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What do you say about yourself? John 1:21-23

The Apostle John is trying to convey who this Jesus was, not that they did not know for he was writing to believers – Jewish believers, converts. These converts, especially on John's part, were not asked to leave the richness and fullness of Judaism, but were shown how much richer it is knowing that the Messiah was no longer awaited, but here now in spirit; just as he had promised. The converts had the evidence of their lives filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to prove that this was all true.
Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees
Saint John the Baptist and the Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sadly, not everyone believes your words and other methods must be used to convince them; such was the case with a man named Saul. We eventually come to know him as the Apostle Paul.
John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, is at least six months older than Jesus, and, according to Scripture, filled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit while in his mother's womb.
Why would this be important and what difference does it make? Being filled as he was, circumvents standard religious practices and methods. Are you telling me that God does not work within our parameters? Exactly. It is the other way around as we work within His.
John the Baptist was the first human, that we are aware of, to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
If you consider how the Holy Spirit prompted Peter to behave on the day of Pentecost, then how did this infilling impact John, all his life. Perhaps the answer to that is, how did the Holy Spirit transform Jesus, throughout his life. The answer is seen. To those who needed help and asked for it, the impact was gentle and dramatic, not so dislike the attributes given to a dove. Was John the Baptist perceived as gentle? Only to those who needed his help, as he led them into water baptism. Oddly, this water baptism as it is not the prescribed method for the cleansing of sins, the blood of animals was. So, those who caught the brunt of John's zeal and peculiarities were the same as those who caught Jesus wrath as well, the Pharisees with their holier-than-thou attitudes.
The Apostle John, whom we gather to have been a disciple of John the Baptist, tells us that he testified about Him. Let's ponder that for a moment:
Merely to say Him means nothing unless the hearer is already aware of who is being referenced, and that may not have been the case.
The phrase, to testify about Yashua/Jesus, begins to take on a deeper meaning, as there were many who had this name. If Jesus had done amazing things before this moment, and therefore his name is associated with notoriety, then John the Baptist could have been speaking about those events. But as yet, Jesus, as far as scripture points out, had done nothing. (You know that is not true, although this is merely a logical assumption, for his mother, at the wedding in Canaan, said, “whatever he tells you to do, do it.” That statement does not come out of presumption, but evidence; evidence that convinces you that your son is filled with a power that you do not understand and he is capable of doing amazing things.)
My last attempt at speculation about such a simple word as “him,” implies that John, based on scriptural knowledge, (remove the images of the Bible from your thinking here,) knew who He was and why He had come. This knowledge could only have come through the suggestion of the Holy Spirit and yet have little to do with head knowledge or understanding. To make that statement clear, let me just say that the Holy Spirit has prompted me to say things to people, that at the moment made no sense to me; and yet, when I said them the response was often, “how did you know that?” I did not know anything, I merely complied with what I heard, and John the Baptist may have done the same. Now, none of this disqualifies study, and John the Baptist was the son of a priest. He then may have been intentionally taught, orally, about the coming Messiah. It is a major theme in the Jewish process of learning.
So in testifying, what did John the Baptist say?
John 1:15-18 NASB John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" 16) For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18) No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Keep in mind that I pointed out how John was born before Jesus, and yet, here he is saying, “He existed before me.”
John tells them, “for of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
What is he trying to say? Jesus is about to come into his role and launch into the ministry of which we all seem to be aware. But, none of that appears to happen until John baptizes Jesus in the river Jordan. (What happens when John does this?)
For the Law was given through Moses: grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
As far as we know, Jesus had said nothing yet. How is that possible? Therefore John sees moments into the future, or God's plan is already in action, and it means salvation.
This last aspect of what John testified about is somewhat convoluted unless you change one word – God, in the second half of the sentence, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
(We are in no way trying to diminish our understanding, nor are we trying to lessen the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh.) However, we do have this same verse as an explanatory statement, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
Since the Apostle John's purpose in writing was to point out that Jesus was God, this statement, above all others, should do it - “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father..” The Son, who had been no less God, and, the very Word involved in creation was caused to be birthed. God sends his only son to be birthed, bypassing the natural process of man, one in which we, without an option, continue to pass a damaged DNA string along to every child through birth.
