John 1:19-34

I.                  The Testimony of John, John 1:19-34

II.               V19a, Who is John the Baptist?

A.                John the Baptist was a man “…clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matthew 3:4). He came preaching in the wilderness a baptism of repentance, in hopes that it would prepare people’s hearts to receive their promised Christ (Greek word for Messiah, or Anointed One). This baptism is different than Christian baptism.

B.                He was everything you expected a hardcore prophet to be. He lived the Nazarite vow and would not drink anything that was a product of the grape vine. He lived a life of self-denial and ascetism. He was a bold man not afraid to rebuke even the most holy looking of men. He came from the High Priest family on his mother’s side and the priestly family of Abija on the other side. He was what everyone would expect a prophet to be, and maybe what they were expecting the Christ to be like as well.

C.                John the Baptist’s character can be summarized by one word; humility. He was humble in every aspect, from the way he described his calling, to the way he lived and dressed, to how he chose to point others away from himself and to Christ, and finally when he told his disciples that he must decrease so that Christ could increase.

III.           V19-23, The Confession of John the Baptist

A.                V19a “Now this is the testimony of John” This whole section (19-34) is the testimony of John the Baptist. He gives testimony who is the Christ and that his sole purpose in life was to give this testimony.

1.                 V19b, The Jews sent priests and Levites to investigate John, being that John was a son of Aaron it was only fitting that fellow priests should be the ones to investigate him. These priests were from Jerusalem, envoys of the high counsel of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Religious Governing Body. “Who are you?” was their question?

B.                V20 “I am not the Christ”, In Luke 3:15 we see that the people were wondering in their hearts if John was the Christ or not. John the Baptist sets this straight, and John the Apostle sets this straight in case there are still Jews confused about this. John could have just said no, but he clearly states “I am not the Christ” so there is no confusion about this.

1.                 “Observe how emphatically this is here expressed concerning John: He confessed, and denied not, but confessed; it denotes his vehemence and constancy in making this protestation. Note, Temptations to pride, and assuming that honour to ourselves which does not belong to us, ought to be resisted with a great deal of vigour and earnestness.” –Matthew Henry

2.                 “His disowning himself to be the Christ is called his confessing and not denying Christ. Note, Those that humble and abase themselves thereby confess Christ, and give honour to him; but those that will not deny themselves do in effect deny Christ,” –Matthew Henry

C.                V21, They asked if he was Elijah. They knew that the Old Testament (Mal. 4:5-6) prophesized that Elijah would come ahead of the Messiah, so it was a logical question. Here we see that John was not physically Elijah. That said Jesus calls him Elijah. This is because he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, he fulfilled the role of Elijah. It is possible the Elijah and The Prophet will still be coming ahead of the Lord, only it will be ahead of His Second coming. Or maybe it will just be another person in the spirit and power of Elijah.

D.                V22, They had to give an answer to the Counsel of the Sanhedrin. They were sent on an official mission to determine who John was, was he someone who had the authority to be doing what he was doing.

1.                 It is a good thing to test people, especially teachers. What is wrong is to have the heart that you are holier and better than everyone else, testing with a sense of spiritual superiority. If you think there is nothing else for you to learn then you won’t test correctly. If you test like this you are probably a very legalistic Christian, with no one able to pass your test. You might miss out on the Lord’s anointed so be careful not to go out testing with intentions to condemn. Test every spirit, just do so in a humble and teachable spirit.

E.                V23, Finally John answers their question. He uses Scripture to back up his calling, and it is from Scripture that his authority to preach and baptize is found. God is his authority. He doesn’t claim his priestly family line, or his many years of likely study. He just says he is the one who is called to prepare the way of the Lord. John was one of the few prophets that never performed a miracle, his only miracle was preaching the Word of God and seeing the Spirit fall on Jesus when he baptized Him. His only justification for his authority came from the scriptures alone.

1.                 I think we can take a note from John the Baptist. We should be able to find our calling in the Word of God. God has a calling and purpose for everyone, and you can find yours in the Word.

2.                 Another note, we can continue the ministry of John the Baptist. We can preach repentance, except this time pointing them to the Baptism of Christ, and prepare the way of the Lord for His Second coming.

F.                 V24, The Pharisees were a strict sect in the Sanhedrin known for being zealous for the Law, conservative in their view of scripture and completely set apart from all sin and anything close to it. They took small parts of the Law and blew them out of proportion, such as not working on the Sabbath. Unfortunately they left undone much of the weightier parts of the Law such as justice, mercy and faith.

