John 1:19-28 Straightening Things Out

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.

Prayer

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.

Questions

  1. What did John proclaim?
  2. What does the people’s response tell you about the culture in Israel at this time?
  3. How were the people changed?  Were they ‘saved’?
  4. How can the unsaved be prepared for the gospel?
  5. How can both the unsaved and the saved change their actions for the betterment of God’s world?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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22 Responses to John 1:19-28 Straightening Things Out

  1. Kathleen says:

    1. John proclaims to be one coming before Christ to prepare the way.
    2. The people’s response show that they observe the law strictly and want to know by what authority John is speaking.
    3. John prepared the people’s hearts for being saved. He helped them realize they needed a new style. I know he baptized people but I am not sure if they were saved. They hadn’t seen Jesus yet but neither have I.
    4.The unsaved can be prepared by realizing they are sinful human beings and are in need of a savior. They must realize they cannot save themselves.
    5. I think most people strive to live a good life. The difference between the unsaved and saved is in the fruit that they produce. The unsaved are living for themselves, whereas, the saved are living for Christ.

  2. Chelsea P. says:

    John proclaimed the truth. His focus was completely otherly-focused. He 1.confessed 2. did not deny 3. but confessed that this message was not about himself, but about the one whose sandles he was not even worthy to tie. It is very clear that John considered himself a messenger for the greater one. I think one way that the unsaved can be “prepared” for the gospel is by building bridges. The gospel is not something that is unrelated to them. Listening to them, truly hearing them, may open up avenues for the gospel to permeate. It is beneficial for the unsaved to realize just how much their life is in need of Jesus.

  3. Karas says:

    John proclaimed the need for repentance in an effort to prepare the people for Jesus. I never really thought too much about what he did, although I’ve always admired him. I love how he gets that he is not the focus; Christ is. He needs to increase, John needs to decrease. That is my favorite verse.
    Since the people flocked to John, they seem to have seen the need for change. They wanted authentic faith and help. They couldn’t be saved without Jesus, but their hearts were prepared for Him and His message. Similarly, the unsaved can be prepared for the gospel through being convicted of their sin, taught truth, and simply called. Both unsaved and saved can change their actions by examining themselves to see where they fall short and need to change, and then taking the next step – for the unsaved, trusting in Christ, and for the saved, allowing the Spirit to have His way and use them, perhaps to call some of the unsaved to Christ.

  4. Sara Cavitt says:

    1) He was proclaiming the name of Jesus and making a way for Him through preparing the people.
    2) It seems as if the people of Israel had many questions and were curious as to who their deliverer and Savior was.
    3) If the people truly repented, then they were saved through Jesus. John prepared them for Jesus and the hope that He offered, and the people were saved through Jesus alone.
    4) They can be prepared for hearing the gospel through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, prayer, conversations, and experiences.
    5) We can change our actions by repenting daily and living a life for Christ.

  5. Jenna says:

    1. John called the people of Israel to repent of their sins and be baptized.
    2. Many of the common people flocked to John and his baptism, but many of the pharisees and religious leaders disliked his teaching. It seems like the average Jew was seeking for some sort of religious revival while the pharisees wanted to keep the status quo in which they had the power.
    3. John’s baptism didn’t seem to be about salvation – it was about repentance. The people were changed by their choice to leave their sin.
    4. Even before the gospel in the full sense had been proclaimed, the Jewish people were prepared to hear it by John’s call to repentance. As the people were convicted of their sin and called out of it, their hearts were softened to hear the good news of how they could be forgiven of their sins. The same applies today – unbelievers don’t think they need a savior until they become conscious of their own sinfulness.
    5. Repentance from sin is something that both believers and unbelievers can do – as we will still sin until the day we die, believers will still need to repent of our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. Repentance is supposed to result in turning away from sin and turning towards righteousness. Unbelievers can be convicted of their sins, but without having surrendered their lives to Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit, they will not be able to change their behavior to a large extent – true transformation comes through Christ only!

  6. Katherine says:

    What messege did john proclaim?

    As I look forward to being an educator, the prospect is daunting. One can quickly become discouraged or even hopeless when considering the circumstances and troubles ahead on this voyage. However, in the person of john, I meet a teacher who knew he was not THE Teacher, but rather, one who was a voice in a wilderness, preparing the way for The One to come. Observing this, I remember what my messege is as a teacher: to be a voice in the child’s wilderness of life, making way for that precious one’s Savior. He will be the Teacher. I only need to point to Him.

  7. zacbodine says:

    1.What did John proclaim?
    He proclaimed repentance and baptism. He proclaimed Christ.

    2.What does the people’s response tell you about the culture in Israel at this time?
    The people’s response is a do-and-be-named type of culture. John baptizes therefore he must be someone of importance. The culture was marked with what seems to be a blind religiosity.

    3.How were the people changed? Were they ‘saved’?
    Some were baptized which must mean that they believed in the gospel message that the Messiah was come.

