3:7) that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 15And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; 16John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. So John comes preaching about this One who will baptize His people with the Holy Ghost and His enemies with unquenchable fire. You’d think this would make them all repent, but they hate the truth and will not. Perhaps they think they have time, but they don’t. In fact, Christ Is Here Now and He’s Greater than the Forerunner:

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

Did you notice how he doesn’t even answer their question? “I baptize” but my authority already stands among you. Why bother explaining the authority when they won’t accept it? Jesus told them the truth and they hated Him for it. It’s not a matter of proving himself to be true; it’s just a matter of pointing to Christ—“you don’t know Him.”

He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. John knew His own place and he knew Christ’s. John was the lowest of all slaves, and he didn’t even deserve that. Christ is the great I AM who existed long before and who is first before all things; Christ Is Verified as God’s Lamb and His Son:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. How offensive this must have been to the Jews! Their Messiah is unknown to them, yet He takes away the sins of the pagan nations all over the world. Those without Law have hope in one they hate! And John describes Him as God’s Lamb. This isn’t something the high priest can offer; that’s why he says,

This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. Christ is preeminent and worthy of worship! And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. John hadn’t known Him either, but his whole ministry existed for this one purpose. John came first to prepare the way of the Lord:
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And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. This is a reference to Jesus’ baptism (Mt. 3:13-17). John saw all this happen and heard the Father say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” He knew at this point that this One was the Christ.


And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

We’ll pick up there next time. Let’s close with a few key words: #1- Religion without knowledge of Christ is simply FUTILITY. #2- Those who preach the gospel in truth do also in HUMILITY knowing that He is preferred before us and we are merely unworthy slaves doing our jobs (Lk. 17:10). #3- DIVINE REVELATION is man’s only hope and the difference between knowing Christ or not. John didn’t know but it was revealed to him while the Pharisees didn’t realize He was standing among them. #4- God sent His own Lamb to bear our sin; this is something which fills us with HOPE and GRATITUDE.

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