16th January 2022 – John 1:19-28

19 "And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 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?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’, as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing."

John 1:19-28

There are two further points to note in these verses. One is what might be called the essential ambiguity of John's ministry. On the one hand, there can be no doubt that a genuine spiritual awakening had taken place through his preaching, widespread, deep and on a national scale. It was a time of refreshing from the Lord, in its own right. On the other hand, however, there is a sense in which it was a negative, preparatory movement, symbolised by water-baptism as opposed to the Spirit-baptism that was to follow (26), Pentecost. Of necessity this was so, since John's ministry stands on the borderline between two dispensations, the old and the new, belonging therefore to both. In relation to the old, the movement was comparable to the great movements of revival in old time, such as in the times of Josiah, Ezra and Nehemiah; but in relation to the new, it had a preparatory significance.

The other point concerns what John says in 26b, 'There standeth one among you, whom ye know not'. He does not necessarily mean that Jesus was even then standing among the crowd. The verb is in the perfect tense, - 'there has come one among you' - and John is in effect saying, 'He has come into the world, the long promised Messiah, and you have not recognised Him'. It is a repetition of what has already been said in the Prologue (10). This bears witness, then, to the blindness of the Jews in face of the light in their midst, but John's words can be applied very worthily and accurately in a more general sense, because they are true about every act of witness. When we faithfully bear testimony to Christ, it is always true that an unseen Presence stands in the midst, for the risen Christ promises to be present when His people bear witness to Him. He is always standing there. What encouragement there is for us here!