The Testimony! — John 1:19-28
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 28, 2014
Did you ever witness something you had a hard time explaining? I have. We were headed home from camping and the night sky filed with a brilliant light that flashed across the starlit darkness. At first we thought it was a UFO, but we knew they did not exist and so then we wondered where in the world the streaking light was coming from. We then realized that we were near Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is a United States Air Force Base located 9.2 miles northwest of Lompoc, California. It is under the jurisdiction of the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command. And then we understood immediately what the strange light was, a rocket fired from Vandenberg.
A person’s testimony is simply them trying to explain to others what they have experienced and witnessed. Here in John’s gospel we are discovering what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus. Sometimes it was difficult for him to do so, but John persisted in his testimony and because of that we have one of the most beautiful narratives that describe Jesus’ life and what those around him thought of him as well. Today, we will look at the testimony of what others thought about Jesus…
Again, we are looking at John the Baptist and what he thought about his own ministry and the ministry of Jesus. We may wonder why but in the Apostle John’s day many followed John the Baptist and wondered how this cousin of Jesus fit into the narrative of what God was doing in their world. And so, here in John’s gospel we have…
I. The testimony of John the Baptist! (Vv. 19-23)
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
1. As in the other three gospels (Synoptic Gospels), the ministry, words, and actions of John the Baptist was so influential that the religious and secular authorities in Jerusalem decided to investigate him. “Levites” is John’s way of describing some of the city’s leaders. The priests and Levites trucked out to where John the Baptist was doing his preaching to ask about his baptism and what he claimed about himself. So “this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.” John’s gospel begins to introduce for us the public ministry of Jesus to the nation Israel. Some feared that perhaps John the Baptist was the Messiah to come, so they go to find out if he was or not. Yet John the Baptist “did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’” In our day and age and in John’s as well, there are those who would quickly claim to be something they are not in order to gain recognition, fame, or perhaps fortune. Over the centuries we have had charlatans a plenty. To each question asked of him, if he were the Messiah (the Christ), Elijah, or some other important prophet John the Baptist readily responds with “I am not” or a flat out “no”. John wants only that which God has given him to proclaim or do. Here is a wonderful bold man of God satisfied with the task he had been given, whether great or small. Frustrated by John’s answers, they finally ask him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Do not be mislead here because these snakes wanted an answer that could either give them a way up or a way out of any predicament they might find themselves in when they return with an answer their big city bosses did not like. They either wanted to be able to hang on to the coat tails of John or hang John by his own words. Politicians and pendants have not changed. “Give us something we can take back with us to increase our station with those who sent us.” So, they place the results squarely on John the Baptist himself, “What do you say about yourself?” John the Baptist’s answer is brilliant in its Scriptural simplicity and wonderfully wise in its response and sets into motion the ministry of Jesus to the world. “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’” John the Baptist was the pathfinder, the scout of God, and the testifier to the truth that was coming into the world! John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!
EXAMPLE: John the Baptist was one of those rare men who were completely comfortable in his own skin, even if it was draped in a camel coat! Few men in our day and age understand this. There is a good saying that states, “Real men know a real man. Real men follow Jesus!” John the Baptist was a real man; a man’s man. John was a man who was comfortable with godly things, speaking about righteousness, and willing to risk it all in order to affect his society and his surroundings. Not comfortable in getting all he could while he could, John knew God’s plan was bigger than his meager life and far grander than his existence. John the Baptist did not assume that which he knew he had no right to. He was a giver; a giver of himself, a giver of God’s word, and a giver of the truth. Here, in his gospel, John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!
John was a rare breed, he was literally the last of the Old Testament prophets. From this point on there would be no more prophets of God like that of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Moses or others. The reason is obvious, all the prophets pointed to the Messiah to come, as did John the Baptist. This is why John the Apostle now begins to describe for us…
II. John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus! (Vv. 24-28)
Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
1. The Pharisees were an important sect of Judaism and outnumbered the Sadducees. There were about 6,000 of them and they were most influential toward the general population. They believed in angels, the Messiah, an afterlife, and held a strict interpretation of the Law which also embraced many oral traditions. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, the Pharisees were the only religious group to survive the Jewish war of 66-70 AD, and their teachings formed the basis for the Talmudic tradition of Judaism. We discover that “some Pharisees who had been sent questioned” John by asking him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” their question to John the Baptist was essentially, “Since you have no official title or you do not claim to be anyone important, why are you baptizing?” Interestingly, John the Baptist knew exactly why they had come to him. We learn that when “he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’ (Matthew 3:7-8 NIV)” In fact, while he did not think he was anyone of importance in the scheme of things, neither were they, because he knew that even “out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham! (v. 9)” His response again is illustrative of who John was and how he viewed himself, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know.” Remember John the Apostle had already told us that Jesus “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)” The religious and social leaders of the day did not recognize John the Baptist for who he was and neither would they recognize Jesus for whom he was! John related that simply put, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” His message was one of announcement; the Messiah would come and John the Baptist would not be worthy to even do the most subservient task, such as untying the Messiah’s sandal strap! This was John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We discover that John the Baptist always kept pointing people to repentance and the Messiah to come. He wanted to prepare them for the coming message of God. If they had not prepared themselves by repenting of their sins, they would not be prepared for what God would do in their midst. In fact, we will see for ourselves that even while many of these same folks see the miracles of Jesus, hear the words of Jesus, they are not willing or ready to receive the gospel of Jesus. The same is true for our day and age. I believe it is because many of us have either been misled or have forgotten what our task in life is to be after we come to Christ ourselves. On the night Jesus was betrayed one of the last prayers he prays is this, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:18-21 NIV)” As Jesus sent his disciples to witness, he sends us as well, and just like John the Baptist our testimony is to be about Jesus!
We have seen for ourselves the testimony of John the Baptist and the testimony about Jesus! What do you testify about in your life?
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.