Even a hurried reading of these verses will make it evident that the person who stands out most conspicuously in them is John the Baptist. He is one of the most remarkable characters in the Word of God. His life and ministry were prophesied in the Old Testament (Isa. 40). His birth was due to the direct and miraculous power of God (Luke 1:7, 13). He was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Luke 1:15). He was sent of God (John 1:6). Of him the Lord said, "None greater among men than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11).
(Vs. 19-20) A deputation of priests and Levites was sent from Jerusalem to inquire of John as to who he was. Multitudes were hearing this man, many had been baptized of him, and a great stir had been made, so much that many wondered if he were the Christ (Luke 3:15). The Lord's forerunner, in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, had appeared in the wilderness; but, lacking in spiritual understanding, these leaders knew NOT who he was. He confessed immediately, "I AM NOT THE CHRIST."
(Vs. 21) They asked, "ART THOU ELIJAH?" Why should they ask John if he were Elijah? The answer is that there was a general expectation among the Jews at that time that Elijah would again appear on earth (Matt. 16:13-14; Matt. 17: 9-10: Mal. 4:5-6). They asked again, "ART THOU THAT PROPHET?" What prophet? The answer is found in Deut. 18:15, 18. Each time John answered, "I am not."
(Vs. 22-23) "Then who are you?" John might have answered, "I am the son of Zacharias the priest. I am filled with the Spirit from my mother's womb. I am a remarkable man raised up by God and sent to Israel." But instead he replied, "I AM THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD." Men who aye sent of God seek no glory nor acclaim for themselves but own that they are at best unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10). When John referred to himself as "the voice," he employed the very term the Holy Spirit used of him 700 years previously (Isa. 40:3). The mission of John was to bear witness of Christ, not himself. A voice is heard and not seen. The Lord Jesus endures long after "the voice" is silent.
Also note that "the voice" cried in the WILDERNESS, not in the temple nor in Jerusalem: for Jehovah was no more there in the temple. Judaism was an empty shell. They were a nation of legalists, steeped in self-righteous formalism, ceremonies, and rituals.
(Vs. 24-25) They challenged John's authority to preach or to baptize, He had received no commission from the Sanhedrin; he was outside the religious system; he had not been trained in their schools; he was not identified with either the Pharisees, the Sadducees, nor the Herodians. Who had commissioned him to go forth bidding men to repent? By what authority did he baptize?
(Vs. 26-28) John continued to stand his ground and would not deny that he baptized in water; but he sought to occupy them with his TRUE MISSION, which was to point men to Christ. These men were raising questions about authority and baptism while they were utter strangers to CHRIST HIMSELF. How like men today! They want to discuss and argue about side issues while they are yet in their sins and the vital and central issue remains undecided. "What think ye of Christ?" (I Cor. 1:17.) "THERE STANDETH ONE AMONG YOU, WHOM YE KNOW NOT" (John 1:10-11). Here stands the seed of woman, Abraham's seed, David's son, the fulfillment of all promises, prophecies, and pictures of the Messiah given by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures; yet, they knew Him not!
"He is revealed after me, yet He was before me"(John8:58). The Lord Jesus came in God's own time to this earth; but He is eternal, hath all preeminence, and is before all (Prov. 8:24-30). John could find no expression strong enough to express the difference which separated him from the ONE Who was "PREFERRED BEFORE" him; so he said, "I am not worthy to unlace His shoes."(Vs. 29) "BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD." These Jews were looking for Messiah to come as a great PROPHET or a great KING. They understood nothing of a "Saviour-Priest," of a "Lamb of God." You would think these priests and Levites who ministered about the temple and the sacrifices would have inquired about THE SACRIFICE, but no; apparently they had no sense of sin they were Abraham's seed. They would have welcomed Him ON THE THRONE but NOT ON THE ALTAR. "Behold the Lamb of God."
1. In Gen. 4:4 we have the Lamb TYPIFIED.
2. In Gen. 22:8 we have the Lamb PROPHESIED.
3. In Exo. 12:5-7 we have the Lamb SLAIN AND THE BLOOD APPLIED.
4. In Isa. 53:1-7 we have the Lamb PERSONIFIED A MAN.
5. In John 1:29 we have the Lamb IDENTIFIED.
6. In Lev. 5:6, 13 we have the Lamb MAGNIFIED AND GLORIFIED.