Sermon Text: John 1:19–30
Dear fellow redeemed: Last week we picked up on this same John, maybe a year later,
when he was in prison. Matthew tells us that he sent two disciples to see that Jesus was the
One for whom they were waiting. John was soon to be executed by Herod the Tetrarch for telling Herod that he was committing adultery, so it was important that His disciples turn and follow the real hope of the world, our Savior, the Christ. There at the end of his life and ministry, John sent his disciples to Jesus.
Toward the end of the first century, the aged Apostle John set out to write a comprehensive account about which he said, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John
The first evidence he gives of this is the testimony of John who, at the beginning of his
ministry points to Christ as our Divine Savior. So from the beginning of his ministry to the end of his life …
THE PROPHET POINTS TO JESUS, THE HOPE OF THE WORLD
I. What John Says about Himself
II. What John Says about Jesus
I. What John Says about Himself
We meet John facing a delegation of expert fact-finders, priests and Levites sent from the
religious authorities in Jerusalem. John has appeared on the scene like a meteor, baptizing
thousands, preaching to thousands with a message of repentance. He spoke to the high and
mighty and the low and powerless with words of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, baptiz-
ing thousands in repentance and forgiveness.
Who was this guy?
20He confessed and did not deny. He confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21And they asked him, “Who are you then? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
“No,” he answered.
22Then they asked him, “Who are you? Tell us so we can give an answer to those who
sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
John’s answer is the same one Jesus gave about John a year later. 23He said, “I am the
voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as
Isaiah the prophet said.” John declares clearly that he is both the fulfillment of the prophecy of
Isaiah and is proclaiming the advent of the Lord, the Divine Messiah.
This is important when it comes to verifying the truth about Christ. As you might guess, it
could be easy to for a false prophet to come out and make claims about himself, but it is not
possible for a false Messiah to arrange to be born of two of David’s descendants, in Bethlehem,
and then for a star to lead scholars and philosopher-kings to your infant bed, and then to arrange
for someone to be born six months before you who was identified as your forerunner.
It is important that there be a John to fulfill the word of the Prophet Isaiah because the
fact this was foretold 700 years before and came to pass right on the threshold of Christ’s min-
istry attests to the truth of the gospel.
(Another reason the apostle includes this testimony of John is that there were still some
around at the time the apostle John was active who described themselves as disciples of John.
They needed to turn to Christ.)
II. What John Says about Jesus
The delegates from the Pharisees in Jerusalem asked a second question, though. Not
just, “Who are you?” but “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, or Elijah, or
His answer? 26“I baptize with water,” John answered. “Among you stands one you
do not know. 27He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to
untie.” John’s emphasis is understandable because he is reaching out to the followers of John
there at the end of the first century who needed to be turned to Jesus. Jesus was infinitely su-
perior to John, according to John himself. Matthew and Luke include a fuller answer. “I baptize
you with water for repentance. But the one who comes after me is mightier than I. I am
not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew
Let’s unpack John’s answer.
The delegates want to know why John is baptizing. Moses had decreed certain ceremo-
nial washings, baptisms. But who was John to do the same? He wasn’t the Christ, or Elijah (who
had been carried up to heaven and was thought to return at the time of the Messiah) or the
Prophet like Moses who would lead God’s people, was he? As prophesied, John was having a
huge impact, like cutting down mountains and filling in valleys, but who did he think he was?
He wasn’t the Christ of course.
He wasn’t Elijah returned to earth from heaven, though he was the “Elijah” foretold, for he
came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Nor was he “The Prophet,” the One who was to be like Moses, for that too was Christ.
He was the way-preparer, the one who was to pave the way of repentance, so as to open
hearts for the Messiah. Notice how he turns the conversation toward Christ: “Among you
stands one you do not know. 27He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I am
not worthy to untie.”
Multitudes had come to hear John. Even these delegates from Jerusalem were tasked
with finding out who he was and what he was teaching. They had traveled 20 miles for
the interview. Come to find out there was somebody else they needed to know, one who is so
far above them all as to not be approachable.
And he gave more detail: “John testified about him. He cried out, “This was the one
I spoke about when I said, ‘The one coming after me outranks me because he existed
before me.’ ” For out of his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law
was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever
seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is close to the Father’s side, has made him
known.” (John 1:15–18, EHV)
“The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of
God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I was talking about when I said,
‘The one coming after me outranks me because he existed before me.’ I myself did not
know who he was, but I came baptizing with water so that he would be revealed to Israel.””
(John 1:29–31, EHV)
The prophet pointed the people to Christ. The prophet, John, pointed the delegates from
Jerusalem to Jesus, the Christ. All of Scripture brings the good news, the gospel of the lamb of
God who takes away the sins of the world. , for the gospel is the good news about Christ, who
is the way of salvation, as Paul says, “This gospel is about his Son—who in the flesh was
born a descendant of David, who in the spirit of holiness was declared to be God’s pow-
erful Son by his resurrection from the dead—Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Romans 1:3–4,
Christmas is now a week away, in which we stop the world, so to speak, and pause to
reflect on the fact that grace and truth has come to us through Jesus Christ. The undeserved
love of God shines on you, because Christ your righteousness became one of us and bore our
All my heart sings and rejoices
As I hear Far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
“Christ is born!” their choirs are singing
Till the air
Now with joy is ringing
Forth today the Conqu’ror goeth,
Who the foe, Sin and woe,
Death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear son
Now is one
With our blood forever.
Shall we still dread God’s displeasure?
Who, to save, Freely gave
His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son
From the throne
Of His might in heaven
Rejoice, the Lord has come.