Summary: John testifies that Jesus is God’s Son and God’s Lamb for the sins of the world!
Continuing our study through John we’ll see that Christ is on the Way as Predicted by the Prophets and John Is His Forerunner:
19And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
These priests and Levites are the worldly-wise who are always seeing but never perceiving, always hearing but never understanding (Acts 28:26), and always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (II Tim. 3:7). They’re hearing about John so they go out to interrogate him. This doesn’t come across as a friendly encounter, but rather it seems more like a confrontation between the established religious authority and this prophet of God.
20And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
Apparently the first question put to him is whether he was the Messiah. They want to know this because they want to know by what authority he’s baptizing people. A lot of other people were also wondering if he was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15), so this is a good place to start. I imagine if he had claimed to be Messiah they probably would have treated him the same way they did Jesus. But he denies,
21And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not.
Elijah, of course, was a great prophet in the Old Testament. You’ll remember that he didn’t die (II Kings 2:11), and God promised to send Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). John denies this too (even though Jesus affirms it in Matthew 11:7-14), but they accept his answer and move on:
Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
Moses promised a prophet would come in the future: The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; […] 18I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him (Deut. 18:15, 18). “Are you this prophet?” Again he denies it because (as many will later see) Jesus is this prophet (Jn. 6:14; 7:40).
22Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
They press the matter so he tells them:
23He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
This comes from Isaiah 40 and it’s very important. Everything we need to know about him and his time of history is answered in this: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.