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Pointing the Way to Jesus

April 19, 2009

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:19-28)

The priests and Levites were sent by “the Jews of Jerusalem” to check John the Baptist out. They wondered on what authority he was baptizing. They asked him who he was and John was quick to point out (emphatically) that he was not the Christ. The priests and Levites remember that Elijah had not died. They remembered the prophecy in Malachi 4:5–“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” They wondered if John was the “Elijah” or the “Prophet” who was to come.

John denied being either Elijah or the Prophet. When asked who he was he replied “I am the voice of one calling in the desert”. The priests and Levites would have understood that John was referring to the imagery in Isaiah 40 (verse three specifically) which has in mind the near eastern custom of sending representatives ahead to prepare the way for the visit of a monarch.

In all of John’s responses he removes attention from himself and points to Jesus, the one who comes after John “the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (verse 27). Jesus later confirms that John was the fulfilment of the prophecy in Malechi 4:5 (the Elijah or Prophet who was to come) I think John denied being the Elijah or the Prophet because he wanted all the attention to go to Jesus. He wanted all the emphasis to be on pointing others to Jesus.

We can all learn from John that we need to get out of the way and point others toward Christ. We must remember that it is not about me or you; it is about Jesus. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). Praise the Lord that he has made a way for us to be reconciled to God!

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