The Voice (John 1:19-23)

(Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent Priest and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He Said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord”’, as the Prophet Isaiah said.” ~John 1:19-23)

We have completed the prologue to the Gospel According to John, the first 18 verses are basically a summary of the entire message being proclaimed in this gospel, that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God; God in a human body. We were also introduced to the witnesses; the writer John who never refers to himself as John but only as “the apostle whom Jesus loved,” John the Baptist, and the other disciples of Christ. Verse 19 begins with the gospel following the prologue and we are introduced to the Harold of God the one sent by God to prepare the way for the King, the Son of God. Whenever the writer says John he is never referring to himself but John the Baptist. John the Baptist was a very interesting fellow; he had no cares for the things of this world, the riches and lust of it all. He lived in the wilderness and wore the clothes that he could come up with (camels hair and with a leather belt ~Mark 1:6) and the food he could come up with living out in the wilderness, (locusts and wild honey ~Mark 1:6). There was nothing to strange about this for there were many extremely poor people in Judea eating locusts, and wild honey, the point here is that this was the clothing and diet of an extremely poor man, and was not who the Priest and Pharisees would have expected to be the Harold for the Messiah, they were expecting someone like themselves. John was in the wilderness (preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins ~Mark 1:4). People were coming out to see and hear him in droves being baptized; many thought he could be the Messiah. The religious elite of the day said we can’t have this, we have to put a stop to it, they didn’t want to upset the status quo, they liked things the way they were, so they went out to question John. So Priest and Levites came from Jerusalem, Levites were there as guards to protect the Priest as a security force. They asked him, “Who are you?” John knowing full well what they were really asking was. Are you claiming to be the Messiah? So he flat out told them, “I am not the Christ.” Christ is the Greek word for Messiah. So then they asked, well if you aren’t the Christ what are you doing out here, what business do you have preaching? They asked: “Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not”. “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Why would they ask him this? They knew from the Prophet Malachi that God would send Elijah prior to sending the Lord as a Harold. So why did John deny it when the asked him, “Are you Elijah?” Because he wasn’t, they were looking for a resurrected Elijah, the actual Elijah from the Old Testament, they misinterpreted the scripture. He wasn’t the resurrected Elijah, he was one sent in the spirit of Elijah, he was like Elijah, and he had a message like Elijah. The disciples of Jesus asked Him about John and He had many good things to say about him, (“And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” ~Matthew 11:14). The Prophet they asked John about, I don’t have an answer for, and most scholars don’t agree on it; it could be a second reference to the Messiah, or Elijah or some other Prophet. But either way he neither denied it nor would even call himself someone great, that’s what I admire about John. So at this point they pinned him down; “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” Now John could have said anything here and most men would have but not John, that is why I admire him. He could have said, “I am the son of Zacharias” a great Priest they would all have known of (Ref. Luke 1). He could have said, “I was filled by the Holy Spirit from birth and sent by God” (Ref. Luke 1). He even could have said, “I am the greatest man to ever live,” Jesus said of him (“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” ~Matthew 11:11). He could have said all of these great and wonderful things about himself, putting himself above these Priests from the sect of the Pharisees and said all these great things about himself, but just like in his dress and the food he ate, he didn’t care anything about worldly notoriety or fame. What did he say about himself? He just quoted Isaiah 40:3, (“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” ~Isaiah 40:3, Mark 1:3, John 1:23).

What do I get out of these five scriptures in the gospel of John, as we begin? John the Baptist got it, he understood, he knew his place, he knew it wasn’t about him, it was about God, that this is God’s creation not ours it is his. What did John know that I hope one day will become what I know down to the fiber of my being? He knew that he was an unprofitable servant, he had simply done what was his duty to do, he knew as we will see later on that he wasn’t even worthy to untie the shoes of Jesus Christ much less mention himself in the same sentence. He knew the truth of Luke 17:10, (“when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” ~Luke 17:10). The more and more I study God’s word, the more He reveals to me in His scripture, the more I know I don’t know anything. I am just beginning to understand what Christ did on that Cross on Calvary, He took the punishment for every single human being that has ever lived or ever will live, for every single sin no matter how awful, there is only one sin that is unpardonable and that is to deny Jesus Christ as Lord! People including myself like to think that they are somehow better than someone else, that somehow we deserve Heaven more than someone else. I am no better than any man, women, or child that has ever lived, that lives now or ever will live. We are all “unprofitable servants”, we are slaves bought with a price, the price of the precious blood of God.

Mike Peek