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Confessing that Jesus is Lord

John 1:19-23
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’ (NIVUK)

John the Baptist attracted much attention.  Even though he was preaching in a remote part of Israel, many Jewish people knew about him and travelled to hear him.  His teaching cut through to their hearts and they started to repent of their sins and be baptised in large numbers; the religious establishment were worried: ‘Who is he?’, they wondered, ‘and why is he doing this?  So, they sent a delegation of religious lawyers from Jerusalem to the Jordan River to interrogate him.  

John had nothing to hide and answered their questions, “I am not the Messiah [Christ]”.  But that prompted more questions about his identity.  They wondered if he was Elijah miraculously come back to earth: Elijah had been taken up into the sky in a whirlwind 700 years previously (2 Kings 2:1-18).  Or perhaps he was the Prophet who was described by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18 referred to Jesus).

But John was neither of these and he said so.  He certainly ministered in the same spirit and power as Elijah (Luke 1:17) and, in that sense, he fulfilled Malachi 4:5 - as Jesus said in Matthew 11:14.  But the religious leaders were unable to accept that John was the herald of the Messiah.  They demanded that John tell them by what authority he preached and baptised.  He then potently identified himself with the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3.  His role was to call God’s people to repent over breaking His covenant and to prepare them for God’s arrival.

Identity matters. John knew who he was – uniquely appointed to herald the arrival of God the Son (Luke 1:76-79).  John knew that he had no mandate to advance his own popularity, or to preach his own ideas.  His sole responsibility was to bring people to repentance, and to baptise those who were eager for God’s forgiveness.  That humility is necessary in all Christian ministry – it is all about Jesus and not the minister.  John was a man who knew his place in relation to Jesus: as John said in John 3:30, “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.”  Whatever your role in Christ’s church or whatever ministry you exercise, Jesus Christ is always Lord and you are not!  The fault of Satan was that he wanted to take God’s place (Isaiah 14:12-14) and he still tempts people to do the same.  The best way to deal with that temptation is to be sure that we make much of Jesus and little of ourselves, deciding to humbly submit to Him.

Dear Father God. Thank You for having given Jesus the highest place of authority over everything and everybody. I am sorry when I have presumed the right of independent authority to suit my own purposes. Please forgive me for accepting Satan’s lies. Please help me to understand the awesome majesty of my Lord and Saviour and His requirement that I should humbly serve Him in whatever way He shall choose. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams