It’s Not About Me
January 16, 2022
We live in a spiritual wilderness today. There’s no question about it. Some say that Church attendance since the beginning of the pandemic has plummeted about 30%. Not only that, but there is an alarming rate of young people who are walking away from the faith every day. Some say that as many as 50% of young people born between 81 and 99 claim to have no faith today. Now add to this the rampant secularization that has all but removed almost all aspects of religious nature from our culture, and then the growing acceptance of immorality from everything from transgenderism to homosexual marriage, to the rejection of marriage altogether. On top of that, the shocking rise in crime, our increasing political and racial division, and the distressing rise in suicide rates across the board – it is safe to say that we’re not just living in a spiritual wilderness today, but a spiritual wasteland.
Now, let me ask you: Has there ever been a time similar to ours when God’s people needed to hear a voice of hope? Has there ever been a time similar to ours when God gave hope to those living in a spiritual wasteland? The answer is of course, yes. For John the Baptist was such a voice in the wilderness. For when God sent Him to prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah, God’s people had been living in spiritual darkness for 400 years. There had been silence from God – no prophet spoke for God during all that time. During that same period the religious community of Israel had grown corrupt with power. And Herod the great had come on the scene and betrayed the nation to the Romans. He had embraced immorality, massacred the nobility and even though he built a magnificent temple, the spiritual climate of Israel had become secular and barren, like the wilderness to which John came preaching in the power and spirit of Elijah.
With this spiritual vacuum there was now a climate of intense speculation about the coming of the Messiah. And now with John the Baptist arriving on the scene, looking like a prophet of Old and preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, this speculation of the Messiah had reached a fever pitch as crowds were coming out from Jerusalem to see this spiritual celebrity who was bringing new hope to the masses. Could this be the Messiah?
We pick up his story today as we return to the Gospel of John. But what we’re about to encounter is not a spiritual celebrity looking to make a name for himself, but a humble voice crying out in the wilderness with a message of hope for the spiritually hungry. And it is this message of hope that’s just as relevant today as when He first delivered it over 2000 years ago. What was his message of hope? Well, if you’ve brought your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to find John 1:19-34; where we’re about to see, is that his message had nothing to do with him, but everything to do about Jesus. Let’s pick up the story in verse 19, where the curiosity about John has reached a fever pitch, so much so that a team of religious leaders have been sent from Jerusalem to find out – just who this guy really is. And the first thing we see is John’s response to their interrogation; where he’s very clear in letting them know:
It’s Not About Me 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.’” John 1:19-23
Now what we see here is that the religious leaders of Israel were puzzled by the actions of John. Not only did John look like the Prophet Elijah with his camel hair garments, but He was preaching in the power and spirit of Elijah and calling people to repent of their sins and be baptized. And thousands of Jews were coming out to the wilderness, listening to John’s message and were being baptized. This posed a problem to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. After all, baptism was not a new practice in Judaism. It was the regular rite in the admission of converts to Judaism from other religions. When such a conversion took place, what happened was this: the males of the family were circumcised and all, of both sexes, were then baptized. For the Jews, baptism was a necessary step for the Gentiles to take, because it signified the ceremonial removal of all the pollutions contracted in the Gentile world. All Jews were prepared to accept the view that Gentiles were defiled and needed cleansing. But to put Jews in the same class with Gentiles and have them be baptized was a horrifying development. So this company of religious leaders came out to John to find out just who he thought he was to come along and supersede their authority. So, they came out to ask him who he was
You’ve got to love John’s reply: “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.”
Now you can hear that they are not just puzzled about John’s identity but frustrated. They want some kind of answer so they can report back to their superiors. So, Finally, they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Notice their arrogance. They don’t acknowledge his work. They don’t applaud the spiritual renewal taking place through his ministry. Instead, they simply demand that John answer them. So, he does.
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.’”
The religious leaders now have something to go on. John has just quoted Isaiah 40:3. This is enlightening to those who are listening. Why? The context of Isaiah 40 is the return of Jewish exiles. Because of the sin of His people, God had sent the nation of Babylon to destroy Judah and to take its people captive. But in Isaiah 40 God is promising to deliver them from captivity. This voice cries out that a road needs to be made for the exiles to return home. Steep grades needed to be leveled. Potholes needed to be filled. Everything must be made smooth because God is going to deliver His people. The voice is in essence crying out, “Prepare yourself for God’s salvation.”
