John 1:19-28

“Who are you? What is the source of your identity?


There is a great majority of people who want to be known or associated with something or someone.

We want people to know who our favourite sports team is.

We want people to know what is our favourite music and books to read.

We want people to know our level of education by our accolades on our wall.

We want people to see how successful we are by the size of our business or employment.

We want people to see how beautiful our family is through Facebook, or photos hanging on our walls.

We want people to see what kind of person we are by what we wear, how we speak, and behave.


If this weren’t so! Why is Twitter, Instagram, You Tube, Facebook and other social platforms, so popular? Why is there a great majority so adamant in putting everything about on social media for the world to see who they are. Why is society trying to stand out or fit in with the latest trends, fashions, seeking to be known by a people who really could care less about them in the end.

What about the church?

The Christian life?


How is it, when it comes to the things of God, we blush or hide ourselves from the people we try so hard to impress with our own lives? There is nothing wrong with having a successful business, pictures of our families, or your favourite sports team. (Which there is only one, the Toronto Maple Leaf’s) But I never ever, ever, want these things to overshadow where my true identity is found, which in Christ Jesus, the bloody cross of our redemption.

The question could be asked to you and me today; with what we see here in this portion of John’s letter! “Who are you?” Some would think this is a rude and pushy question! But I think it’s a really good question to ask especially to the church. Think about it for a moment! There is this unusual straggly man on the scene, who is speaking loudly to the people that is before him. It is somewhat an unorthodox behaviour to the present society of religious elites and the traditions of men. And to top it off… he was preaching repentance and the pending dome for those you disregard his message. The text of Scripture shows us that John the Baptist was a man who was clear on who he wasHe was also clear on who Jesus is. He was able to point others clearly to Jesus as the only Savior whom they desperately needed. Remember back in (v6-v8) we saw three aspects of the John’s testimony to Jesus.


He was not the Light

He was sent to bear witness to the Light

His aim was that all might believe through him.


So, it makes perfect sense to ask this question…… Who are you? Let’s fast forward to our present day; what if a total stranger came up to you and asked that same question “Who are you?” What would you say? The people were being stirred, challenged, and confused with this strange man from the wilderness…. understandably it’s been 400 years of silence and no gospel witness to the Messiah. Luke penned, “Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not,” Luke 3:15

This son of Zechariah was preaching to the people about the coming Messiah!  Remember Jesus’s isn’t on the scene yet. And the religious leaders are counselling and trying to figure out what this man is doing with such unorthodox religious practices. Without a doubt John the Baptist is one of the most remarkable characters that is brought before us in the Scriptures.


He was the subject of Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 40

His birth was due to the direct and incredible intervention of God. Luke 1:7; 13

He was filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb. Luke 1:15

He was a man sent by God. John 1:6

He paved the way for the coming Messiah. Matt 3:3

There was no one greater than John according to Jesus. Matt 11:11


See, John was the first witness called by the Apostle John to testify to the truth of Jesus. Look at the opening verse in (v19) “this is the testimony of John”. Testimony by definition is “to testify” is when a person is brought into a courtroom and placed under oath to tell, attest to, or give witness to his or her personal knowledge or experience with reference to the case that is being heard.

What was he testifying too?

We read about John’s ministry and his encounters with the opposing religious elites. “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'" Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Matt 3:1-12

Picture John saying these things to the high

elite religious leader?


It’s not surprising that they asked the question in (v19) “Who are you?” Again, remember this is the first time someone has spoken about the coming Messiah. Messianic expectations were running high in Israel; as people longed for deliverance from Roman rule. Historically Based on the promises in the Hebrew Scriptures…. the people were expecting that one-day God would send an especially great person, a mighty deliverer, who would represent God in a unique way and usher in an age of righteousness and peace, including deliverance from foreign rule. John was to pave the way for the Saviour, as a farmer preparing the fields for the Harvest. One can imagine the tone in which they said to John, “Who are you?” John the Baptist responds in (v20) “I am not the Christ” Basically, what John is saying is “I’m not the One whom our patriarchs spoke of” Why? John knew his subordinate position, or role, as the forerunner and not the superstar, or main attraction. We understand his role [ministry], by what John says in (v27) “he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” But this answer did not satisfy the religious leaders, so they dug a little deeper with their questioning!So they asked him “Are you Elijah?” (v21)


Why would they ask this question?

Well, the bible speaks about Elijah returning before Jesus’ earthly kingdom. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” Mal 4:5

Malachi (the last O.T. prophet, 400 years before) states in his letter that before the great and terrible day of the Lord, God would send Elijah the prophet to restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Mal 4:5. Do you know that even today many Jewish people leave an empty seat at the table for Elijah when they celebrate the Passover? Even in Malachi 3:1 we read “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” This was speaking of John not Elijah! So, I can see why they would ask such a question.


John had similar characteristics to Elijah…. John looked like the description of Elijah, both in his rugged wilderness lifestyle and in his fiery message of judgment. (1 Kings 17:4-6; 2 Kings 1:8-10). They both were hairy! John wore a camel hair coat, while the bible says Elijah was a hairy man. They both warned of the coming judgement. But, John was not Elijah…at least not in a literal sense; but in the same likeness of spirit and power with a message for the people of God. Same could be applied to you and me as God’s children or earthly representatives to the King. Remember what Paul wrote the church in Corinth in his second letter? “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:17-21

But the religious leaders were still not satisfied with John’s answer. So, they ask him “Are you the prophet?” (v21) Again, I can see why they would ask such a question after so much silence from God previously. See they would have asked this question by what they read from Moses. "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.' And the LORD said to me, 'They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” Deut 18:15-18


These men thought that John might have been Jeremiah, Isaiah, or one of the other prophets resurrected. Reason being they were saying that about Jesus! “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is? “And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Matt16:13-14


