Following Jesus • 33 / The right question and the astonishing answer

Read This: John 1:19-28

While Jesus was being tempted by the Devil, John the Baptist faced challenges of his own. The religious leaders showed up to confront him on his activities.

Anyone drawing crowds (“all the country” and “all the people of Jerusalem”) was sure to attract the attention of the Romans. Plus, John was baptizing people, which suggested gathering followers. Since Roman soldiers were among those coming to him, they were already aware of the situation.

The religious leaders wanted no part of a Roman crackdown, which is exactly what would happen if this turned into a widespread movement. Their role in the balance of power depended on keeping the peace, and John’s preaching, different than their own, seemed to be taking hold. Either John was one of the great leaders God promised to send — or he was a problem to be solved.

So they showed up demanding to know who he thought he was.

The Messiah?  Emphatically not! (The original language signals the vehemence of John’s denial.)

Elijah? John’s camel-hair clothing and leather belt probably looked similar to how Elijah was described — “a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And since Elijah was carried to heaven without dying, and was prophesied to prepare the way for the Messiah, this question made sense. But no, John denied being Elijah, since he wasn’t Elijah.

What about the Prophet foretold by Moses? Many believed this to be a reference to the Messiah. Again, John said no.

Note John’s example here. His only thought, given all this attention, was for his Lord to be recognized. So when they finally asked, “Who are you?” He made it clear to everyone — the common people, Roman soldiers, tax collectors, and religious leaders.

I am here to introduce you to your Messiah.

He was the one Isaiah foretold. The herald, announcing the coming of the Messiah! That should have been the biggest news ever to hit the ears of a religious Jew . . . except for the news he delivers in our next passage.