Sunday, August 20, 2023

“John’s Testimony” [Matt's Messages]

“John’s Testimony”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 20, 2023 :: John 1:19-34 

“Who do you think you are?”

Depending on how you say it, we ask that question all the time. “Who are you?” “Who is that guy?”

When Heather and I went to Great Britain in April, we had to show people our passports. We had to prove our identity to get onto the plane, to get across the border, and to come back home in July.

Our identity matters. And it matters, not just who we are, but who we think we are. Especially if we are trying to do something that is tied to our identity.

At the Good News Cruise, I like to joke with people and say, “Which car to do you like? Just pick one out and take it home.” We all shake our heads and say, “I wish.” But we know that it doesn’t work that way. If we tried it, if we got into the driver’s seat and fired it up to swing it on back to our garage, the real owner would show up pretty quick with this question, “Who do you think you are? Where do you think YOU are going with that?”

Well, that’s the question that the Jewish Religious leaders posed to John the Baptist in today’s passage.

Who do you think you are?

And John had a ready and honest answer that makes all of the difference in the world.

<> Last Sunday in the mind-blowing Prologue of John’s Gospel, we learned about this astonishing Person called The Word. This whole Gospel is going to be about this wonderful Person. 

Every phrase was filled with fireworks! 

We learned that before creation, in the beginning, this Person, this Word existed with God and at the same time was God. He is eternal. He is distinct in some way from God the Father, and at the same time He is the very same thing in substance and nature as God the Father. The Word is God. He is the Creator. Through “Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made.” More than that, in Him was life, and that life was the light of men (vv.1-5). How wonderful!

And as if that wasn’t enough to take in, we also learned that this Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. One Person Who was fully God and now fully human, and we know the name the Word was given when He was born as a human, and it is Jesus.

And as if that wasn’t enough to take in, we also learned that He is the Unique Son of God, God the Son springing forth eternally from the Father and has come to make God the Father known.

How do we know all of that is true?  Well, the week before that, we learned that John the Evangelist wrote this book to make the case. He wrote these words in front of us so that we “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31 NIVO).

And so, in many ways, John is making this case for us, and that requires some testimony. Some expert testimony.

In verse 6, John said that God sent a man named John (the Baptist) to be a witness and to give important testimony that needs to be heard. And so that’s where John starts as his finishes his prologue and begins his story proper. John chapter 1, verse 19.

“Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’”

You can sum up John’s testimony into three key points in verses 19 through 34, and this is the first one. John the Baptist testifies:


The Jewish Religious Leaders had sent an official delegation to ask John the Baptist, “Who do you think you are?” 

They are not just curious. They are examining him for his qualifications. John has exploded on the scene, and lots of people were coming out to the desert to hear him preach and to be baptized.

John the Baptist, the Notorious JTB, was quite a character! The other gospels tell us that he dressed like a prophet with  clothing made of camel’s hair and a diet of locusts and wild honey. And JTB was preaching repentance and the coming of the kingdom of God.

And he was very popular. Thousands of people were flocking to hear him. John the Baptist was a rockstar! And the Jewish Religious Leaders were probably getting nervous. Afraid they might lose their power.

Some people clearly were thinking that this weirdo, this popular preacher, just might be the Messiah that God had promised time and again in the Old Testament. People were on the lookout for The Christ (the Greek translation of “the Messiah”).  

Is John the Baptizer what we have all been looking for?

So some priests and Levites were sent to ask John, “Who do you think you are?” And John was really straightforward. V.20 again. “He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’”

“I’m not the One you are looking for. Don’t look at me.”

V.21. They press in. “They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’”

Why do they ask these questions? When did Elijah die? That was a trick question. Elijah didn’t die. The Lord swooped him up in a fiery chariot and took him straight to heaven.

And the Prophet Malachi said that Elijah will return before the day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5).

And so these guys want to know if John the Baptist is Elijah back from heaven.

And John says, “No.” {The truth is that it’s more complicated than that. Jesus will explain that John was the Elijah to come, in his role. But John is right that he is not literally Elijah returned on the chariot like some of them must have been thinking.}

And more than that, John knows that he is not the Great Prophet that was foretold in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:15). 

So, who is he? Verse 22. “Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ [Who do you think you are?] John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'’”

He is not The Word. He is only a voice crying out that the Word is coming. He is not the Christ. He is only a voice calling out that the Christ is on the way. 

