19 This is the testimony John gave when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny. He confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “Who are you then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he answered. 22 Then they asked him, “Who are you? Tell us so we can 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,’ just as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 They had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 So they asked John, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John answered. “Among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things happened in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The one coming after me outranks me because he existed before me.’ 31 I myself did not know who he was, but I came baptizing with water so that he would be revealed to Israel.” 32 John also testified, “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from heaven and remain on him. 33 I myself did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this myself and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
John was drawing a lot of attention to himself. John’s powerful teaching in the wilderness of Judea led many people to wonder if he might be the promised Messiah. (See Luke 3:15) John immediately made it clear that he was not the Christ. Some people wondered if he might be the “Prophet” promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. But the Prophet Moses spoke of was also the promised Messiah so John again answered “no.” They wondered if he might be Elijah. Malachi 4:5 promised God would send Elijah before the coming of the Lord. John again answered “no.” This point raised some questions since Jesus identified John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the promise that Elijah would come. (See Matthew 11:14) Why would John say that he wasn’t Elijah? Many of the Jews were expecting that Elijah would actually return to the world in the flesh. John’s answer indicates that he was not Elijah in the flesh. Luke 1:17 further testified about John, “He will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John finally testified about himself that he was the fulfillment of God’s promise in Isaiah 40:3. He was God’s messenger to prepare the way for the promised Savior.
John didn’t have to wait long to point the way to Jesus. The day after John identified who he was, he saw Jesus coming. John identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (Verse 29) All the lambs sacrificed on the altar at the temple in Jerusalem pointed ahead to God’s own sacrificial lamb. Jesus came to do what no human sacrifice could accomplish. Only the sinless Son of God was a sufficient sacrifice to make full atonement for your sins and mine and the sins of all people for all time.
John also made an amazing confession in verses 31 and 33. John was sent to prepare the way for Jesus and yet he admitted twice that he did not have the ability to recognize Jesus on his own. This testimony reminds us that we could not come to believe in Jesus as our Savior by our own abilities. Saving faith in Jesus Christ is a gift only God can give us. 1 Corinthians 12:3 said “No one can say “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” We give all praise, honor and glory to our Lord that he has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit through Holy Baptism so that we know and believe that Jesus is our Savior and the only way to eternal life.
1- What things did John make clear about himself?
He made it clear that he was not the Christ. He was God’s messenger to prepare the hearts of the people for Jesus, who was about to begin his public ministry. John also gave all glory to his Savior. Jesus alone was able to save us from our sins. John testified he was personally unworthy to offer even the humblest acts of service to his Lord. It was only by the grace of God that he was enabled to do the important task he was given.
2 – What did John teach us about how we come to know Jesus?
John made it clear that he would not have known Jesus as the promised Savior, if God had not revealed this truth to him. This testifies to us that we only come to know Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 12:3)
3 – What did John say about Jesus’ work?
John indicated that Jesus would “baptize with the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 33) This does not diminish the value of the baptism that John performed in any way. John was simply highlighting the greater importance of Jesus and his work. Jesus promised that after he ascended into heaven he would send the Holy Spirit. (See John 14:15-17, 26 and John 16:7-15) The Holy Spirit teaches us through Word and Sacrament the truth that Jesus brings forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to all who trust in him as their Savior.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.