Lesson 6


The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

1:19 This is John's testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"

1:20 He confessed, and didn't deny, but he confessed, "I am not the Christ."

1:21 They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not."

"Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No."

1:22 They said therefore to him, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

1:23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said."

1:24 The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. 1:25 They asked him, "Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

1:26 John answered them, "I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don't know, 1:27 he who comes after me, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to untie." 1:28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


 Today's Lesson

Representatives of the religious leadership questioned the Baptist. They ask him a series of questions that show the level of concern that they must have felt for this wild man who was drawing people out into the wilderness to experience a message from God. John the Baptist knows that they are coming to question him and God has prepared him with the answers that he would need.

 

Who are you? I am not the Christ. Are you Elijah? I am not. Are you the prophet? No. The three questions represent three expectations the Jewish people had at the time. They expected God to send the Christ, literally "the anointed one." The Christ was expected to deliver the nation from the gentiles and to lead the people to glory. They also were expecting Elijah. Elijah had been taken up to heaven and had not experienced physical death. They expected him to return and lead the people of God back to the old ways. The Prophet was an expected figure that would herald the Messiah. He is prophesied in Daniel 18 and associated with a time of national resurgence.

 

The response of John the Baptist was that he was none of these figures. Rather, he is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord." His answer did not satisfy them. If he was not one of these great figures of prophecy, why was he shaking things up with a new message of repentance and baptism? Why do you baptize, John?

 

And, oddly enough, he does not answer them here (though we will soon read the answer to this question). His answer must have given them some pause, though. In effect, don't be concerned with me, be concerned that one greater than me has arrived. One stands among you even now whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

 

This is what happens when man cross-examines God. We often get answers that we would not expect and can only barely understand. They went seeking answers to a mystery and found a deeper mystery. Demanding answers from God is rarely productive. We do not understand because we refuse to listen to what God has already plainly said.

 

Rather than demanding answers of God, we should ask him, "Father, show me again that thing which I have refused to see." Or, "Father, what question should I really be asking?" God does not hide Himself. Just like Adam in the garden, we hide ourselves from Him.

 

He has sent His prophets into the wilderness to cry out His words because it is in the wilderness that we have been lost to ourselves. When you are in the depth of your wilderness, when you are feel farthest from Him, listen. You will hear from nearby the voice of one calling in the wilderness … for you.

 

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