John the Baptist

Who was John the Baptist?

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JOHN 1 BIBLE STUDY

19-28 John the Baptist

29-34 Lamb of God
35-45 Disciples of John
46-51 Nathanael
JOHN 1:19  19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

Who is “John” (John 1:19)?
It's John the Baptist. The writer of this Gospel is writing about another John.

Who is John the Baptist (John 1:19)?
John the Baptist is the prophet born to a priest named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth: But the angel said to him, “Fear not, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13)

Why is John called “the Baptist”?
He was baptizing people, and because of it, the Jewish leaders (“Jews”) had sent “priests and Levites” to check him out.

JOHN 1:20-22  20 And 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 They therefore said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

Why do they ask John the Baptist if he is “Elijah” or “the Prophet”?
The Jewish people were waiting for the arrival of three people prophesied in the Old Testament: (A) the Savior, which is “Messiah” in Hebrew and “Christ” (John 1:20) in Greek, in which the New Testament was written; (B) prophet Elijah just before the Messiah/Christ (“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrifying day of the LORD.” - Malachi 4:5); and (C) the “Prophet”: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your brethren.” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Since John the Baptist said he wasn't the Christ, they are asking him if he is either of the latter two.

Who is the “Prophet like me” (Deuteronomy 18:15)?
God used Moses to deliver the Jews from bondage in Egypt. Moses was prophesying about the One who would deliver them from their bondage to sin.

JOHN 1:23  23 He said, “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

What is John the Baptist saying above?
He is answering by referring to Isaiah, who had prophesied: “Be comforted, be comforted, My people!” says Your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her warfare is ended, that her sin is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God...” (Isaiah 40:1-3)

What is the context of this declaration?
The book of Isaiah was written for the Jews returning to the promised land from exile. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah emphasize God’s judgment. The passage quoted above (from Isaiah chapter 40) marks the shift to the comfort that God will provide and alludes to Jesus’ role of opening the way for humanity to return to where we were with God, before the fall in the Garden of Eden.

So what is John the Baptist saying about himself?
When a king traveled during the antiquity, a herald ran ahead of him to clear the path and to prepare the people to welcome the coming king, like motorcycle policemen riding ahead of a presidential motorcade today. John is identifying himself as that herald for the coming “Lord” (John 1:23), which was his God-given role announced to his father by the angel before John was even born: “Also, he will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)

JOHN 1:24-27  24 Now those who had been sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him and said to him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize in water, but there stands One among you whom ye do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, outranks me, whose sandal strap I am unworthy to loose.”

Who are “the Pharisees” (John 1:24)?
See Pharisees.

What is John the Baptist saying about the “sandal strap” (John 1:27)?
In those days, the roads were nothing more than dirt paths littered with animal excrement, and foot coverings were crude sandals. Given how dirty people’s feet became from walking through the dust and filth, the job of washing someone else’s feet was considered so low that only the lowest slaves were obliged to perform it. John the Baptist is saying that compared to Jesus, he is so worthless that he isn’t even worthy to be Jesus’ foot washing slave.

JOHN 1:28  28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

What and where are “Bethabara” and “Jordan”?
Bethabara was a baptismal site on the other (east) side of Jordan, which is the river that runs along the eastern border of Israel.

John was born to serve God as His herald. What is the God-given, God-serving mission for your life, and are you living it out?
 

If you are, are you doing it with John's perception of his own worth?

 

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