Sermon: The Right Kind of Witness John 1:19-28

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The Right Kind of Witness

John 1:19-28


Primary Truth Taught- John’s witness to Christ required that he not be the focus but that Christ would receive all the glory and attention.

 

In the prologue of John’s Gospel we’ve learned that John the Baptist came as a witness to testify about the Light.

John 1:6–7 (ESV)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.

He came as a witness or to bear witness or to give a testimony about Jesus to aid in producing belief in those who hear. We realize that salvation only comes from God and yet we also see that John the Baptist also came from God. There was a man sent by God whose name was John…

John’s witness to the Person of Jesus Christ is a vital part of Jesus’ ministry. Through John’s work of preparation many will believe on the Lord Jesus. John gave a testimony about Jesus.

I’ve been in churches that have “testimony” time. More often than not the “testimony time” just simply gives people time to talk about themselves. Those I’ve heard were very good at indirectly patting themselves on the back. In the end, that’s about all they talked about. Oh, on the rare occasion Jesus was mentioned it was in the setting of what He was doing for them or in their life or how their prayers were answered in an affirming way, still the thrust was me, me, me.

I think we can learn much today about what being a good witness for Jesus and what giving a good testimony concerning Jesus looks like.

Now, we’ve used these words a lot but I wonder if we have forgotten where they came from and what they mean. Both, witness and testimony come from the courtroom setting. As a witness for Jesus, we are to tell others who Jesus is, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, according to the Bible and what He has done. We speak of His person and His work. I would encourage to purposefully avoid speaking much at all about what He’s done for you because most often that’s a gateway to self-centered attention. In a very real since, our witness is testifying on behalf of Christ. We tell others who Jesus is and what He’s done and for the most part we are only the voice telling others about Our Savior.

We are so used to our testimony being about us that we cannot hardly think of a testimony without centering around us. Our witness and testimony must be about Jesus and only about Him.

Human Need Met
What does a good testimony look like? This passage shows us very clearly the components of a good testimony. It shows us what to include and what to avoid. It shows us the care we must take to not make it about us and be cautious even when briefly we come into the picture. We are to bring maximum glory to Jesus and none to ourselves. Our great need is to stop focusing on and talking about us and instead speak about Jesus Christ to others.

Hear God’s Word and live…

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.

  1. John’s Character of Humility

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?”

  1. I Am Not the Christ

If we remember from last time that Jesus declared John the Baptist to be the greatest man who ever lived. Yet, John makes sure we know that he is not worthy to even perform the lowliest servant function loosen Jesus’ sandals.

Further John will give us three I Am sayings much like Jesus’ great I Am sayings. Jesus says I Am He, I Am the Door, the Christ etc.

Notice John’s I Am sayings…I Am Not the Christ.

The Jewish delegation comes out to the riverbank to ask John who he is. John’s works, behavior, dress, and character caused the Jews to be curious if perhaps John was, in fact, the Messiah.

Many believe these Jewish priests and Levites were among those of the corrupted religious elite. While that is a possibility, it seems at least here that their inquiry may genuine. They were not the only ones wondering…

Luke 3:15 (ESV)

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,

Notice what these verses say… And this is the testimony of John.

It’s testimony time and John raises his hand so to speak…

I want us to hear what John says and what he doesn’t say.

Notice his denials…

Immediately, John turns the attention from himself to Jesus. Even with his negative statement of denial…20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ. Even with this denial we can see John doing what God had called him to do, preparing the way for the Messiah.

Here, we are introduced to the title Christ. When John answers, I am not the Christ. I am not the anointed one or in Hebrew, I am not the Messiah. Do you see how quickly John tries to focus them away from himself and toward Jesus?

Often as we try to witness for Jesus we speak about everything except Jesus. Have you ever experienced that? For whatever reason it seems the conversation may dance around Jesus and the Gospel but never quite gets there. I’m sure John the Baptist would tell us to drop everything else in your conversation when you’re witnessing and focus on the Person and Work of Christ.