John holds up his passport, and it says, “Isaiah 40, verse 3.” The mysterious prophetic voice arising from the desert, “... Prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isa. 40:3-6 NIVO).

John says, “That’s me.”

“I am not the Christ. I am only the Voice.”

Now, what do we do with that here in our lives today? 

Of course, first off, we should not treat John the Baptist like He was the Messiah. Anyone who tries to center their lives on John will be disappointed and be missing the point. 

And that’s true of everyone else who is not the Christ. We are so prone to making men into messiahs. We think they will save us if we just put our trust in them 100%. 

We make this mistake with politicians all of the time.
We make it with pastors.
We make it with celebrities.
We make it with business leaders.

We put our hope in false messiahs, and then we are surprised when we are disappointed! There is no life in John’s name. There is no salvation there. From Rome or from sin. John was just a witness. Just a voice.

And you know who also is not the Christ? You and me. I am not the Christ, and I have to be reminded of it. When I am not following someone else, I can also get the wrong idea that I need to save people.  Like I’m their savior. We call it a “Messiah Complex.” It’s our job to rescue people from everything they have gotten themselves into.

I have made that mistake more times that I can count, and it doesn’t just disappoint them, but it depresses me. Because I have fallen into a role I cannot fill with shoes too big for my feet. It’s one of the reasons why I needed a sabbatical this year, to undo the accumulated effects of pretending I am the Christ!

But if we are not supposed to follow John or to try to be the Messiah ourselves, what are we supposed to do?

We need to listen to the voice.

“Make straight the way for the Lord!” That’s a call to repent. That’s a call to change our ways. That’s a call to align our lives with the will of God. When the voice says, the valleys will be raised up and the mountains lowered, he’s saying that God’s people do what is necessary for the Lord’s coming to be smooth. So the king can ride into town in style.

And that means change for you me. John was preaching a message of change. “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

What in your life needs to change? What in your life is displeasing to God?  Where do you know that you need to take a turn? What valley needs to be built up? What mountain needs to be leveled? What change do you need to make in repentance?

It’s easy to say where others need to change. I often can point out what others are doing wrong (and if you want some help, just ask me). But the question we should be asking today is where do we need to repent? What is crooked in my life that needs straightened for the coming of the Lord?

What attitudes need straightened?
What habits?
What relationships?

The Voice is saying that John is not the Messiah, but He is very near. So get ready for His coming.

And we need, like John, to point people to the real Messiah. Like we said last week, we need to be witnesses, too. Not pointing people towards us but towards Jesus. Just like we did yesterday out there.

Now, the Jewish Religious Leaders hear what John has to say, but they have some more questions. What does that mean that you are “the voice?” And how does it connect to all of this baptizing you are doing? Look at verse 24.

“Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’” “Who do you think you are? And why do you think you should do what you’re doing?”

And here’s where it gets really interesting.

Because John says, “Never mind who I think I am. I want to tell you about Somebody else and Who He is! I’ve been baptizing people to get ready to meet Him.” V.26

“‘I baptize with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’”

“I’m basically nothing. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait until you get a load of Him!”

What a thing to say! You need to know that in that day only slaves would be tasked with untying a master’s sandals. Disciples didn’t have to do it. A disciple could be asked to do all kinds of menial tasks for their teacher, but they didn’t have to put their hands on their teacher’s feet. Only a slave would.

And John says, “This One who is coming. I am not worthy to be his slave.” 

And John is not exaggerating! This is not a false humility or a beating himself up for not being good enough. This is true humility (which we should cultivate!), and it is a right estimation of the way things really are. The One to come is really truly that worthy!

And John says that He’s not just coming any more. He is here.

He is here.

And the very next day, John gets to testify about Him in person. V.28

“This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.  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 meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’”

John says, “There’s the answer to your question about why I baptize. I baptize because of this person. This man right here. He showed up on the scene after me, but He is infinitely more important than I am because He was ‘before me.’ He is actually eternal. And He is “the Lamb of God.”

John’s testimony is that:


And that phrase means so much. Jesus is the like the sacrificial lamb at Passover. Jesus is a like the lamb that takes the place of the sinner who brings it as an offering. In fact, He is the fulfillment of all of those Old Testament Lambs who were slain.

Jesus is the Savior that the Old Testament promised! He fulfills all of the prophecies of the Messiah including the ones about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. [Next verse.] He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isa. 53:6-7 NIVO). “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes the away the sin of the world!” 

John I.D.’s Him. “If you look on that guy’s passport, it will say, ‘The Lamb of God!’”

