Have you ever had a preconceived idea about someone or something only to find out that you were wrong?
I’m sure we all have. At one time or another we’ve had an idea or formed an opinion about someone or something before having sufficient evidence for its truth or before learning all the facts we needed to make such a determination.
John the Baptist
Well, in today’s lesson we will learn from John the Baptist that people thought he might be the Christ. He, of course, said he was not. Neither was he Elijah or the Prophet. John the Baptist simply stated that he was the voice, preparing the way for the one who was to come.
John identified Jesus as that one later on in these verses. And he proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world.
Some people who heard those words chose to believe. Others remained in their doubt and denial even when faced with sufficient evidence of the truth because Jesus did not fit into their preconceived ideas. Let that not be true of us.
May today’s teaching and truths fall fresh upon our hearts so that we might believe and allow our minds to be moved to receive these truths for ourselves.
The gospel writer (John) and even more important, God Himself, desires this for us.
Before we go any further, I would like to fill in a few of the gaps that John the gospel writer leaves out. Mostly because John’s gospel is believed to have been written after Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John presumed that his readers would be well acquainted with the background to which these verses apply.
When John the Baptist first preached in the desert, just east of the Jordan River, people poured out from Judea and Jerusalem to hear him.
The Holy Spirit spoke so powerfully through John that those who heard him were convicted of their sins and expressed true repentance by an outward confession of their need for cleansing, which was symbolized by water baptism.
Remember that the gift of the Holy Spirit had not yet been given to each individual believer. That did not happen until after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. The only people who were baptized, up until John the Baptist came along, were non-Jews who wished to be converted to Judaism. Israelites were never baptized because they presumed that they already belonged to God as His chosen people and therefore did not need to be washed.
However, John’s words hit their hearts and many who heard them realized that being an Israelite was not enough. (Just like being born into a Christian home is not enough. Just like going to church doesn’t make you a true, authentic believer.) The truth of John’s teaching pierced their hearts and minds and they realized that they too needed to be cleansed from their sins.
It was through the prophet Haggai (Haggai 2:14) that the Lord declared the people of Israel had become defiled in His sight. So baptism not only concerned the individual, but involved Israel as a whole nation.
As people from Judea and Jerusalem came to John the Baptist and received the truth of his teaching, he was baptizing them as an outward profession of their newfound faith. This caused quite the ruckus among the Jewish religious council!
The Jewish Religious Council
This Jewish religious council was called the Sanhedrin. It was made up of 70 members, with the high priest making that number 71 in total. These members came from 3 classes. One was the chief priests or high priest and his family. The second was the elders of the people (including ordinary priests and Levites). Last, there were the teachers of the law who considered themselves experts in interpreting the Law of Moses.
The Pharisees, who were an ultra conservative sect accounting for about 6000 at the time of Christ, had two aims at that time. One was to bring a strict observance of God’s law and their own traditions as to how this law should be kept. And secondly, the Pharisees were sympathetic toward the Zealot movement to overthrow the Roman forces that occupied their land.
All of this being said, these men had a right to investigate John and his ministry, since they had been given the job of custodians and guardians of their faith. So the Sanhedrin sent out this delegation to John and they were to bring back a report on his activities.
And John 1:19-28 gives us the response of John the Baptist to their interrogation. This can really be said to be John the Baptist’s witness to the Sanhedrin.