1.                 Why is it specially noted here that the Pharisees were present? Because they had heard the testimony of John but did not receive it, the testimony of John that the Christ had come, the son of God. The Pharisees are largely responsible for later putting the Christ to death, but they knew better right from the start… or at least they should have.

2.                 As Christians we call this legalism. It’s the type of Christians that will criticize you for wearing a hat in church, but will never lift a finger to help provide clothes to the homeless. Legalism can be defined as; the over-emphasizing of relatively unimportant things while at the same time leaving out the biggest thing, love.

G.                V25, by what grounds do you baptize. You are no one special!!

1.                 “The Jews in John’s day practiced baptism. It was an outgrowth of ceremonial washings. But the Jews of that time typically reserved baptism for Gentiles who wanted to become Jews. So to submit to John’s baptism, a Jew had to identify with the Gentiles. This was a genuine sign of repentance.” –David Guzik

2.                 John was more concerned that peoples hearts be correct. He wanted them to wash their hearts and not just their bodies. The Pharisees were into outward ceremonial washings, John’s baptism was about washing your heart and getting it right so that you could more easily be ready to give it to the Savoir. The Pharisees were offended at the thought of having to be baptized, since they considered themselves perfect, but it was the Pharisees who needed John’s baptism more then anyone else. Perhaps this is partly why God sent John, to reach out to the priests and Pharisees… after all this was prophesized to be part of his calling (Mal. 3:3).

a)               What made John’s baptism so radical is that he was calling everyone to repent and be baptized, not just Gentiles. This meant regardless of who you were or are John was calling you a sinner. This would have been the most offensive to the Pharisees.

3.                 You don’t have to be anyone special to serve God, you just have to be called.

IV.            V26-28, John’s Baptism

A.                V26, John answers their question as to why he is baptizing. It is because there is One among them who they do not know, it is this One that John has been called to prepare the way for and to testify of. Part of John preparing the way for the Messiah was identifying who that Messiah was, this is why Jesus had to be baptized… so that John could testify that He had seen the Messiah. John’s baptism was one of repentance, making the hearts of the people ready to receive the Messiah, but it was also what He had been called to do in order to identify who the Messiah was…. Since God had told Him the one that he baptizes and the Spirit descends and remains on is the Christ, the Messiah.

1.                 They did not know the One, even though the One was among them. They did not recognize who their Messiah was even though He was right there among the people of Israel.

B.                V27, Even though the Messiah would come after John came John makes it clear that the One who comes after him ranks above him, because the One whom John was preparing the way for was God Himself in the flesh.

1.                 The Nelson’s Study Bible Notes (NKJV) say regarding this “Undoing the sandal strap was the job of a slave. The Jewish Talmud says, “Everything that a servant will do for his master a scholar shall perform for his teacher, except the menial task of loosing his sandal thong.” Thus John was saying that “Jesus Christ is the living Lord and I am the voice, His servant and slave. Actually, I’m not even worthy to be His slave.”

2.                 The humility of John is amazing, and he shows that he has the heart of a servant here. This is what made John so great of a man. His humility towards God and his heart to be the slave of God, even though he felt unworthy to be even that.

V.                V29-34 John gives Testimony

A.                V29, John’s entire life had been leading up to this one point. This is why he came, to direct the people and prepare them for their Savior and to identify Him when He came. John tells us everything we need to know of Jesus in one short sentence.

1.                 “Behold, the Lamb of God” Look, there He is! Behold is to look in wonder and amazement. The Lamb of God is reference to the Old Testament in two ways;

a)               First it referenced one of the Messianic Titles, meaning that this was the promised Messiah.

b)               Second, it references the picture of the temple sacrifices and tells us prophetically part of what the role of the Messiah would be. Being called the Lamb of God meant the Messiah was perfect, without blemish and whole, an acceptable sacrifice for sin. It tells us part of who Jesus is and why He came in the first place. Remember I told you in our first study that the entire Gospel of Christ is told in just the first chapter.

2.                 “…who takes away the sin of the world!” Not only do we know from the title “The Lamb of God” what Jesus would do, John here spells it out very clearly. Remember this is the first official appearance of the Messiah, and already His death and His sacrifice through His death to take away the sins of the world has been alluded to. God did not want there to be confusion in this matter, He has told us plainly the gospel since the beginning.

B.                V30, John confirms that this is the One whom he had been preaching would come, the One that He was telling people to repent in order to be ready to receive. He identifies Jesus as the One more worthy of honor than himself.