I wonder what that must have been like. Yesterday at the Cruise, I pointed out one of my kids to somebody, “Yeah, that guy right there is my son. That’s Peter.” But John points to Jesus, and says, “There He is. That’s the Lamb of God.” And He is going to take away the sin of the world!

That’s what was happening on the Cross. Jesus was bearing the sin of the world so that anyone who puts their faith and trust in Him will be saved! Your sin taken away. My sin taken away.

John never gets over this idea. Later in life he writes, “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2 NIVO).

And then in his Apocalypse, John keeps naming Jesus, “The Lamb.” 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Rev. 5:12).

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus for your salvation? It’s the only way for your sins to be “taken away.” For your sins to be removed. Somebody has to pay for them. And Jesus has done it for all who believe in Him. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (3:16)!

And the reason why the Lamb of God can take away the sins of the world is because He is more than just the Lamb of God. He is the Son of God. Verse 32. Last step in John’s testimony this week. Verse 32.

“Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him [Jesus]. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’”


John the Baptizer is telling the story about the time when he baptized Jesus. That wasn’t this day described in John 1 but some day before this. The story is also in Matthew chapter 3 if you want to study it in detail.

John the Baptist says that God had sent him to baptize with water and had also told him that one day while he’s baptizing, he will see the Spirit of God come down on a man and remain on Him. Not just like the Spirit did in the Old Testament when He would clothe someone with power to do something, a prophet, a priest, a king, a judge. And then lift off.

But on this One–to come down and remain on Him permanently, in the fullest sense. In a unique way. An unique relationship with the Holy Spirit. And John says, “It happened to me. I saw it with my own eyes. I testify!

The Spirit came down from heaven as a dove!” (Not sure exactly what that was but it was unmistakable to John.)

Just like Isaiah said in his chapter 11 about the Messiah: ‘The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD–and he will delight in the fear of the LORD’ (Isa. 11:2-3 NIVO).

John says, “I saw it happen with my own two eyes.” 

Jesus has the Spirit without limit! And that means that He can baptize others with the Holy Spirit.

“I just do the water thing. It’s a symbol. A wonderful symbol, but just a symbol. But this One? He baptizes with the Spirit Himself, immersing His people in the Spirit and including them into His Body, His new community, His church (See 1 Corinthians 12:12)! He does for real what my water baptism just symbolizes!”

And John the Baptist would have heard the voice from heaven.  Not the voice in the desert, but the voice of God the Father Himself who said at the moment the Spirit descended at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17 NIVO).

So John says, verse 34, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

And that means everything! John is the “monogenays.” He is the wholly unique Son of the Father that we saw last week in verse 14 and verse 18. 

It obvious from that holy moment of Trinitarian significance–the Spirit descending, resting, and remaining, the Father identifying and speaking His admiration for His One and Only Son.

And John the Baptist saying, “I saw it. I testify to it.” Jesus is the Son of God.

What do we do with that truth in our lives today? If this is true, and I believe it is, how do we live our lives today?

We worship!

What else can we do? We worship the Son of God who is God the Son. We give Him all of the praise and all of our lives in joyful worship. We head out those doors into our work-week and for many of us into our school-week with lives that centered on this Son of God. 

We live, not for our own glory. We are not the Christ! Who do we think we are acting like we are the Messiah?! We are not the Christ. But we know Him. We know He has come. We know that He saves. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

We’ve got to tell people about that. Kids, tell your classmates! Teachers, tell your colleagues in the teachers’ lounge. We are not the point, but we point people to Him.

Jesus is the Lamb of God. He sacrificed Himself in our place. 

“Guilty, vile, and helpless WE
Spotless Lamb of God was HE!
Full atonement! Can it be?
Hallelujah, what Savior!” - Philip Bliss

If we trust in Him, He takes away our sin. If we believe in Him, we get LIFE in HIS Name. And His name is the Son of God. And He wants us to change. We listen to “the voice.” We believe John’s testimony, and we hear his clarion call to repent. To make straight the way for the Lord. We allow the Lord to make the changes in our lives that He wants to make.

Because He is the Son of God.

Interestingly, the Word has not yet spoken in this book. Starting next week, He will begin to testify on His own account.

But right now, we have John’s testimony, and it is wondrous:

John is not the Christ (not even close!), but Jesus is.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus is the Uniquely Spirit-Endowed Father-Beloved Son of God worthy of our worship both now and forevermore.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" John 20:30-31