19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’, as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Straightening Things Out
It always surprises me that John has people repent and be baptised before they are introduced to Jesus. Jesus is seen by me as the means to repentance, so how come John is doing it. What does it mean? Was it worthless? It is like the child who will meet with the principal after a fight on the playground. They know that the real discipline is coming, but to be prepared to meet the principle, they tuck in their shirt and brush themselves down. They may start crying because they know what they have done is wrong and they may promise themselves never to do such a thing again. Then the principal, who knows what the child needs even better than they do, explains the course of action that the child will take in order to make things better. This example falls short of the preparatory repentance that John brought when compared with the heart-deep repentance that Jesus brought. However, it helps me to see that the repentance of John makes some sense.
Israel was in a bad way and needed to turn from the combination of self-assured righteousness or hopeless self-loathing. The masses who loathed themselves flocked to John. They wanted the new life that he foresaw, but John knew that he was just the herald for the one who would bring real transformation. John aided the people by preparing their hearts to receive the truth.
Sometimes we are busy and sometimes we are hardened by life. We resist the tender transformation that You would work in us. Let us not get into a life that solves tasks, hides in a corner, or controls our surroundings. Help us to adopt a posture of surrender. Help us to be in a position to receive your truth.
- What did John proclaim?
- What does the people’s response tell you about the culture in Israel at this time?
- How were the people changed? Were they ‘saved’?
- How can the unsaved be prepared for the gospel?
- How can both the unsaved and the saved change their actions for the betterment of God’s world?