So God, the Son, is now resting His head upon God the Father's breast. No one has seen God at any time, and yet Jesus the Christ: A man who is God and God's son at the same time; an heir to the throne of God; referred to as God; and yet there were those that saw Him. I might add that even after death and resurrection, Jesus has continued to be seen. Because He is God I could also say that God has continued, in a sense, to be seen. One huge example we have of this is found in the transformation of the Apostle Paul.
As usual, you have endured another of my horrendously long introductions.
The religious crowd had already openly challenged John the Baptist as to whether he was the Messiah, now they ask him, Who then are you; what do you say about yourself?
John 1:21-23 NASB They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he *said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22) Then they said to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" 23) He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
At this point, the question is, are you, Elijah? It is a logical issue for those in the Jewish community. In thinking differently, what evidence would we, if Jewish, have that prompted a question like this?
Malachi 4:5 KJV Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
If he held to the claim that he was Elijah, then they were all sitting dangerously close to the edge of eternity, and some could find that frightening. An alternative understanding is that the law allowed for the Jews to stone false prophets, and that would put a damper on anyone's ministry. Consider that Israel is still anticipating the return of Elijah the prophet.
It seemed they believed his simple answer of NO; so they ask again, “Who are you,” and, if you are not some huge personality that we should be enthralled by, then “what do you say about yourself?” The question carries many implications. It is highly possible that this crowd are the same ones who asked Jesus a similar question, which we find in John chapter 8.
One of the implications would be, by whose authority do you act and talk the way you do? John who had a rather direct way of saying things got him beheaded had a simple explanation:
"I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
John's response was not just a sentence pulled out of the air for John had memorized Isaiah chapter 40, along with the majority of the Old Testament. Memorization was the primary method for passing along the wealth of information, written on scrolls, to the next generation; therefore it was necessary to learn these words with precision. However, like many of the things John the Baptist and Jesus said, this was an excerpt; if you must be critical, it was taken out of context. Having done that did gravity cease to exist, or the world come to an end, No.
So, what was the context? Isaiah 40,  as the Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary, states, is saying that “The restoration after the Exile pointed to the coming of the Lord's kingdom.” God's command in verse one of chapter forty is to comfort his people. Calling the Pharisees vipers does not come across as comforting.
Certainly, John the Baptist had a sense of urgency, but for what, “The Way of the Lord.” Now the question then should be, what did that mean? Christ had already been born, and wiser men recognized him, so that eliminates that possibility. It feels as if we are being guided to assume that this day something else was to happen. I say that as though this scenario transpired earlier in the day, and it might have, for it seems to have been on John's mind.
So what was different about this day?
As far as we can tell we are all still awaiting our restoration after exile, and the coming of the Lord's kingdom. What if it has come and we who have accepted His salvation are already in it? There is no doubt that we still long for a salvation and redemption that includes an undisturbed peace in the Father's arms; certainly, no one would say that we are there yet.
So, again I ask, what was different about the day that Jesus was baptized if that was the day John made this statement?
  • The day of His baptism was the day Jesus was introduced to the world as the Messiah.
    The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded...
    The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove, surrounded by angels, by Giaquinto, 1750s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is that an honest and valid statement? Wasn't the "star in the east" that led the Wisemen to Jesus an announcement? And what of the choir of angels that told the shepherds that the (key word) Christ was born. The word Christ is the Greek word for Messiah. Based on this, I could easily say that God had already made His proclamations.
  • This day was also significant, as God, announced to those gathered around the Jordan that day, by sending the Holy Spirit, like a dove, to lite upon Jesus, and to those listening, he said that "this was His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased.”
The reality of that moment was that some saw something alighting upon Jesus, while others heard a rumble or noise, but heard no distinctive words. It makes me wonder what John heard. Perhaps John operated on faith and merely trusted that the noise was God. However, John was filled with the Holy Spirit, the first and only one so far, and because of his ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, he may have heard distinctly.
With those ramifications in mind, what impact did this moment in time make on the world?
It was not simply the entrance of Jesus into the world; it was a shift in the methoddeliverya change in procedureI think we could even make the assertion that God's plan had been in motion for a long time and that God looks at His plans as complete, regardless of what things look like, knowing full well that there will be a completion, just as He said. Therefore, what John said in response, was only restating God's plan, and that to God, it does not matter how long the process takes.

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