Summary: What does true greatness look like? We see it pictured in John the Baptist as he answers those who asked him who he was. His exhaltation of Christ is exemplary for us all.
Fortifying the Foundations #3
This morning I want to share with you the third message in a series from the Gospel of John. As God has opened this book to us I have become more and more convinced of the importance of foundational doctrine in our future. Many things are helpful; but one thing is –Christ. There are many truths that equip us for life in practical ways; but none so practical as a living relationship with the living God. John deals with essentials: Who is Jesus? Why did He come? How can I know Him?
In Psalms 11:3 David asked the question, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” We can fortify those foundations. We can preach the word and instruct in sound doctrine. We can affirm our confidence in Christ.
In John’s day the fundamentals of the faith were under attack. Gnosticism and other philosophies of men were threatening to undermine the very foundations of truth. Today humanism, relativism, and all kinds of other ism’s challenge our faith. John was fortifying the church with truth when he wrote this Gospel. He was affirming the basics and I believe that is something God wants to do for us through this series which I have entitled: Fortifying the Foundations.
Follow with me as we read our text in John 1:19-34
“Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." 21They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." 22Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
23John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.’" 24Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." 28This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, `A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
32Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." NIV
Our passage begins with this phrase in verse 19 “Now this was John’s testimony…” I have taken that as the title of our message—John’s Testimony.
What was John’s testimony?
In verses 19-25 we have John’s testimony
I. CONCERNING HIMSELF in answer to the questions asked by the Jewish delegation.
Then more importantly in verses 26-34 we have John’s testimony
I. John’s testimony concerning himself:
John’s ministry had drawn a lot of attention. For 400 years God had not spoken to Israel. That is approximately twice as long as America has existed as a nation. Religion can get very, very dry in that kind of spiritual drought. Spiritually speaking Israel had become a wilderness. I suspect that the Bible studies led by the Scribes and Pharisees in those days were pretty dull. Four hundred years of prophetic silence, then suddenly this prophet dressed in camel’s hair and a leather belt emerges from the dessert. He speaks with the boldness and authority of a true prophet. The hungry souls of Judea flocked to hear him. Thousands upon thousands crowded to hear his message.
Rumors spread throughout the land, “Maybe John is the long awaited Messiah. Maybe he is Elijah promised in the last few verses of the Old Testament. Maybe he is the Prophet Moses talked about in Deuteronomy 18:15.” John had ignited a spiritual zeal and excitement beyond anything that generation had ever seen.
The religious rulers, the Sanhedrin, could not ignore what was going on. They could not discount John as some passing ripple in the religious community. So they sent a delegation of selected priests and Levites to ask John some questions. Of course, the first question in every one’s mind was, “Is this Messiah—Is this Christ?” This was a time in Israel’s history of great eschatological expectation. The Jews were longing for Messiah to come and free them from Roman oppression and Gentile dominion. Is John the Christ?