John’s account of Jesus’s life is the only gospel where John the baptist does not have a suffix and is plainly referred to as John. Like the other writers, John did not feel the need to distinguish between himself and the baptist. But because of the works that Christ performed in John’s life, which made John the baptist the other John in all the New Testament writings. The following are the conversation between the other John and the Jewish leaders where he denied comparisons to three of the most famous Old Testament figures.
With the growing popularity of John, the Jewish leaders could not ignore this voice crying out of the wilderness. They sent groups of priests, Levites and pharisees to enquire about the origins and the purpose of John’s ministry. John did not hoard any of the God given glory but freely confessed about the Messiah. The people were expecting a Messiah and were even ready to accept John as their Messiah but when both John and Jesus revealed the true identity of the Messiah to them, they did not want to believe.
The people had built up an image in their minds of a Messiah being a hermit, living a secluded life. They saw prophets of the olden days not mingling with their countrymen and living off the land. Seeing the appearance of John, a lot of people were attracted to him as he represented something different. Unlike the well mannered priests and pharisees of the temple, both John’s appearance and words were rough and unpolished but still were able to cut through the people’s heart. This fiery gospel sometimes sways people in a wrong direction.
Such is the works of the evil one who will try his best to blind the eyes of everyone to the truth. He will be happy when people blindly follow great men such as John but can’t bear the thought of one lost soul finding its Maker. But John never took any credit and kept testifying about Jesus being the Messiah that Israel so desperately longed for.
The prophet Malachi had predicted that Elijah would make an appearance before the Messiah’s coming. Perhaps this is why the interviewers from Jerusalem wanted to know if John is the Elijah.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.Malachi 4:5
People still expected Elijah who was taken up by God, to come and restore all things before the day of the Lord, but John denied being the returning Elijah. If we read about the appearance of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8, he too wore similar clothes to John and lived a secluded life outside the city.
While the comparisons to Elijah would have been at a superficial level, God had a different purpose when He called John to be the Elijah who was to come before the Messiah. At this time even John did not know the purpose for which he was sent by God, which was only revealed to him later when he was baptizing Jesus.
There were others who were expecting the Prophet that Moses prophesied about.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.Deuteronomy 18:15
However, during Peter’s long speech in the book of Acts, it is revealed to everyone that Jesus was the Prophet that Moses had talked about. The people did not know the significance of these three figures, and were looking at the outward appearance rather than the spiritual ramifications.
Seeing John deny all their assumptions, the investigators asked him for an answer to take back to their superiors.
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 1:22-23
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
John the Baptist
The pharisees who had been sent were curious as to why John baptized his followers if he was neither the Messiah, 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 straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”John 1:26-27
John didn’t give a reason for the baptisms but only spoke about the one who was to come after him. John’s ministry was on the opposite side of the Jordan. While all of this was happening, Jesus’s ministry was starting on the other side of the river Jordan in the region of Galilee.
Every time there is a prophet claiming to be from God, it was the responsibility of the Jerusalem leaders to verify whether his speech contradicted the scriptures. In those days social media could not be used to assess this speech remotely and an envoy was sent to question the self proclaimed prophet. Not sure if these men from Jerusalem ever certified anyone as being one from God but in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke we see Jesus calling them the killer of prophets.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.Luke 13:34
If our hearts are not in line with God’s will then we are being ruled by another force. There is no middle ground when it comes to our stance in this ever-waging spiritual warfare. If we don’t grow closer to God we are actually being driven away from Him. The pharisees and the priests spent their entire lives inhaling the word of God and would be able to recite the entire scriptures, something even the most fervent believer of today would not be able to do. But they still could not recognise the Messiah standing right in front of them just as it was foretold in their scriptures. They had stopped growing in God and unknowingly allowed satan to rule over them. In the same way, if we rely on others to help us decipher what is from God and what is not, it means that we ourselves are not close to God. We need to take our questions directly to God and let Him alone be our Guide.
V20: The people thought that John was the Messiah but were never ready to accept Jesus as the Messiah, Why? V21: We all believe that John is Elijah then why does he deny being Elijah? V22: Who is the Prophet that the Jews were waiting for? V24: Why did the Jewish leaders send different groups of people? What does it say about us when we send our leaders to verify the work of God?