In other words, John tells them who he is and what he is doing. John declares he is the voice predicted by Isaiah, the voice of one calling in the desert. But as the voice, he cries out not in Jerusalem, the home of the religious establishment, but out in the wilderness. This is the first indication that things were not right in Jerusalem. The religious establishment of Judaism was corrupt. And now the voice, God’s voice that had been silent for 400 years had abandoned Jerusalem and was now calling out in the wilderness to those who longing for their Messiah.
And what is John doing: He is preparing the way for the coming of the Lord – He was preparing God’s people for the day of salvation when the Messiah arrives on the scene.
In essence, when interrogated as to who he is and what he is doing; John simply describes himself as the voice crying out in the wilderness. The voice that was pointing beyond himself to the One who would save them. It’s not about me, he said. It’s about the One who is coming to save God’s people – the Messiah.
Now, there’s a couple of great lessons we can learn from John in the first part of this encounter. First, John knew who he was. He knew his calling. He was the voice in the wilderness. He was a witness of Jesus Christ. And what I love about John is this –he never wavered from his calling. He didn’t waver from his calling when he became famous. He didn’t waver from his calling when he was questioned. And he didn’t waver from his calling when he was being intimidated by these religious leaders. And the reason he didn’t waver, is that he knew his calling wasn’t about him, but about Jesus. And that’s what makes him a spiritual hero today.
Can you imagine what might have been if John was not convinced of who he was and what God had called him to do? John was the set-up guy for the Messiah. He was the One who prepared the masses to follow Jesus. He was a man of conviction and character. He knew who he was. He was just the voice. But he used his voice and prepared the way for Jesus. And do you know what you have in common with John the Baptist? You and I have the same calling. We are to be voices in the spiritual wilderness of our day. That’s what we’ve touched on at length the last two weeks, as Jesus has reminded us of our calling: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus.
In fact, as we move on into this encounter, the next thing we hear from John is this: “It’s not about me – It’s about the one whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
Look now at verses 24-28; “Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
Now, remember, the religious establishment was horrified that John was calling Jews to be baptized for forgiveness of sin. This is only what the Gentiles had to do. By calling God’s people to baptism, he’s telling the religious establishment that something is wrong. So, these religious representatives are adamant about knowing the source of John’s authority. “Who are you to call these people to repentance and baptize them?” This is not a friendly question. It’s an antagonistic question. Listen to John’s reply: “I baptize withwater,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:24-28
Notice how John responds to their question of his authority. He immediately points to the one who stands among them that they do not know. This is a reoccurring theme throughout John’s Gospel. Remember how the apostle John described this early in chapter one: He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. John 1:10
Obviously, they don’t know who he’s speaking of, so he tells them. It is this one who comes after him, where he gets his authority to baptize. John’s response is incredibly humble. They ask him by what right he baptizes, and he simply points them to Jesus. He points them to the One who is to come. He points them to the One who is greater than he. So much greater that he is not worthy to untie the straps of his sandals.
He points them to Jesus, and says in essence, “I’m not the one you need to know. I’m simply a less than a servant – unworthy even to buckle the Messiah’s sandal. He’s the one you need to know. It’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus.”
Again, John the Baptist gives us a great example of humility. What I learn here from John is this: We are at our best when we are pointing beyond ourselves to Jesus.
Think about that statement and its implications for you and for me. What a privilege we’ve been given. We live in a spiritual wilderness today. People still don’t know Jesus. People today still suffer under the delusion that they are good enough just as they are. People still suffer think that this life is all there is. They have no idea who Jesus is. They don’t know Him as the eternal Creator. They don’t know Him as the Son of God. They don’t know Him as the light of the world and the hope of mankind. But we know Him, just as John did. It’s not about me, but it’s all about Jesus. And it’s his attitude that we need today. Oh that we would be more like John, who saw Jesus as so amazing, so beautiful, so powerful, so loving and good – that we might point beyond ourselves to this One who is so much greater than us. It’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus.
In fact, that’s what John wants us to see next in verses 29-31, It’s About The One who takes away the sin of the world The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, 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 1:29-31
Now what I love about John, is he did nothing half-hearted. Here he literally commands the crowd to look at Jesus. He summons them with a word, “Behold!” Look up. Take Notice. This One who is coming toward me. He, Jesus. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Once again, I want you to hear this announcement through the ears of a Jew. This account takes place just days before the annual Passover celebration. If you’re familiar with the Jewish deliverance from captivity in Egypt – this announcement alerted the Jews that God has sent them the Lamb of God, to deliver them from captivity to sin. For the focus of the Passover celebration was the sacrifice of a lamb, Exodus 12 records the first Passover, when God commanded each family to choose a lamb, kill it, and wipe its blood on the doorposts of their home. God was going to send death to every home except for those with blood on the doorposts. Those homes would be passed over. Now as Jews congregated in Jerusalem each year to remember this work of God, each family would bring a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed on the altar.