But I love John’s answer………… “No!” (v21) Can you picture the frustration from these so called educated religious men? Look at their response! (v22) I’m sure the level of frustration was being exhibited by the tone in their voice as they ask the question again with why they needed an answer! So, they said to him, "Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" And I love the directness and humility in John responds as we see in (v23)I’m just a “voice”, not even a man worthy of honor proclaiming the good news that is coming. This humble response gives no prominence to the preacher whatsoever. I am not an important person, like Elijah, the prophets, or the Christ. John Gill wrote in his commentary on John, “John the Baptist, who, with great modesty, expresses himself in the language of this Scripture, as being a prophecy of him: he was a "voice", but not a mere voice; nor was his ministry a mere voice of words, as the law was, but it was the sweet voice of the Gospel, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah; encouraging men to believe in him; calling them to evangelical repentance, and publishing remission of sins in the name of Christ, and pointing him out as the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world: this voice was "crying"; it was not a still small voice, it was a very loud one; John lifted up his voice like a trumpet; he delivered himself with great zeal and fervency; and it was "in the wilderness" where this voice was heard, in the wilderness of Judea, as in Matt 3:1 "I am the voice of one that goes about in the wilderness"; that is, in the several towns and villages which were in the wilderness, to whom John went and preached the Gospel.”


So, they asked him a different question in (v25) “Why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophets?” Again, John responds with directness and humility once again. (v26-v27) John’s cleansing was to prepare the people for the true cleansing that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament talked about a spiritual cleansing in connection with the Messiah’s coming. Eze 36:25; 33; 37:23; Zech 13:1.  John baptism shocked the Jewish elites who viewed the Jews as already God’s kingdom people and not in need of baptism. Those who John baptized, (some of which were Jews) acknowledged that their sin had placed them outside God’s saving covenant, and they were no better than the Gentiles. Everything John did was in preparation for the Great One who save us from our sins. He shifts all his focus and answer to this question to the “One” who is worthy of all praise and adoration.


John The Baptist Saw Himself As A Voice Of One Crying

Out In The Wilderness. (v23)

He was citing Isaiah 40:3. The point of the quotation is that it gives no prominence to the preacher whatever. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.” He did not say, “I am the great voice referred to by Isaiah in the Scriptures!” He did not say, “I am the important voice, the voice that will forever change world history. That is my exalted role!” Rather, he is just a voice, calling attention to the coming of the Lord.


Isaiah said that this messenger would proclaim to the people….

Build a road

Knock down the hills

Dig a tunnel if necessary

Fill in the potholes and ditches.

Make the road straight

This is going to be the highway for our King.


John is saying I am not the King that is coming but

start building because He is coming.


The imagery was that before a king would visit a town, a messenger would go before him to announce his coming. The townspeople would hurry out to clear away the obstacles and fill in the washed-out parts of the road to smooth the way for the king’s coming. The messenger didn’t call attention to himself, but to the coming king. And John here makes it clear that the coming King is none other than the Lord, Himself in the person of Jesus, the Christ. Its interesting to see John use the world “wilderness” to where his voice is going. “Wilderness” here may have a spiritual allusion to the barren state of the Jewish religion” as J. C. Ryle said in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. The people had collapsed into religious ritualism and legalism, rather than a personal relationship with the living God. One theologian wrote, “It is the tendency of all religions, including Christianity, to devolve from knowing God and walking with Him on the heart level into outward observance of rituals and rules. Whenever that happens, God raises up spokesmen to call people back to walking with Him. To do that, we have to clear away.” John’s ministry was to prepare the people for the everlasting Sustainer who would cleanse their sins completely for all eternity. [past, present and future]


As the promise said in Heb 9:28 “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” This is good news and that’s what John was sharing with his people……preparing the way for the Saviour [Jesus Christ]. This was John’s hope……this is our sustaining hope each and every day as we wait eagerly for His return. Living on the promises of God found in His word [His truth] through the gospel that saves.


We are very much like John in our society today as it pertains to who we are. We are different, strangers, foreigners, in a waste land of sin. We are a people today who are doing the same thing with the Gospel. We are a people who point others to the already finished work on the cross. We are a people who are to spread the news or pave the way so that people can find forgiveness, restoration, and most of all eternal life. We are a people who are to plead with people about their pending dome for their unbelief in Jesus Christ.


We are a people who have a testimony of the grace already been given; just as John was a testimony of the grace coming to mankind. John’s emphasis was simple, yet urgent. Prepare your hearts because the Messiah is here  The same urgency applies today! We have been set apart in God’s story of redemption, in Christian history to tell the world who Jesus is. We are the set apart ones, crying out into a world that is hardened, evil, and wants nothing to do with the One who saves to the uttermost. We may be strangers with a message that is unacceptable, and hostile to sinful world……but never forget it’s this same message that saved you and set you apart.


How important is for every servant of Christ to refer

others to Jesus and away from himself.


Our identity makes us unique and unusual like John but also not important, or the star of the story. The Christian life is more than your job and circumstances. The Christian life is meant to be poured out faithful service to the king. That’s what makes John the Baptist so admirable with unwavering commitment; dedicated faithfulness to carry out the mission that God had called him to. We’re to be faithful Christians wherever God has put us. You and I are called to be faithful sons, daughters, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, and friends. You’re called to be faithful exactly where God has put you right now. Does anything else matter? John, certainly didn’t care what the priests and Levites thought of him. Your purpose isn’t derived from what you’ve done. Your life isn’t wrapped up in your reputation. Our identity is hidden in the light of truth found in Christ! So, don’t be surprised when someone asks you that question “Who are you?” May our answer always be as Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal 2:20


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