John 1:19-28 A life of truth speaks louder than any miracle
John 1:19-28 A life of truth speaks louder than any miracle
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 is one of a kind; he is neither deliverer nor prophet. He never performs miracles, but is proclaimed as the greatest of those born of women. John’s greatness is attributed 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 concerning 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 and to deny is to disclaim association with. In saying, “I am not the Christ”, John clarifies that He is not the Christ but is committed to being an instrument of Christ’s ministry. Subsequently, they asked if he is Elijah who has come to restore all things. His rugged appearance and message of repentance resembles that of Elijah who is predicted to return (Malachi 4:5). Finally, they asked if he is the prophet whom Moses predicted would come to minister to them (Deuteronomy 18:15,18). John answered them saying that he is 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. John quoted Isaiah 40:3 as referring to himself as the “voice” calling to prepare the way for the Lord in the desert. 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’s mission, Christ will pioneer the people’s return towards the promise of a new Jerusalem. John the Baptist is Christ’s forerunner called to prepare a people to receive Christ as Lord, to pave the way for His coming (Luke 1:17).
I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know
Someone representing the Pharisees asked John concerning the authority He used to baptise. For the Pharisees, baptism is a rite for the end-days community. Ezekiel 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. Ezekiel 36:25
John carried great authority in his baptismal ministry, because he was sent by God to baptise someone much greater than himself. John underscored 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 recognising his calling and discharging it, John’s ministry is far more honourable than any other ministry.
Honour comes from knowing one’s calling and fulfilling it with utmost dedication.
Some people never think they can amount to anything. Hence, they spend their whole life trying to be someone they are not. Although John’s calling is one of a kind, but he discharges his calling with utmost dedication. John never tried to be Elijah or one of the popular prophets – he knows who he is from the start. Drawing from John’s mind-set, we must not aspire to be CEO’s just because it makes one appear glamorous and powerful. We must never force our children to be someone that we never get to be. Instead, we must help our children discover their calling base on their abilities and perculiar design. 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 honoured 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 accord great worth and honour to those who 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 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 seek spiritual gifts supposing these can make them more effective ministers. Yet a word of truth spoken on conviction 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 imprisoned because he spoke against Herodias’ marriage to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18). Herod feared John because he is a righteous and holy man and did not execute him. 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 honour is to speak the truth and prepare sinners to receive their Saviour.
The choice to become a Christian must be made with careful and earnest consideration.
We ask the question: why is the coming of Christ heralded by a man of such great stature as John the Baptist? Given the fact that John the Baptist is an uncompromising truth speaker sheds light to what is considered good evangelism. John called the people to repentance while awaiting the coming of Christ. John’s baptism served as an entrance to a community prepared for the coming of her king. Evangelism in many of today’s churches never consider repentance as a prerequisite to salvation. They suppose an “encounter” with Christ accompanied by a conviction of the forgiveness of sins will suffice. However, Jesus Himself requires repentance as a necessary step before entering the kingdom. Jesus preaches, “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.”
Do you often change your convictions according to popular opinion? A weak person is one who sways according popular opinion and takes the route of the least resistance. A strong and determined person is one who seeks out the truth and stands by it.
Dear Lord, I praise you for making me special and giving me 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 Saviour and Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.