The Gospel of John Commentary Chapters 1-11 (by chapter)

John 1:19-34 - The Ministry of John the Baptist

v19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 
v20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 
"I am not the Christ." 
v21 And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" 
He said, "I am not." 
"Are you the Prophet?" 
And he answered, "No." 
v22 Then they said to him, "Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" 
v23 He said: "I am "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Make straight the way of the LORD," as the prophet Isaiah said." 

v24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 
v25 And they asked him, saying, "Why then do you baptise 
if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 
v26 John answered them, saying, "I baptise with water, 
but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 
v27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, 
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." 

v28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, 
where John was baptising. 

v29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 
v30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.' 
v31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptising with water." 

v32 And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending 
from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 
v33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, "Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, 
and remaining on Him, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit.' 
v34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God." 
(For more of John’s witness see John 3:22-36).  

Introduction: This section of scripture describes John’s witness to Jesus, soon after His Baptism and the 40 day Temptation in the Wilderness (recorded in the other Gospels). Jesus returned to the Baptist to spend some private time with him (3:26) and receive his public endorsement, before starting to gather His disciples (including John, the Gospel writer). Jesus was now entering His first phase of public ministry which lasted until the time of the arrest of John the Baptist. Only John gives details of this first phase (1:19-4:42). It is October/ November AD 29 soon after Jesus’ 30th Birthday at Tabernacles (John 1:14).

The Witness of John the Baptist to Jesus - teaches us that true ministry requires HUMILITY, turning attention away from us onto Jesus.

Day 1: “Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” (Question 1) (v19)   These were the religious police sent to check out possible prophets and Messiahs for John had drawn crowds and caused a great stir with his preaching. “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed (using a threefold emphasis) ‘I am not the Christ’ (v20). 

Question 2: “And they asked him “What then? Are you Elijah?” (v21). (this possibility comes from Malachi 4:1,2, for the Jews correctly believed that Elijah would come first to prepare Israel for the Messiah. Elijah did not die but went up to heaven in a chariot. He will come before the Second Coming as one of the two witnesses but because God knew Israel would reject Christ, John went in his place. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah but was not Elijah in person. So: He said, “I am not.” 

Then Question 3
: “Are you the Prophet?” From Deut18:15, the ‘Prophet like Moses’ was also expected, but this was just a title for Messiah. 
So: “And he answered, “No.” See how John’s answers get shorter: “I am not the Christ..I am not..No.” Not a very exciting interview so far! But John wasn’t interested in talking about himself, but only about the Lord.

Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an 
answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 
He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 
“Make straight the way of the LORD,” as the prophet Isaiah said” (v22,23). 

John was not into names and titles. He just called himself a ‘voice’ sent to prepare the way for the true glory. He was saying: “I am not important, I am just a messenger, it’s my message that counts. I am just a voice, don’t look at me, but look at the One I am talking about.” 

  Yet John was one with the authority of one sent by God in fulfilment of the scriptures. He referred to Isaiah 40:3-8 to establish his place and authority in God’s plan as the special prophet of Christ: 
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of 
the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 
The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” 
“All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, 
the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” 

Before a King arrived in a town preparations were made so He could be welcomed properly. A straight road was made so His glory could be seen and welcomed. Everything in the way was removed. So John came to Israel before Christ to prepare their hearts, to remove pride and unbelief, so that they would be ready to receive the King and His Kingdom in humility and faith. John preached on sin, righteousness 
and judgement pointing out man’s need for a Saviour, and those who received his message were baptised by him to acknowledge that they were sinners needing salvation. In baptism they symbolically declared their need and desire to be washed and reborn by the Messiah (through death, burial and resurrection) and thus made ready for His Kingdom.

“Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptise if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” (v24,25). ‘What authority do you have to baptise if you are neither Elijah nor the Messiah?’ They are upset that he was breaking their traditions by baptising Jews. They believed baptism was for unclean Gentiles who wanted to become Jews (by a symbolic rebirth), but not for Jews who did not need it. John’s Baptism was hard for them because it was a confession of sin. But rather than arguing, 
John seeks to divert attention onto Jesus: John answered them, saying, “I baptise with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know (Jesus was already present but had told John to wait for the p9
 right time to identify Him) . It is He who, coming after me (John was born and ministered first), is preferred before me (because He is the pre-existent Son of God, see v15,30) whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (v26-27).  This is a a slave’s job, so he was saying: ‘I’m not worthy to be His slave’). He was saying: ‘Don’t get hung up on my baptism, which is only to prepare you for the Messiah, who will do the real Spirit-baptism’ The Jewish leaders don’t seem interested in Jesus yet, because it was John who was still pulling the crowds. “These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising" (v28).

John’s witness to the Lamb of God.
Day 2: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him (to be publicly identified by him), and said, “Behold! (‘Here He is - the One I’ve been talking about is here!’). The (sacrificial, Passover) Lamb of God who takes away (all) the sin of the world!” (v29). 

They knew from Leviticus 17:11, that sin was only removed through blood. John declared Christ would fulfil Isaiah 53, dying as the sacrifice for our sins to redeem us to God. The key for us to receive salvation is to behold Jesus Christ, to look at Him with the eyes of faith. John’s ministry (and ours) is simply to point people to Jesus, especially to His substitutionary death on the Cross. Our message is: “BEHOLD - the Lamb”. Jesus is the answer, the Lord, Saviour and Life-Giver.

John had received a revelation of what Jesus meant at His Baptism (Matthew 3:13-17): “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him. And John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptised by You, and are You coming to me?” (as we will see soon, he did not know yet that Jesus was the Messiah, but he knew his cousin Jesus was sinless. John felt sinful in His presence. As baptism was for sinners, he did not think it right for Jesus to be baptised, especially by himself - a sinner). But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus (in this way: by Me taking the place of sinners and going through death and resurrection) it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness (God’s will to save man).” Then he allowed (permitted) Him. (Thus His Baptism was prophetic of His death and resurrection). When He had been baptised, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” 

Having shown man’s PROBLEM (need) in his previous ministry, John now presents the SOLUTION.  The emphasis of John’s message changed from JUDGEMENT to SALVATION. Our message is the same: “You are sinners under God’s judgement but there is an answer: ‘Behold the Lamb. There is salvation by BEHOLDING (believing in) the Lamb slain for the forgiveness of your sins.”
1. John first testified to God’s judgement on sin (before Christ’s baptism)
2. John testified to Christ’s sinlessness (at Christ’s baptism)
3. John witnessed that Christ is our Saviour from sin (after Christ’s Baptism).

“This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me 
(being the persistent Son of God).’ I did not know Him (that He was the Messiah) but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptising with water.” John’s ministry was to make Jesus known. 

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him (to be the Messiah), but He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him(by the gift of discerning of spirits, John saw the Spirit come upon Jesus and he also continued to see the Spirit remain upon Him) this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen (the Spirit upon Him) and testified that this is the Son of God (for He heard God say concerning Jesus :‘This is My beloved Son’)” (v30-34).

John only knew for sure that Jesus was the Messiah when he saw what happened at Jesus’ baptism. John’s message was: (1) the Person and (2) the Work of Jesus Christ: He is the Son of God, who baptises us with the Spirit. He brings a 2-fold Salvation: (1) By giving His Blood and (2) by giving His Spirit. 
John (1) presented Jesus as the Lamb of God (removing the negative- sin. 
Then he (2) presented Jesus as the Baptiser in the Holy-Spirit (bringing in the positive-power to live a holy life).

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