WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT THE RECORD OF JOHN?
"And this is the record of JohnÖ" is the way this next section begins. May we ask the question, "What do you believe about the record of John?"
For anything to be worthy of being a record, it certainly must meet some rigid requirements: Is it factual? Is it of any historical importance? Does it meet a need or have worthiness? Does it clarify or in any way reveal truth?
The word "record" is synonymous with the word "witness." John boldly announces to the priests and Levites that he is a faithful and true witness to that which is asked of him.
I. WHAT WAS JOHN ASKED? vv. 19-22
Certainly, all the questions asked of John are of importance, else they would not be preserved in Godís Word. Of equal importance are those who are asking the questions, and the purpose for which the questions are asked.
THE PEOPLE ASKING THE QUESTIONS
The Jews sent the priests and the Levites to ask John who he was. John came on the scene as a "Baptizer" and did not have the religious credentials that the Jews supposed he should have had to authorize him to be a religious leader.
The priests, as recorded in Malachi, lost their respect due to their neglect, corruption, and false teachings. By the time of the New Testament, the priests were being overshadowed by the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Jews that commissioned the priests and the Levites to question John may have been the Scribes and the Pharisees (v. 24).
The priests and the Levites are spoken of often in the Bible as if they were practically the same. Their close relationship is traceable to their common origin. The priests and Levites were of the tribe of Levi, with the priests coming from Aaronís lineage in the tribe of Levi.
THE PURPOSE OF ASKING THE QUESTIONS
There are several possible reasons for the religious ambassadors questioning John. It could have been a sincere desire to determine if the predicted Messiah had come. Also, it could have been out of fear that an impostor had appeared to invade the religious stronghold of the Scribes, Pharisees, priests, and Levites. Their questions addressed the possibility of either the Messiah, a prophet, or Elijah being in the personage of John.
John clearly stated that he was NOT the Christ. Just who was this person we call John? John had a major role in the economy of God as a subject of Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 40). Johnís birth was within the timing and purpose of God (Luke 1:7, 13); he was "filled with the Holy Spirit even from his motherís womb" (Luke 1:15); he was a man "sent from God" (John 1:6); he was to prepare the way of the Lord (Matthew 3:3). John was granted the special privilege of being the forerunner of Christ and of baptizing Him.
The term charisma is used to describe a person having a dynamic personality, or some other quality that attracts. John attracted the attention of large crowds, of whom he would baptize the converts. But instead of him being a charismatic figure, Johnís commanding righteousness drew the large crowds. It was that reputation that captured the attention of the religious leaders, causing them to inquire of him.
Borrowing from Old Testament Prophecy, the religious leaders were looking for "Christ," "Elijah," and "that Prophet." John the Baptist answers "NO" to each of the questions attempting to identify him as one or the other. They finally ask, "Who art thou?" (v. 22)
III. WHAT WAS JOHNíS ANSWER? vv. 23-34
Johnís answer was a clear reference to Isaiah 40:3. He knew that he was prophetically the person referred to in Isaiahís prophecy. His answer was a Biblical answer, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Elias."
HE CONTRASTED HIMSELF WITH CHRIST
Again, he did not claim to be the Messiah. He claimed rather to be "the voice of the Lord crying in the wilderness." There is a distinction in the usage of "Word" and "voice." So much is the distinction that it may be better to say that the words are in contrast to each other.
The proper noun "Word" transcends time and is eternal. The written Word is forever settled in Heaven. Christ the living Word is never in contradiction to the written Word. The Word is truth and truth never changes.
The "voice," referring to John, was limited to a certain moment of time for a particular, passing purpose. His voice was a cry to announce the beginning of the dispensation of Grace. This beginning coincided with the ministry of Christ.
The priests and Levites questioned Johnís authority for baptizing if he were neither Christ, Elias, or that Prophet. John made no attempt to authenticate himself before his interrogators; instead he wished to pass on the glory to the One he was introducing. While he was having a Baptismal Service, and being questioned, he said, "I baptize with water: but there stinted one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whoís shoeís latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (vv. 26-27).
John made it evident that he was not appearing to put himself in the limelight nor to make headlines in the Jerusalem Press. He was very determined to focus entirely upon the One he called "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." All the sacrifices, all the slain lambs, from Abelís lamb to the desired best sacrificial lamb of Malachiís day, were a bleeding testimony pointing to this Lamb. What a contrast John the Baptist was making when comparing himself to the Christ or the Messiah. It is as though he was saying, "To God be the glory."
Our ministries should be designed to radiate Godís glory instead of our own. John demonstrated great humility, instead of pride, as he served the Lord. As the God-called preacher stands to proclaim the "unsearchable riches" of the Grace of God, or the singer stands preparing hearts for the Word of God, they need to have the spirit of John the Baptist. May we decrease as God increases!
HE CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE CHRIST
John continues to further identify the Lord by saying that he witnessed the Spirit descending like a dove on the Son of God. John told them, "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 baptized with the Holy Ghost" (v. 33). John says that he had seen exactly that take place when he baptized Jesus, and by doing so he was able to identify that He truly was the Son of God.
Material From Dr. Max Alderman, Ph.D