Jesus was the Lamb sent by God to offer His life as a sacrifice. He was the one of whom Isaiah wrote, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7
Every Jew would understand, that in John calling Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world – he was proclaiming Jesus as the suffering Savior who has come to give them salvation, to deliver us from slavery to sin, and from God’s wrath against our sin. This is the Jesus our world needs to know today. We’ve gotten so removed from sin, that that word is rarely used or understood today. We don’t sin. We just make mistakes. We don’t sin. We’re just human. Rather than sinners today we have victims. Let me give you an example: A man who was shot and paralyzed while committing a robbery in New York recovered damages form the store owner who shot him. His attorney told the jury the man was first of all a victim of society, driven to the crime by economic disadvantages. Now, the lawyer said, he is a victim of the insensitivity of the man who shot him. Because of that man’s callous disregard of the thief’s plight as a victim, the poor man will be confined to a wheelchair the rest of his life. He deserves some compensation. The jury agreed. The store owner paid a large settlement. Then, several months later, the same man, still in his wheelchair, was arrested while committing another armed robbery. Not sin, just victims.
But how does the Bible describe sin? One definition is wrapped up in the term “transgressions” Simply put, Transgressions are rebellious acts of sin that we willingly chose to commit. God has set-up certain boundaries for us to live within. Whenever we willingly cross over one of those boundaries, break one of His laws, that’s what the Bible calls sin. This is why our sins are never just a mistake. Our transgressions are always a choice. We chose to rebel against God’s laws. And in doing so, we willingly defy God and chose to live independent of His will. In this sense we chose to live as arrogant rebels who want nothing to do with God or His ways. But what is so amazing about God, is that while we were rebellious transgressors, God sent Jesus to be the Lamb of God, to give His life for us on the cross, so He could take away our sins.
This is who John came to point us to. This is the One who came after Him. This is the One who brings God’s salvation to man. This is the One who removes our sin. This is the One our world needs to know. It’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus! And finally,
It’s About The One on whom the Spirit rests Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” John 1:32-34
John’s ministry had prepared people for the coming of the Messiah through water baptism. This One on whom the Spirit rests will now impart a baptism of another kind. This was what was promised to God’s people In Ezekiel, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:25-27
The bestowal of the Spirit had been reserved for one greater than John. Now this greater baptizer stood revealed before them. God’s Spirit had come down from heaven as a dove and remained on Jesus. This is so significant to the Jewish audience hearing this. For this picture of God’s Holy Spirit coming to rest on Jesus, is the image of God anointing His Son as the Messiah. This descent of the Spirit on Jesus marks him out as the Davidic ruler of Isaiah, A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from His roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1-2
And now Jesus is the One who will impart God’s Spirit to His people. This is a beautiful introduction of the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel. From here forward we will see how the Holy Spirit will play a strategic role in Christ’s ministry, beginning in John 3 as Jesus explains how entering the kingdom of God is a matter of being born again spiritually. To entitle Jesus as “the baptizer of the Spirit” means that Jesus brings us into God’s Kingdom through the spiritual birth by God’s Spirit. We cannot enter any other way. This is why John is points us to Jesus.
For now that the Spirit has come to rest upon Jesus and Jesus will begin to impart the Holy Spirit to those who trust in Him, the long-awaited Messianic age has begun. For here John concludes his witness of Jesus by saying: “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus.
There are at least two responses to what God has revealed to us today:
One, if you already know this Jesus, then God calls you be a voice in the wilderness. To be a witness like John: To be a nobody who might tell everybody about somebody who gave everything to save you.
Two, if you don’t yet know Jesus, please realize this: God wants you to know Him. That’s why He sent Jesus. So, you might learn from Jesus what God did for you so you could know Him. So Jesus could take away your sins now and forever. So you could be reconciled with the God who created you and loves you. If that’s you, do you want to know Jesus? Do you want the salvation He gives?
If that’s you, all He asks of you right now is to turn from your sin, and trust in Jesus. Believe He died for you to bring you to God. If that’s what you want to do, would you pray with me now?
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