Title: The approval of the King by His herald
Scriptures to Read: Read John 1:19-34
The Jewish leaders
John will use the term Jews a total of 71 times. He uses it in three different senses.
a. Sometimes he means Jewish people in general, the sons of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.
b. Sometimes he will mean Judeans in contrast to Galileans.
c. And sometimes he will use it of the Jewish leaders.
And how can we know which way he is using it? The context tells us in which way it is being used. From this passage we see that the Jews have sent a delegation to John to question him and bring back their answers, and they are also described as Pharisees in verse 24. So it is the leaders of Israel who have sent this delegation to John.
The purpose of this delegation is to interrogate John
And this delegation is asking questions of John, whereas the first delegation that came to him asked no questions. The first stage was observation. The second stage is interrogation. Now they have come back to John and this time they are raising questions, and three times we are told this is an official delegation from Jerusalem.
1. The first time is in verse 19: This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
2. The second time is in verse 22: “Who are you, we need to give an answer to those who sent us?”
3. The third time is in verse 24: “Now they had been sent from the Pharisees”.
So three times we are told this is not just people standing by raising questions. It is an official delegation to find out exactly who John claims to be. Obviously they have concluded that John’s ministry has significant messianic implications.
John is the forerunner to the Messiah; the herald to the King
What is the substance of their questions? John denies being three things.
1. He denies being the Messiah in verse 20: “I am not the Christ”.
2. In verse 21: “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” Notice he denies being Elijah. Here is the third basic connection with Elijah. He comes in the spirit and power of Elijah. He dressed like Elijah. But now he denies being Elijah. There will be other connections further on in our study.
3. Then they ask him: “Are you the Prophet?” Notice the definite article, not a prophet, but the prophet. So they are referring to a particular prophet, meaning the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The rabbis made that a unique prophet but didn’t identify him with the Messiah. Again John answers “no”.
So he is not the Messiah; he is not Elijah; he is not the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18.
And so then they ask the open question, who is he? And He says, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” And the point is: he is the forerunner of the Messiah; he is the herald of the King.
The Lamb of God
A day passes as we see in verse 29: The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! “There were two concepts of the lamb in the Jewish minds of the first century.
1. The Passover Lamb of Exodus 12.
2. The Messianic Lamb of Isaiah 53:7.
By calling him the lamb he identifies Him with the Passover Lamb and he identifies him with the Messianic Lamb of Isaiah 53. He points out in verse 30: This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ As to his humanity, of course, Jesus is six months younger than John. But as to his deity, he preceded John.
Purpose of John’s ministry
The reason he began his ministry of baptism is found in verses 32-34: He was told in a previous revelation that one day, while he is baptizing someone, he will see the Spirit of God descending on him, and that will be the Messiah himself. Now obviously, he already knew who Jesus was, but the coming of the Spirit when Jesus was baptized was the authenticating sign.
The Introduction of the King is complete (See devotional days 1-23)
This completes the Introduction of the King, which is the first major division of the life of Jesus, the Messiah, from a Jewish Perspective. In the next division, we will examine the works and words of Jesus, as well as the reactions of His hearers, in the context of the Jewish culture of that day.