C.                V31, Here John says he did not know Him, in the sense he did not know who the Messiah was… even though he had probably met Jesus before in his life, he didn’t know Him as the Messiah.

1.                 “…but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” John identifies the reason as to why he came baptizing, so that the Christ would be revealed to Israel and so that he (John) could be the one to identify him through baptism. This is why Christ told John to permit him to baptize Himself, so that He would be identified to His people as the One.

D.                V32, “John bore witness” Although we often think of John’s important role as a Baptist, his more important role was to bear witness, give account that which he has seen with his own eyes as true. The Bible doesn’t ask for blind faith, it tells us there were eyewitnesses to these accounts and here John is laid forth as one of them.

1.                 “The Spirit did not move him at times, as Samson (Jdg. 13:25), but at all times. The Spirit was given to him without measure; it was his prerogative to have the Spirit always upon him, so that he could at no time be found either unqualified for his work himself or unfurnished for the supply of those that seek to him for his grace.” –Matthew Henry

a)               The prophets of old would only have the Spirit upon them at times, but the Spirit descended on Christ and remained… never to be removed. God’s Spirit was constantly upon Christ, and it was upon Him without measure… or in other words in an unlimited way.

E.                V33, God had already laid it on John’s heart that Jesus was the Messiah, but God had told John ahead of time that when he saw the Spirit descend and remain on a man that this was the Messiah. This sign was confirmation to John on who Jesus was and he testifies to this that he saw it with his own eyes. This Jesus was the Messiah, and was the one who would bring the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

1.                 “See what sure grounds he went upon in his designation of the person of the Messiah. God had before given him a sign, as he did to Samuel concerning Saul: “On whom thou shalt see the Spirit descend, that same is he.’’ This not only prevented any mistakes, but gave him boldness in his testimony. When he had such assurance as this given him, he could speak with assurance. When John was told this before, his expectations could not but be very much raised; and, when the event exactly answered the prediction, his faith could not but be much confirmed: and these things are written that we may believe.” –Matthew Henry

a)               John the Baptist could be bold in what he was saying was true and to whom he was pointing to as the Messiah, since God had told him the sign ahead of time and had then confirmed it to him.

2.                 In the same way that people were covered in water after they repented, John’s baptism was symbolic of the covering of the Holy Spirit that Jesus would enable those who believed in Him to receive. Without believing in Jesus and receiving eternal life and forgiveness for your sins, you cannot be covered and filled with the Holy Spirit, since God will not unite Himself with sin. Once you accept Jesus, God is free to send His Spirit into you.

F.                 V34, John claims that with his own eyes he has seen, and will testify to his death, that this is the Son of God. An eyewitness is a more sure witness then a second hand witness, this is whom the Bible lays forth as witnesses that this is the truth, eye-witnesses. The Son of God is another Messianic Title, but it emphasizes the divine nature that the Messiah has. So here in the first chapter we see that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one who will provide the sacrificial death to take away the sins of the world… but that also the Messiah was God Himself. This is the testimony of John, he says a lot in a very small amount of words, but the words that he uses are words packed full of symbolic language that would trigger in the minds of the hearers scriptures from the Old Testament.

1.                 Jesus being baptized meant God, although without sin Himself, would identify Himself publically with sinners since baptism was a custom normally only done to Gentile sinners who wanted to convert.

VI.            Conclusion

A.                John the Baptist was a hardcore man of God. He lived a life of self-denial and lived for one purpose only, to direct people to Jesus Christ.

B.                John confessed that he was not the Christ, but that he was the forerunner of the Christ and gave scripture as his only qualification and base of authority to do so. He never performed any miracle, his only authority came from the Bible.

C.                We can learn a lot from John the Baptist. We should find the basis for our calling in the Scriptures, we should live a life that always points people to Jesus and we can prepare the way for the second coming of the Messiah.

D.                John’s Baptism was different then Christian Baptism. It was symbolic of repenting and getting your heart ready to receive the Messiah when He came. It also was what God desired to use to identify who His Son was publically. Jesus being baptized meant God, although without sin himself, would identify Himself publically with sinners.

E.                John gave a reliable public testimony that this was the guy they had been waiting for. That this was the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the anointed Messiah who had come to deliver God’s people from their sins. God made this very clear to us, He was not trying to hide the coming and purpose of His Son, and he was not trying to hide who the Christ is…. Jesus of Nazareth.

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