Today’s passage reads from John 1:19-34. We hear in this passage about the testimony of John about Jesus Christ. It was customary in those days as I have learnt that when a king was about to arrive, a forerunner would be send to announce the imminent arrival of the king. In this instance, John was the forerunner or what they call a herald for our king Jesus. Let’s get into the passage, starting from verse 19…
John 1:19-34 (ESVST)
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.”
Who is this John being referred to in this verse. Well, John is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Looking at this passage, Luke 1:13-17 (ESVST), Luke tells us that the birth of John was foretold by an Angel from God who told Zechariah that he will have a child who he must name John. He was told that this child must not drink wine and will come in the spirit and power of Elijah. His mission will be to prepare the way for The Lord. This is the same John that was foretold that is now giving testimony about Jesus.
John is now doing that, that was foretold by the Angel of God. Now let’s look at the following passage that describes to us the history of the time in terms of political power in the region.
Luke 3:1-3 (ESVST)
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The emperor at the time was Tiberius Caesar who had four tetrarchs or governors namely, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lysanias. The high priests in the Jewish nation were at the time Annas and Caiaphas. Now to calculate which year was the fifteenth year, we use two methods, the Roman and Syrian method. The Roman Emperor Tiberius succeeded his step-father, Augustus Caesar, on the 19th of August in 14AD. Therefore, the 15thyear of Tiberius’ reign, when St. John the Baptist began his ministry (as the Romans calculated their years) was from August 19th, 28AD to August 18th, 29AD. However, if St. Luke was using the Syrian method of calculating, then the reign of Tiberius would have been from September – October 27AD to 28AD. Therefore the 15th year is anytime between 27-29AD.
During this time, Luke says the word came to John who was in the wilderness and he went into all regions around Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This he was doing to pave the way for our Lord Jesus Christ. Matthews describes John this way
Matthew 3:4 (ESVST)
Now John wore a garment of camel ‘s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Now that we lob who John is and what was happening around the time, verse 19 continues to say that the Jews send priest and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John who he is. Now the priest were those that were appointed by God to do sacrifices in the church and they were the only ones allowed. The Levites were appointed by God to guard the tent. When they met John, they indeed asked Him and verse 20 says that he confessed and did not try to hide the fact that he was not Jesus Christ. Contrary to what is happening now where everyone seems to be calling himself Jesus.
21 And they asked him, “ What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “ Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “ No.”
They then continued to ask if he was not Elijah or the Prophet? In both cases he said no. Now, the reason why they asked him about Elijah was that, you remember Elijah had been caught up to heaven alive, and Jewish people anticipated his return, which was predicted in Malachi 4:5.
Malachi 4:5 (ESVST)
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
“The Prophet” undoubtedly means the prophet like Moses talked about in Deut 18:15
Deuteronomy 18:15 (ESVST)
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers —it is to him you shall listen
These are the reasons why they asked.
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.”
So they the asked him who he is. His answer was he is the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, “make straight the way of The Lord”. Here John was quoting Isaiah 40:3
Isaiah 40:3 (ESVST)
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Here John was simply saying that he is the one who is a forerunner to Christ. He is the one who has come to prepare the way for Jesus and all should repent form their sins. In Matthews, Matthews says
Matthew 3:3 (ESVST)
For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘ Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. ’”
John was saying that he is the one that Isaiah spoke of, when he spoke of the voice.
To avoid the message to be too long, We will continue with the rest of the passage next time.
Father thank you for sharing your word with us and may you bless those that will be reading this message. In Jesus name, amen.
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.
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “ Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘ After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me. ’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. ’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”