John 1:19-28 A life of truth speaks louder than any miracle

John 1:19-28  

This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


The call of John the Baptist was one of a kind; he was neither deliverer nor prophet. He never performed miracles, but was proclaimed as the greatest of those born of women. John’s greatness was due to his uncompromising dedication to the truth and to his call as forerunner of Christ. John the Baptist shows us that a life of truth speaks louder than any miracle.


And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

When John was asked of his identity by a delegation sent from the Jews, he affirmed his commitment towards the Christ and did not repudiate Him. To confess can also be translated as to commit oneself to something. To deny means to disclaim association with. In saying, “I am not the Christ”, John clarified that He was not the Christ but was committed to being an instrument of Christ’s ministry. Subsequently, they asked if he was Elijah who had come to restore all things as his rugged lifestyle and message of repentance resembled that of Elijah who was predicted to return (Malachi 4:5). Finally, they asked if he was the prophet whom Moses predicted would come to minister to them (Deuteronomy 18:15,18). John answered as being none of them.

I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’

John refused to be identified with the popular figures of the last days. But he chose to be associated with the “voice” which calls for the preparation of a way for the Lord in the desert. John quoted Isaiah 40:3 as referring to himself. In the context of Isaiah’s words, he heard a voice calling for the leveling of a path (make straight the way…) through the eastern desert (wilderness of Judaea). It is through this leveled path that the people return home from exile. In the context of John, Christ will pioneer this return towards the promise of a new heaven and new earth. John the Baptist was Christ’s forerunner called to prepare a people to receive the Christ as Lord (Luke 1:17).

I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know

Someone representing the Pharisees asked in whose authority John was baptizing. For the Pharisees, baptism was a rite for the end day community. Ezekiel 36:25 says,

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

John had supreme authority for his baptismal ministry, because he was sent by God to introduce someone much greater than himself. John underscores his own unimportance with respect to the One whom you do not know by saying that he is unworthy even to perform such a lowly service as untying his sandal-strap for Him. In fact, by recognizing his calling and discharging it, John’s ministry was far more honorable than any other ministry.


Honor comes from knowing one’s calling and fulfilling it with utmost dedication. Some people never thought they could amount to anything. Hence, they spent their whole life trying to be someone they are not. Although John’s calling was obscured and one of a kind, but he discharged his calling with utmost dedication. John never tried to be Elijah or one of the popular prophets – he knew who he was from the start. Drawing from John’s mindset, we must not aspire to be CEO’s just because being a CEO makes one appear glamorous and powerful. We must never force our children to be someone that we never got to be. Instead, we must help our children discover their calling based on their gifting and passion. Jesus commended John the Baptist, “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” (Matthew 11:11). The greatest success is in fulfilling the call and purpose that God has ordained for us in our ministry, career and family. On the Day of Judgment, many who are perceived of as obscure and insignificant will be honored among all. Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matthew 19:30).

A word of truth spoken is greater than the most powerful miracle. Many accorded worth and honor to those who could perform great miracles like that of Elijah and Moses. John was influential and powerful during his time as he was referred to as a type of Elijah. Jesus commended John as the greatest among those born of women and He added, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.” (Matthew 11:14). Yet John performed no miraculous signs! When Jesus went away beyond Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, many readily believed Him there because John spoke the truth and prepared the people to receive Christ. John 10:41-42 says,

Many came to Him (Jesus) and were saying, “While John performed no (miraculous) sign, yet everything John said about this man was true.” Many believed in Him there.

Many believers seek spiritual and charismatic gifts supposing these could make them more effective ministers. Yet a word of truth spoken is greater than the most powerful miracle. The most powerful and influential person in any organization is one who speaks the truth and lives it out. John was beheaded because he spoke against Herodias’ marriage to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18). However, Herod feared John and did not execute him because he was a righteous and holy man. But Heriod’s wife executed John by trickery through her daughter. John’s ministry of making straight the way of the Lord involves speaking the truth and leading the people towards repentance. The work that is worthy of eternal honor is to speak the truth and prepare sinners to receive their Savior.

Making the choice of being a Christian must be done with careful and earnest consideration. We ask the question: why was the coming of Christ heralded by a man of such great stature as John the Baptist? Given the fact that John the Baptist was an uncompromising truth speaker shed light to the weight of the evangelistic process. John called the people to repentance while awaiting the coming of Christ. John’s baptism serves as an entrance to a community prepared for the coming of her king. Evangelism in many of today’s churches never considered repentance as a prerequisite to salvation. They suppose an “encounter” with Christ accompanied by emotions of peace and love would suffice. However, Jesus Himself required repentance as a necessary step before entering the kingdom. Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). John required the people to repent and be baptized before meeting their King. Matthew 3:1-2 says, John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”


Are you accustomed to changing your convictions according to the level of acceptance from people around you? A weak person is one who hinges his convictions on popular opinion and takes the route of the least resistance. A strong and determined person is one who seeks out the truth and stand by it.

Dear Lord, I praise you for making me special with a unique calling. Help me discover this calling that you have ordained for me and cause me to grow into it. Create in me a righteous heart and cause me to live out the truth in an uncompromising way. I resolve to stand by the truth in all circumstances. Use me to turn others towards the truth and receive you as their Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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