Why did they come out to the river to inquire of John in the first place? His witness about Jesus had sparked an interest in these religious folk. His character and his peculiarities caused them to be interested in finding out what made John tick, that and the fact that multitudes were out there and fewer and fewer were in the city and in the temple.

If you’re not the Messiah, then who are you, they asked… Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet? To these additional questions John again answers, No. I am none of the above.

  1. I Am Not Elijah

Why of all the people in the Bible would they think that John the Baptist might have been Elijah?
First, Elijah was a figure who was promised to return at the Day of the Lord. So, they probably thought, well if he’s not the Messiah maybe he’s one who is to come beforehand.

Malachi 4:5–6 (ESV)

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Something very interesting occurs when Jesus speaks about John. Jesus doesn’t call him Elijah but…

Matthew 11:11–14 (ESV)
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

Matthew 17:12–13 (ESV)

12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was not Elijah, himself.

  1. I Am Not Moses

Well, if you’re not the Christ and not Elijah then perhaps you’re the prophet?

Another end times figure that they were looking for was the prophet. Now this is none other than Moses. The promise of a prophet like Moses was given in the OT.

Deuteronomy 18:18–19 (ESV)

18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

When asked, are you the prophet, John answered, No.

They could not figure John the Baptist out. They couldn’t identify him but they knew there was something different about him.

Beloved, I need to ask you today, is there something different about you? You may not walk around in clothing made from camel’s hair and eat locusts but we too must be different. So different, in fact, that the world notices. I’m not endorsing acting weird or strange but I am endorsing showing Christian character traits that are radically different from the world. Now as believers we must be acting more and more like Christ and less and less like sinners. You see John acted so much like Jesus that they thought he actually was Jesus.

We must have a different worldview, a different set of standards to live by. We must be getting our marching orders from God through the Bible and not from our current culture.

The early Church acted so much like Jesus that those around them who did not follow Christ called them Christians with means “little Christs”

Acts 11:26 (ESV)

26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

One huge problem today in the Church is that we call ourselves Christians. Many in the Church would like to think they’re Christians, would tell others they’re Christians but they are no more Christian than Judas was.

Let’s look into our own walk with the Lord and ask ourselves a very hard question. Would those you’re around conclude that you’re a Christian by your actions alone? In other words, without telling anyone you’re a Christian would others conclude that you are a follower of Christ by your words, behavior, and character?

The real issue is that many who call themselves Christians are gravely mistaken.

John did the things the Messiah was to do and so they concluded that perhaps he was the Messiah. The early Church did the things Jesus did so the lost people around them with a degrading attitude called them Christians.

John was a living witness giving an accurate testimony about the truth.

He did not speak about himself but turned their attention away from himself.

  1. I Am Just a Voice

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.”

John realizes that his calling is to prepare the people to meet Jesus. Jesus must increase while John begins to decrease. Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ not John. So as important as John’s function is he is not important. In other words it was John’s greatest calling and privilege to prepare the way for Jesus and then step back and allow Jesus all the glory and fame.

All four Gospels have the account of John the Baptist somewhere near the beginning. Because there is no greater testimony given about Christ than John’s.

Last week we saw that Jesus considered John the Baptist to be the greatest human who has ever lived. Based on that declaration by Jesus then, John goes on to say that Jesus greatly outranks him.

I want to cover three main things that John speaks concerning Jesus as his testimony to Christ. We’re just covering the first one today…

  1. Prepare the Way of Yahweh Incarnate

Isaiah 40:3 (ESV)

    A voice cries:

       “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Whether we realize it or not, our best efforts at evangelism and witnessing is when we see ourselves as just a voice.

John saw himself as the lamp to bear witness of or about the eternal light. He now sees himself as simply a voice proclaiming the truths of Jesus. The point of John’s reply is that it gives him no prominence whatsoever. He is no more than a faithful voice.

