The Testimony of the Voice
Text: John 1:19-28
As we step into the historical section of this gospel, we leave behind one of the most glorious sections of all the Bible. I know I didn’t do it justice, but I trust the Lord has strengthened in your mind the basic themes and truths that are important with regard to to person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour of men.
I remind you that John’s purpose for writing is to get people to believe and be saved. If I tell you something that happened, it’s likely that you may want another party to testify of what I said and to verify the statements.
As we step into the narrative of Jesus’ ministry, that’s precisely what John does. He lays hold of a testimony of what he wishes to substantiate concerning the person of Christ.
v19 – “This is the record of John…” referring to John the Baptist. So as John gets you to believe, he gathers verifiable evidence that those whom John wrote to could substantiate, and so John the Baptist becomes the first testimony to verify the claims about Christ.
Who was John the Baptist? Last of the OT prophets and the greatest that ever lived (Matt 11:11). And to us that might not seem like much, but to a Jew it would be a remarkable statement.
He wasn’t the father of the nation like Abraham, he didn’t give the Law like Moses, he didn’t lead in battle like Joshua, he didn’t reign like David or Solomon. He had no wealth, lived as a nomad, and existed in obscurity for most of his life.
He did, however, have an interesting birth, the details of which are given by Luke; how he got his name, leaping in the womb at the news of Mary, how both parents were full of the Holy Ghost, how he was full of the Spirit, etc.
Luke also records when he burst unto the scene in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar when the Word of God comes to him while he’s in the wilderness and he starts to preach, and Matt 3:5 records the multitudes that went to hear him. They hadn’t had a message from God through a prophet in 400 years, and here he is announcing the very thing they’ve been looking for, the Messiah.
But John the writer is not interested in the birth of John the Baptist like Luke, or where he lived and what he ate, or what he was up to in his 30 years of preparation. What matters is what he declared.
What follows from v19-37 is the record of three different days, and this is rare. The only passages close to this are those around the Saviour’s death and resurrection. Otherwise, we never know what exactly is going on from one day to the next, we just know stuff is happening.
First day v19 – John knows he’s there and confesses it to the Jews.
Second day v29 – John says ‘Behold the Lamb’ to all the people in general.
Third day v35 – John says Behold the Lamb’ to his disciples to get them to follow Him.
And so the gospel writer picks up with John and again to use him as a testimony to that fact that he was NOT the Messiah, and to reveal the true nature of the Messiah…
I. THE INDIVIDUALS WHO APPROACH HIM
“Jews” – the enemies of John’s Gospel. They were the hostile religious establishment who hate truth and will soon be the enemies of Christ, and of all their followers.
“priests” – they were quite common. These aren’t the Sadducees, Scribes, or Pharisees.
“Levites” – also worked in the Temple doing whatever needed done, even acting like Temple security.
But they are sent by the Pharisees v24. And these guys are the main problem. The main haters of truth. Priests and Levites got converted, but not many Pharisees.
II. THE INVESTIGATION THEY ATTEMPT WITH HIM
v19 “who art thou” – i.e. Are you the Messiah? “And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not” Luke 3:15. While he kept talking about someone else, masses were following him and everyone began wondering if he was the Messiah.
v20 The greek reflects strong language of John’s denial here. ‘denied not’ i.e. he did not refuse to admit that he was not the Christ’ The idea is, ‘He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely’. When his disciples see everyone following Christ, they ask him this again: Jn 3:25-28
v21- Why ask if he’s Elijah? Because of the promise in Malachi 4:5-6. All the Jewish leaders grasped the prophecy of Elijah coming before Messiah, but they falsely assumed it would actually be Elijah. And so John denies being Elijah, because he wasn’t. But Jesus later affirms that while John was John and not Elijah, he was the fulfillment of the prophecy Matt 11:14; 7:12; Mk 9:13.
“Art thou that prophet?” – Taken from Deut 18:15 “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”. Peter identifies this as Christ in Acts 3:22, and Stephen in Acts 7:37.
v22-23 – John is so careful not to talk or boast about himself, that he just replies with scripture and the Isaiah 40:3 prophecy. What humility. If he had said he was the greatest prophet he would have been right, but he answers with scripture.
Notice how the Isaiah prophecy was not fulfilled ‘literally’ in the sense that he exalted valleys and flattened mountains. His message of repentance brought up the lowest of society, brought down the proud of society, and cleared the religious clutter and hypocrisy from peoples lives to make a highway for the truth of the Lamb of God.
III. THE INSIGHT HE ASSIGNS TO THEM
v25-27 – They make to much of the external. They thought his baptizing symbolized more than it did. That it showed he thought he was Messiah or Elijah.
John is essentially saying, you need to be far more concerned about the one who deals with hearts than you are about me. The one who will give a spiritual baptism, real purification, and genuine regeneration, because He is the Messiah.
Close – I wonder what external things you put weight on? I wonder what it is that you cling to? Is it mere religion like these Jews? Is it your baptism? Good works?
John’s entire ministry was to get men and women to look to Christ, and that’s what you need to do.