Summary: The example of John the Baptist furnishes a lesson for all who, with a worthwhile purpose, would choose to be totally focused in life.


John 1:19-34

Int: Ever since the fall of man there has been a longing in the human heart. All through the record of the Bible it increases, as men and women cried out for a way of deliverance, to be free at last from the power and the reign of sin. In all of history and even in the present day, people still long for beauty of character, for reality of life, and for freedom from evil.

John the Baptist in the late ’20’s of the first century was a young man, in his early ’30’s, six months older than Jesus. He dressed rather strangely, even for that day. He wore animal skins, and ate a strange diet of grasshoppers and wild honey. This young man had a very powerful message, which seemed to have great attraction to people. At first they came out by dozens, then by scores. and finally hundreds and thousands forsook the cities of Judah and Galilee to hear this remarkable preacher out in desert places. Finally the response was so tremendous. and this man became so popular, that even the religious leaders of Jerusalem had to take note. They sent a delegation to investigate this remarkable preacher.

John had found a cause in life that clearly was worth living for and even one that is worth dying for. This is the quality that sets a person’s life apart from the rather humdrum routine of living and gives him a focus that makes each day a time to remember.

John was regarded as an outsider, a maverick. He had gone to no seminary; he had sat at no one’s feet; no responsible body had authorized him to preach; he had never been ordained. He had suddenly arisen out from among the common people and many were flocking to hear him. The religious leaders could no longer ignore him. He was a threat to them, as any such individual is a threat to those who assume they are right with God when in fact, they are not.

In John’s life and example, there are some lessons for all of us who desire to have more out of life than simply to live it through to its bitter end.


An official delegation from the Sanhedrin, made up of priests and Levites, who had been sent by the high priest himself, came to check up on John. They asked him, "Who are you?" ("Who do you think you are, anyway?") There is a sneer in these words.

A. John did not attempt to advance himself in their eyes!

There was a popular rumor that perhaps he was the Messiah himself. John’s replied very dramatically, ’I am not the Messiah,’ This fact John wanted to be perfectly clear.

So they tried again. "Are you Elijah, then?" The last verse of the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi, is a promise of the coming again of Elijah. God had said, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes," (Mal 4:5). Four hundred years earlier, God had said that Elijah would have a special ministry of "turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to the fathers," i.e., rebuilding the homes of a decadent nation (Mal 4:6). For four centuries there was a sense of expectation in Israel that Elijah was going to come back again. John’s reply is very clear: "No, I am not Elijah." John’s ministry was like Elijah’s -- he went before Jesus in the spirit and the power of Elijah -- but he was not Elijah.

"Well then," the delegation asked John, "who are you? Are you that prophet?" Moses in the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy, had written, "The Lord shall raise up unto you a prophet like unto me, and him you shall hear," {Deut 18:15}. John’s response is simply, "No."

Finally, they say to him, "Who are you, then? We can’t go back to Jerusalem without an answer. We’ve been sent to find out who you are. "Come on, give us a break. We need to tell them something about you."

B. John chose to let his Conduct define his Identity.

To this John replies, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ’Prepare the way of the Lord,’ {Isa 40:3} In other words, "If you want to know my job description, read the prophet Isaiah. It’s written there for you." Undoubtedly his parents had told him the wonderful story of his birth, and the predictions of the angel. He knew from his childhood that he was a chosen vessel of the Lord. (We are told that he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.) But when he asked himself, as he must have as a young boy, "What does God want me to do?" he found the answer in the prophecy of Isaiah: "I am to be a highway builder. I am to prepare a highway in the desert for our God." Not for men to get to God, but for God to get to men.

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