Listen, we are just voices as well. We must be voices. We must speak of Jesus and declare His glory to the world. We must declare along with the Scriptures that all people without Jesus Christ are hell bound sinners. Listen, we must get out of the mindset that it’s mean to tell people the truth. The time for silence is over. We must be bold voices for our Lord. We must be like the watchman on the wall blasting the trumpet and giving warning to those who will die unless they listen to the warning.

I realize what I’m about to say may sound overly simplistic especially today…we must point people to Jesus. Listen, sinners cannot find the answer in modern therapy or godless counseling. People cannot find the answer in drugs or alcohol. People cannot find the answer in anything else but Jesus. So, we must be the voice crying out and pointing them to the answer, Jesus Christ.

Notice what Isaiah said about John’s message…

Here is John’s first point of his testimony about Jesus…

prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Notice with me that in the ESV the word LORD means Yahweh the covenant God of Israel and Creator God Jehovah. John’s message or testimony about Jesus begins with the fact that God has come to earth and has taken on flesh…in the beginning was the Word…

So far we’ve seen John in an introductory way…

John 1:6–8 (ESV)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

He was sent by God…this is more than simply God called him to be an evangelist…

Here is one important point from John’s testimony concerning Jesus,

John 1:33 (ESV)

33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

When we put these pieces together, we conclude that God has sent John and God had told John what to say and what to preach concerning Jesus because up until this point John the Baptist had never met Jesus nor could he identify Him until the day of Jesus’ baptism.

So here we’re pressed to believe everything John says because all the John the Baptist tells us concerning Jesus is all God tells us concerning Jesus. To not believe John is to not believe God because God sent him with a message concerning Jesus Christ.

  1. Calling People to Repent

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.

For us to understand the significance of John’s response, it’s vital that we understand what his baptism was all about.

The Jews were familiar with baptism. Sometimes those coming into Judaism were baptized these were often called God-fearers. Sometimes those who desire to live pious lives would be baptized, even daily. But all the baptisms that the Jews knew of were self-administered baptisms.

But in both instances baptism was self-administered. Candidates baptized themselves. One of the things that characterized the baptism of John the Baptist is that he himself administered it. [1]

The way John the Baptist baptized was really a new way and this no doubt triggered interest in the Jewish religious leaders. In their thinking, John must be someone of significance, someone with great authority to baptize others like this.

So, their quest was really to discover by whose authority he was doing the baptizing.

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.”

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He called all whom he baptized to repent of their sins and so, he was getting them ready for the true Christ.

John the Baptist’s ministry was Isaiah’s straight, flat highway in the desert preparing the people to be ready for the kingdom of God to come in power and end their spiritual exile. His baptism was preparatory, revealing Israel must turn from the same uncleanness marking her Gentile persecutors.
John is seen as the new Elijah, for he is a prophet of the coming Messiah (Mal. 4:5–6Matt. 11:1–14). His baptism is not the same as the one Jesus commands (Matt. 28:18–20), but it does share points of contact. The most important of these is our need to repent of our sin so that we can enter Christ’s kingdom (Mark 1:14–15).[2]
So we see John’s final thrust in his witness for Jesus and that is a call for those he spoke to, to repent. It’s important that as we speak to others about Jesus and about sin and the Gospel that we call them also to repent and trust Christ.
Today we’ve seen John’s witness to Jesus Christ. We’ve seen that he took the focus away from himself and point them to Jesus. We saw that John was just a voice not desiring any attention but kept the attention focused on Jesus. Then we see that his ministry while focusing on Christ also focused on the need for those hearing him to repent and turn away from their sins. So John made the way straight for Jesus.

 

Children’s Homework

Lord willing, next week we’ll look to John 1:29-34. In this section John the Baptist introduces us to Jesus. What does he call Jesus? Why is Jesus called that? What is different between the OT sacrificial system’s way of dealing with sin and Jesus’ way?

Declaration of Grace

In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

 

[1] Gospel of John by D A Carson pg. 145

[2] http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/baptism-john/

 

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