    4.How can the unsaved be prepared for the gospel?
    Making known the unknown is a way to prepare them. Teach them of Jesus even when it doesn’t make sense to.

    5.How can both the unsaved and the saved change their actions for the betterment of God’s world?
    Go to Jesus, all of us must. Yes, believe, follow, and be baptized one should.

  8. Michael Huber says:

    John proclaim first and foremost that Jesus was the one to come. He was truthfully and humbly telling the people that the one they sought after was truly Jesus of whom he was not worthy to even touch his feet

  9. Rachel says:

    1. John proclaimed that Christ was coming-soon!
    2. The people were aware of the Messiah and were knowledgeable about the prophets and their prophecies. Some were responsive to John’s message and others were critical or confused.
    3. The people were not saved through John’s baptism; they were confessing their expectation of the promised Messiah and their repentance in anticipation for His coming.
    4. The unsaved can be soft to the gospel when they are aware of the sinful brokenness of themselves and this world. They can identify the longing for hope in their own hearts.
    5. Both the saved and the unsaved can act in such a way that betters the lives of those around them. Everyone can follow the golden rule as best they can and can choose to live moral lives.

  10. Sarah Deurbrouck says:

    1. What did John proclaim?
    John proclaimed to not be the Prophet, or Elijah or the Christ, but that One is coming who is far greater than he is.
    2. What does the people’s response tell you about the culture in Israel at this time?
    The culture of Israel seemed to be spiritually dead, no hope for Christ to come. No one seemed to be doing anything out of the norm religiously, so when John comes along, they are curious who he is and what in the world he is doing, as if to say “why in the world are you doing that? What’s the point?”
    3. How were the people changed? Were they ‘saved’?
    No, it seemed that their hearts were being prepared for salvation. We know from other passages, this baptism was one of repentance (Matthew 3:2). It was this repentance that prepared the way for the Lord.
    4. How can the unsaved be prepared for the gospel?
    This is really part of the Gospel, but still, becoming aware of personal sin can prepare the unsaved soul for the Gospel. One cannot truly accept salvation unless they know what they are being saved from.
    5. How can both the unsaved and the saved change their actions for the betterment of God’s world?
    Part of me wants to say that the unsaved can do absolutely nothing to change their actions that will better God’s world. I suppose that isn’t entirely true.

  11. Austin Brose says:

    1. John prepared the way for the coming of Jesus by baptizing people and spreading the news of his coming.
    2. The people’s response tells me that they were open to Johns message of salvation and they needed something new, not legalistic. The religious leaders saw him as a threat though and sought to disgrace himself, maybe make him out to be a crazy person.
    3. I wouldn’t say they were saved, but they were prepared for the one who was to bring the real message of salvation.
    4. The unsaved can be prepared for the gospel by being made aware of their sins, by opening the door, making straight their paths for Christ to enter their lives.
    5. The unsaved and the saved can change their actions for the betterment of God’s world by rejecting worldly ideas and accepting the truths of the gospel.

  12. Janice Lee says:

    1. John proclaimed the coming of the Christ. He called for people to repent and turn from sin.
    2. The people’s response shows that they were not prepared for the coming Messiah. The coming Christ may not have been at the forefront of their minds.
    3. The people were changed by being baptized with water. No, they were not saved. The baptism by water symbolizes the people’s repentance and displays their need for the Savior.
    4. The unsaved can be prepared for the gospel by recognizing their need for salvation.
    5. Both the unsaved and saved cannot do anything to make the world better. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes us and conforms us to Christ’s image.

  13. Amy McCashen says:

    1. John Proclaimed repentance and to prepare a way for the Lord. He was proclaiming the soon coming of the Messiah!
    2. They were looking for the Messiah. They knew that to baptize, some authority must be present and they were curious as to how John obtained that authority.
    3. The people were not “saved”, but they were getting ready for the coming salvation. They were preparing their hearts and lives through repentance so their hearts would be more open to the Christ.
    4. The unsaved can be prepared for salvation through repentance. Even though thy are not saved, their repentance opens their eyes to their need for a Savior.
    5. Both the saved and the unsaved can acknowledge and repent of their sin. When people are aware and repenting of their sin, God’s world is changed for the better because their hearts are tender and possibly more acceptive to God’s grace.

  14. Mary says:

    1. John basically told them that he was nobody and that he was just there to tell them to get ready for the Messiah that they had been waiting for.
    2. The Levites and priests questioned John about why he was baptizing since he was in fact a nobody; not Christ, not Elijah, and the Prophet that Moses spoke of (Deut. 18:15). I suppose this right/privilege of baptizing may have been reserved for only certain people, or maybe because he was baptizing Jews.
    3. Although it doesn’t say it in this passage, John’s message is generally “repent and be baptized”, so I would expect that they had received a gospel message of repentance, forgiveness of sin, and salvation through the Messiah, and had a genuine heart transformation and were then baptized.
    4. One of the ways the unsaved are prepared for the gospel is by the Holy Spirit softening their hearts and preparing their minds to accept the truths of the gospel message. Where we play a role in this is praying for them and then sharing those truths with them.
    5. Well, the unsaved, that’s a tricky question… I would say the saved could change their actions to better the world by drawing closer to God and aligning ever more closely with His will and by being obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, becoming more like Christ daily, a true transformations on the inside that spills over onto everything it touches. So, for the unsaved? Salvation. Jesus is the only answer.

