The role of an “advance man” in diplomatic circles is to go ahead of the leader to make the arrangements, negotiate the framework of an agreement, and prepare for the leader’s arrival to close the deal. From 1968 to 1977, America’s top advance man was Henry Kissinger, who succeeded in negotiating the end of the Vietnam War, détente and arms reduction with the Soviet Union, and opening of relations with China. His contributions led to his recognition and the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
- Today’s passage describes a man chosen and prepared by God to be the advance man for the Lord Jesus Christ. Pause for a moment to reflect upon the significance of this responsibility and the resulting eternal impacts of his work.
READ THE WORD: JOHN 1:19-28 (ESV)
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.
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- What was John doing that caused the Jewish religious leaders to want to know about him (vs. 25)? Who did they believe he was (vss. 20-21)?
- What do John’s responses to their questions indicate about his faith and character?
- In verse 26, John contrasted his beliefs (as evidenced by his actions) with those of the priests and Levites. Describe this difference in your own words.
- How do you respond when you hear the voice of one calling for repentance and submission to God’s authority?
RESPOND TO GOD
This recount of John’s witness about Jesus is less about his peculiar appearance and more about his character. At this time, only non-Jews seeking to become converts were baptized. John’s teachings, however, prompted many Israelites to repent of their sins. He then baptized them with water to symbolize their cleansing. This offended the religious leaders who believed the Jewish nation already belonged to God and did not need to be washed.
Here, at the apex of his ministry, John had the opportunity to focus the attention and praise of the Jews on himself. After all, some believed he was the prophet Elijah or the promised Christ. But John humbly stated he was unworthy to perform the most menial task for “he who comes after me.” Acknowledging he was just a “voice,” John directed their attention to Jesus, the Christ, who though standing in their midst, they did not know.
- Praise God for sending and revealing to you his Son Jesus through the witness of John and others.
- Consider to whom you are a witness for Christ. Seek opportunities this week to use John’s example of truthfulness and humility to help clear their way to Christ.