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John4 – a voice in the wilderness

And this is the testimony of John, when the Judeans sent priests and Levites out of Jerusalem in order that they may ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed—and did not deny, and confessed this— “I myself am not the Christ!” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he stated, “I am not!” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No!”
 
After the Introduction (John 1, John2 and John3), John, the first-century eye-witness biographer of Jesus, starts his record of the earthly life of Jesus with the words in bold above. John the Baptist (an entirely different person) had become highly significant to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem despite the fact that he preached repentance and baptised only in an uninhabited place.

Was John the Baptist the Messiah? Elijah then? The Prophet? “No!”

So they said to him, “Who are you, in order that we may give an answer to those having sent us? What do you state concerning yourself?” He announced, “I - ‘a voice broadcasting in the wilderness, “Make straight the pathway of the Lord,”’ just as Isaiah the prophet said.” And those sent out were from the Pharisees.

 
“The Pharisees” were a major religious and political branch of the Jerusalem authorities. The person about whom they had serious concerns said that he was “a voice broadcasting in the wilderness”. But he was quoting from their ancient book “Isaiah”, named after their prophet who lived in Jerusalem around 700 BC. Isaiah’s main message was the coming, one day, of their Messiah (Hebrew), meaning their “Christ” (Greek) to fulfil God’s purpose of grace for humanity.

Isaiah also wrote about the Messiah: ‘He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was brought like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep is dumb before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth.'
And they asked him and said to him, “So why are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, not even Elijah, not even the Prophet?” John answered them, stating, “I myself baptize in water. In the midst of you has stood he whom you have not discerned—the one coming behind me, of whom I am not worthy in order that I may release the strap of his sandal!” These things came to be in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 

“So why are you baptizing?” This was not an illogical question. To baptise was to enlist committed followers, to create an organisation. John’s truthful reply is that he is baptising in water for one reason only. It is because there is “one stand[ing] in your midst” – “one whom you do not discern” – “one who comes after me” "one of whom I am not worthy to undo the strap of his sandal”. John was baptising solely because someone else far greater was there. 

On the morrow he sees Jesus coming to him and states, “Look! The Lamb of God,  the one taking the sin of the world! This one is he over whom I myself said, ‘Behind me comes a man who has come into being before me in that he was first of me.’ Also I had not discerned him, but in order that he may be revealed to Israel, through this I myself came baptizing in water.” 

 
The “next day” the delegation of “priests and Levites” (the Levites were a hereditary religious priestly family) had probably left for Jerusalem. John the Baptist now identifies Jesus. This one, “who came into being before” him, is the one “who takes away the sin of the world”. He admits that he “did not discern him”. Nevertheless, John said that he, John, came “baptising in water” for the sole purpose that Jesus “might be revealed to Israel”. That only.

‘The two greatest days in a person’s life are the day he was born and the day he finds out why he was born.’ (Anon.)
And John testified, stating that, “I have perceived the spirit stepping down like a dove from a sky and it stayed upon him. And I had not discerned him, but the one having sent me to baptize in water, that one said to me, ‘Upon whom you may see the spirit stepping down and staying upon him—this is the one baptising in holy spirit.’ 

John the Baptist again admits that he "did not discern him” using his own abilities, attributes or thoughts. Instead, he “perceived the Spirit stepping down like a dove and staying” on Jesus. Also, it was “the one who appointed him to baptise in water” “who said to him” (John) that this Jesus “is the one baptising with holy spirit”. Jesus is to be not only the one “who takes away the sin of the world” but also the one who immerses in the Holy Spirit – immerses people into new holy life-breath.

"And I have discerned and I have testified that this is the chosen of God."

 
Sinner Syvret

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