“This is John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you? ” He did not refuse to answer, but he declared: “I am not the Messiah.” “What then? ” they asked him. “Are you Elijah? ” “I am not,” he said. “Are you the Prophet? ” “No,” he answered. “Who are you, then? ” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself? ” He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord — just as Isaiah the prophet said.” Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet? ” “I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know Him. He is the One coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” John 1:19-28
So John the Baptist (JB), the forerunner of Jesus, self-described in this passage as, “a voice of one crying out in the wilderness” (vs 23) cried SO LOUD that he caught the attention of the self-righteous religious leaders of the day! So they send a team of junoir-ranking religious leaders out from Jerusalem to investigate. In a Q & A, they ask him the questions that we see in this passage:
Q: “Who are you?”
A: “I am not the Messiah” (apparently that was the the crux of what they were asking him)
Q: “Are you Elijah?”
Q: “Are you the Prophet?”
Q: “Who then?” “We can’t go back without an answer!”
A: “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord — just as Isaiah the prophet said” (vs 23).
John was quoting Isaiah 40:3, where the forunner to the coming Messiah was prophesied about. The Jewish religous leaders were obviously watching and waiting for Messiah and the were curious about JB. “Who is this guy out by the river, making all this noise and baptising people-he’s attracting quite a crowd”, the must have asked themselves.
These leaders were used to being the authorities on the Old Testament and its teachings. They were probably less-than-thrilled with JB’s answer that his job was to announce the coming Messiah and to “make his path straight”-in other words, to prepare the way for Him. He was further asked, if “you’re not the Messiah or Elijah or the prophet, what gives you the right to baptize?” His reply both alarmed and angered the Pharisees (religous leaders): “I baptize with water,” but “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know Him. He is the One coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” (vs 27)
WHAT??? Was JB saying that the Messiah was ALREADY HERE? ABSOLUTELY!!!
Jesus the Messiah was right under the Pharisee’s pious noses and they didn’t even know it! Now before I’m too hard on these religous leaders, I have to ask myself “how many times has Jesus been were I was, and I missed Him”? Maybe He showed up at church in the form of His Holy Spirit in a way that was a little outside my personal comfort zone. Maybe He showed up in my world as a homeless guy or someone needing help or advise (Matt 25:37-40). Maybe He showed up in His word as the “Refiner’s Fire” or “Fuller’s Soap” in a way that demanded changes in my life that I was not yet willing to make? (Mal 3:2)
Now JB hit it when he said, this Guy Who’s coming-the Messiah, is Someone Who’s “sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie” (vs 27). John the Baptiser knew that the appropriate response to Messiah, Jesus, his cousin was that of humility. He considered himself to be unworthy of even taking off Jesus’ sandal (which would have, if properly done, happened as a servant or slave washed a visitor’s feet). This type of humility was out-of-the-question for these Pharisees. You see, they felt that THEY had earned the right to be honored and served not to honor and serve as servants themselves.
What positionhas your religous experience left you with? Have you earned your way to Christian stardom, worthy of other’s credence or has it brought you to a place of humility, not only towards Jesus Himself, but towards those He reaches out to?
You see, His model for leadership was not in demanding humility but in humble service! Do we not see Him modelling this very thing the night before He dies on the cross for and to the very disciples that would both betray and deny Him later on that night in John 13:1-17?
Jesus said, “I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:16-17)
Think about it!