John the Baptist is one of the most important persons in the New Testament. He is mentioned at least eighty-nine times.
John knows his place in God’s redemptive plan: he speaks God’s message, but Jesus is the Word of God. John rejects any messianic claim outright.
Jesus, though, accepts it with a smile, but only from a few devoted followers—at least at first.Of course John is crucial to the unfolding drama, but he isn’t the long awaited One sent to free His people. He preaches repentance and tells everybody to get ready for One greater to come along.
“The One who comes will cleanse humanity in fire and power,” he says. John even urges some of his followers to leave him and go follow Jesus.
John gave the record of four days in the life of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the first disciples. On the first day (John 1:19-24), a committee from the Jewish religious leaders interrogated John the Baptist. These men had every right to investigate John and his ministry, since they were the custodians and guardians of the faith. They asked him several questions and he clearly answered them.
“Who are you?”
Was he the promised Messiah?
Was he the Prophet Elijah who was supposed to come before the Messiah appeared? (Mal. 4:5)
Great crowds had gathered to hear John the Baptist, and many people had been baptized. Though John did no miracles (John 10:41), it was possible the people thought that he was the promised Messiah.
John the Baptist denied being either Elijah or the Messiah. (In one sense, he was the promised Elijah. See Matt. 17:10-13.) John had nothing to say about himself because he was sent to talk about Jesus!
Jesus is the Word; John was but “a voice”—and you cannot see a voice!
John pointed back to Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 40:1-3) and affirmed that he was the fulfillment.
“A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God!”
Having ascertained who John was, the committee then asked what he was doing.
“Why are you baptizing?”
This statement reveals John knew that the Christ was already on the earth. I suspect he knew exactly whom the Christ was because of the things that transpired between Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1:39-45).
John’s statement that he didn’t know the Christ (John 1:31) was speaking of he didn’t recognize him by sight. John had been in the deserts since his birth and may have had no contact with Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Zacharias and Elizabeth told him all the miraculous things they experienced. John probably knew Mary’s virgin-born child was the Christ.
John explained that his baptism was in water, but that the Messiah would come and baptize with a spiritual baptism. Again, John made it clear that he was not establishing a new religion or seeking to exalt himself. He was pointing people to the Savior, the Son of God (John 1:34). We shall learn later that it was through baptism that Jesus Christ would be presented to the people of Israel.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Alive
Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary