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– Fulfilling his mission as a witness, a forerunner – pointing others to Christ

“And this is the witness of John”

– Attracting the attention of the most significant religious leaders

“when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem”

– Addressing the fundamental question … of the ages … of the Gospel of John

Matthew Henry: “proud, self-justiciaries, that thought they needed no repentance, and therefore could not bear one that made it his business to preach repentance.”

Matthew Henry: Their motivation for this inquiry of John:

1. To satisfy their curiosity …

2. It was to show their authority. They thought that they looked great when they called him to account, whom all men counted as a prophet, and arraigned him at their bar . . .

3. It was with a design to suppress him and silence him . . .

Matthew 11:11 “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Don’t overlook the greatness of John the Baptist

I. (:19b-27) WHO ARE YOU?


A. Defining Your Identity

1. Defined Negatively – Who John is not: “and he confessed and did not deny”

a. Not the Christ

Did not put on any false airs; there were other false Messiahs who were out to deceive and gain honor for themselves

Boice: “The Jews were a people living under the dominion of Rome and they were looking with great expectation for their deliverer, as any captive people do.”

b. Not Elijah – Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 16:13-14

c. Not the Prophet – Deut 18

2. Pressed for a more definitive answer

“Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us?

What do you say about yourself?”

3. Defined Positively = Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Prophecy

– “a voice of one” – significant that “the Word” would be testified to by “a voice”

– “crying in the wilderness” – a very isolated, peculiar, striking testimony; earnestness; intensity

– “making straight the way for the Lord” – calling sinners to repentance; highlighting the gap between sinners and a holy Lord

Morris: “The imagery is that of preparing a roadway by clearing away the obstacles. This was an important process in ancient times, especially for roads in the wilderness country.”

and especially in preparation for the arrival of the king

B. Defining Your Role / Function / Ministry

1. Facing Confrontation / Opposition / Persecution from the beginning

“Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said to him, ‘Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’”

– evidently John was an effective communicator … they had gotten the message

– evidently baptizing implied authority in their minds

– gives us a glimpse into their eschatological expectations

– what do we learn immediately about the Pharisees?

2. Significance of Baptizing Only in Water – “I baptize in water”

– Huge distinction from the Ministry of Christ

– Symbolism of Water Baptism – points to the Holy Spirit – cf. John 3;

– spiritual purification from the defilement of sin and power of new life of righteousness

Westcott: “The obvious symbolism of the rite – already adopted, as it seems, at the reception of proselytes – as marking spiritual defilement in the chosen people, would make it distasteful to legalists. It was however connected with the work of Messiah, Ezek. xxxvi. 25; Isai. lii. 15; Zech. xiii. 1. Comp. Heb. x. 22.”

3. Significance of the Familiar as Opposed to the Inscrutable

“among you stands One whom you do not know”

C. Defining Your Relationship to Christ = Subservient / Humble

“It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”


– Location: “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan”

– Ministry Activity: “where John was baptizing”

Westcott: Bethany may mean “the house of the boat” as Bethabara “the house of the passage,” both equally marking the site of a ferry or ford across the Jordan.”

Matthew Henry: “some think it was the very place where Israel passed over Jordan into the land of promise under the conduct of Joshua; there was opened the way into the gospel-state by Jesus Christ.”

Hendriksen: “about thirteen miles below the Sea of Galilee and about twenty miles south-east of Nazareth” (He rejects the southern location view just north of the Dead Sea)

II. (:29-34) WHO IS JESUS?


A. Defining His Identity

1. The Lamb of God – “Behold the Lamb of God”

collective reference to OT sacrificial system; cf. Hebrews

2. The Son of God – key theme in the book

3. Supreme in Rank – “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I”

4. Eternally Existent – “for He existed before me”

B. Defining His Role / Function / Ministry

1. Redeemer – “who takes away the sin of the world”

something that John the Baptist could not do for anybody

2. Messiah – “in order that He might be manifested to Israel”

(as the promised Messiah)

Crucial role of John the Baptist in making Christ manifest in this way through his testimony

3. Baptizing in the Holy Spirit (as opposed to “baptizing in water”)

crucial ministry distinction

C. Defining His Relationship to the Triune God

1. Sent by God the Father and Marked with His Approval –

“I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him”

Symbolism of dove: purity, gentleness, graciousness; a theophany of the Spirit

“Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased”

2. Not Recognized by Men – “and I did not recognize Him”

(repeated vs. 31, 33)

3. Marked out as Authentic and Powerful by the Spirit of God

“He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”