  15. nataliaria says:

    John proclaimed the coming of One far greater than himself. John’s ministry was one of preparation, calling upon those who heard him to prepare for the Lord’s coming. The way in which the people responded indicates two things : 1) they were open to John’s proclamation of repentance in anticipation of a coming Christ. However 2) they had a pre-imagined idea of what the Messiah might be like, and were already attempting to fit him into their scheme of “coming Messiah.”

    The people were baptized in response to John’s message, but later texts that talk about Jesus’ rejection by the majority of those who heard Him show that heart-deep change may not have occurred for all. I am unsure (and curious) if those who believed under John’s testimony were truly saved.

    I believe that seeds of gospel awareness and a sense of need for God can be planted by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of non-believers. These seeds, nurtured by the Holy Spirit and continued interaction with believers, prepare one’s heart for conversion. While temporary or external improvements may be made (think white washed wall), I believe that the only true betterment that God’s creation will receive is through the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit.

  16. Mercedes says:

    John was proclaiming his identity in Christ. He was the “voice” referenced in Isaiah 40:3, “a voice is calling, ‘clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” As the for-runner of the Lord, he was announcing His miraculous, supernatural appearance in a human body, to save the sins of the world. Because the people were unaware that Jesus was among them in the region (“but among you stand One whom you do not know”) John proclaimed Him as One with ultimate power and authority, whose sandal he was “not worthy to untie.” John seems to have a sweet foretaste of Jesus’ presence and such a humble and genuine spirit, he constantly points to the One “who comes after me.”

  17. John was proclaiming his identity in Christ. He was the “voice” referenced in Isaiah 40:3, “a voice is calling, ‘clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” As the for-runner of the Lord, he was announcing His miraculous, supernatural appearance in a human body, to save the sins of the world. Because the people were unaware that Jesus was among them in the region (“but among you stand One whom you do not know”) John proclaimed Him as One with ultimate power and authority, whose sandal he was “not worthy to untie.” John seems to have a sweet foretaste of Jesus’ presence and such a humble and genuine spirit, he constantly points to the One “who comes after me.”

  18. Ashley says:

    1. John proclaimed to the people that they should make the way of the Lord straight.
    2. Their response shows me that they were waiting in anticipation for the Messiah.
    3. I do not believe the people were saved or changed merely by the water, unless they had been baptized by the Holy Spirit before that.
    4. The unsaved can be prepared for the gospel by becoming softened to the Spirit’s prodding on their hearts.
    5. All people can begin to treat others as they would want to be treated—with love.

  19. Lacy says:

    1. John proclaimed Jesus’ coming and the subsequent need for repentance.
    2. The peoples’ response in flocking to John suggests that they were aware that they were not right with God and that they were in need of repentance.
    3. The people were changed in that John made them more aware of their own spiritual need, thus getting them “thinking along the right lines” in preparation for Jesus’ coming. However, their salvation still needed to be completed by an encounter with Jesus himself.
    4. According to John’s example, we can prepare the unsaved to receive the gospel by making them aware of the rift between humanity and God and the need for reconciliation.
    5. Both unsaved and saved need to surrender to God, continually. It isn’t a one-step process that is completed at salvation, but a crucial lifelong part of one’s relationship with God.

  20. Rebekah Thompson (Bekah) says:

    1. John replies that he is no one of great name. He only states what he is not, but he explains why he was there. He was there as a follower, an apostle of Christ. He sets the stage for how amazing God truly is.
    2.You have to be someone of name. Someone of high rank to being doing such things. God “only” calls the “titled”.
    3. They were changed by baptism the choice they made to repent. Baptism does not save them however.
    4. By knowing themselves seeing what they are without. The unsaved can be prepared for the gospel by their constant search to be satisfied. When they hear about the gospel they know this is it….this is what they have been searching for.
    5. We all as human beings have a conscience that tells us what is right and wrong. We can do what we know to be right. However, only the Holy Spirit can shape us to follow God’s word.

  21. Beth Coale says:

    Read it.

  22. Nick says:

    John proclaims that he is not the Son of God, but that he is preparing the way for the Son of God to come and do His work. It shows that they were curious to know who their Messiah was and when He was coming. It also showed their skepticism, asking why John was baptizing if he was not the savior. The people were not saved when John baptized them with water. John was simply preparing their hearts for Jesus to come and save them. We can prepare unbelievers to know the gospel by showing them their need for it; by showing them that they are not saved and are in need of being saved. We need to live for Jesus and strive to be like Him. The end goal is to bring glory to God, and the best way to do that is to mirror Jesus and live like Him in worship and devotion to God.

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