Verse 19: "And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
The reference to "The testimony of John" is to "John the Baptist."
The Jews (Ioudaios) is a term that can mean either Jew, or Judean and refers to a sect of Jews associated with Judea.
The leaders, thought to be Pharisees and perhaps other leaders, had chosen the priests and Levites to question John because they were considered to be responsible religious leaders.
Verse 20-21: "He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."
Although John the Baptist was a leader, he was not a part of the Jewish mainstream. His message was about the soon coming time of judgment and restoration.
However, there were other significant movements in John's day, which created a considerable amount of speculation concerning the coming messiah.
The ones questioning John the Baptist wondered if he was the Messiah, but he told them, no, "I am not the Christ."
Verse 21: "And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No."
Elijah had been taken to Heaven alive, and the Jewish people were expecting his return: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." Mal 4:5)
Many Rabbis thought that when Elijah returned, he would settle legal disputes, and perform miracles, and perhaps introduce the Messiah; so they wondered if John the Baptist was Elijah.
John the Baptist repeatedly tells them, "No," I am not the Christ, I am not Elijah.
Verse 22: "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?"
The ones sent to question John were under pressure from the leaders to know who he was, so they repeatedly pressed John to identify himself.
They wanted to know if he was the Messiah. (Lk 3:15). If not the Messiah, perhaps he was still another prophet, (as was predicted by some of the other popular movements).
Verse 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.
As Jesus would do later in this study, John uses Scripture to prove his identity and purpose:
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God," (Isaiah 40:3).
John the Baptist's emphasis was not on who he was, but on why he had come; and that was to prepare the way for the Messiah. The Pharisees wanted to know who John was; John wanted them to know who Jesus was.
Verse 24-25: "(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25They asked him "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
John's questioners were more perplexed by his baptizing than by his preaching. They questioned John's authority to baptize, and they also wanted to know who gave him the right to treat God's chosen people as Gentiles.
A great cleansing of the Jewish people had been prophesied by Ezekiel (Ez 36:25; 37:23), but they could not understand why John would be fulfilling this prophecy. Was he the Christ, Elijah, or the forerunner they had expected to precede the Christ?
These were great Bible Scholars, yet it seems they had little regard for its message. They had completely missed the Scripture John had quoted that would clearly show that he was neither Christ, or Elijah, but the "Forerunner of the Messiah," (Isaiah 40:3).
Verse 26: "John answered them, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,
John acknowledged that he was baptizing, but ignored their question as to why he was baptizing.
He was helping them perform a symbolic act of repentance, but One would soon come who could actually forgive their sins; (something only the Messiah, the Son of God could do).
Again they had asked John why, if he was not Christ or Elijah, was he baptizing; and once again, instead of answering questions regarding himself, he pointed to Christ.
Verse 27: "even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."
John's attitude is considered to be an extreme example of honor and humility.
Not only would slaves carry but also unlatch their master's sandals. Although John was well known and respected, and apparently had thousands of followers, he considered himself unworthy to perform this humble act.
John claims that he is not worthy to be Christ’s slave, yet Jesus said that he was the greatest of all prophets, (Luke 7:28).
Verse 28: "These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The location of the "Place in Bethany across the Jordan" is a long-debated question. However, many believe it is Perea, the area across the Jordan (on the east side) where John the Baptist had once ministered and was later arrested.
John the Baptist Introduces Jesus as
"The Lamb of God"
Verses 29-30: "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me."
This passage is said to be the only clear expression in the Gospel of John, of taking away sin.
God's timing is perfect. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, precisely on schedule - and John said, “Behold the Lamb of God…” Thus, John the Baptist introduced the long awaited Messiah, Savior of all mankind.
The Lamb of God:
The Passover Lamb had represented redemption and forgiveness, but the Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world.
Payment for the penalty for sin demanded the surrender of a life, and God chose to provide the sacrifice himself. Jesus, the Lamb of God, removed the sin of the world when He died on the cross.
Verse 31-32: "I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
John the Baptist had baptized Jesus. At his baptism, God had given John a sign to show that Jesus was the Messiah. He had seen the Spirit descend from heaven and remain on Jesus. John then declared Jesus to be the Messiah.
Verse 33: "I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit."
Many thought the direct prophetic endowments of the Spirit ceased when the last of the Old Testament prophets died. For some, the claim by John that the Spirit had returned made them realize that the messianic era was at hand.
Verse 34: "And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
John the Baptist declared that Jesus is the Son of God. Later, Jesus Himself confessed under oath that He was the Son of God; this gave the Sanhedrin a reason to condemn him to death. (John 19:7).
This concludes our study of John the Baptist's Testimony.
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