“At Bethany on the other side of the Jordan,” (John 1:28 NIV) John the Baptist faced off in a questioning session(s) against “priests,” “Levites,” and “Pharisees” (1:19, 24). They wanted to know who he was. They came to questioned him concerning his identity. Questioning of one’s identity is the typical human response to a newcomer, especially one who is speaking out publically.
John’s message must have drawn a lot of attention, or else it would not have caused the leaders in Jerusalem to send out representatives. The Jews wanted to know if John was “the Christ,” “Elijah,” or “the Prophet” (John 1:20, 21). In those days, you didn’t ask those type of questions to small timers. These titles were of great religious significance. They were only mention in connection to people who were shaking the nation.
John, who’s “clothes were made of Camel’s hair” and a belt of leather (Matt. 3:4), was so popular that it could be said that “the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” (Mark 1:5) came to hear him. Included in the crowds were the hated “tax collectors” and “soldiers” who were looking to be right with God (Luke 3:10, 12, 14).
Yet, in the midst of all this popularity, John did not take the glory for himself. Instead when asked concerning whether he was the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, John answered no. Knowing that they needed to report something worth hearing, the priests and Levites told John to give them an answer (1:22). In response to their demands, John identifies himself as the voice in Isaiah 40:3.
Since John did not claim to be any of the big three, those who were of the Pharisaic sect questioned him about his authority to baptize (John 1:24). Instead of answering the question, he changes the focus to the one who is coming after him (1:27). John was mission-minded. He was “a man who was sent from God,” for the purpose of, testifying about the light that came into the world (John 1:6, 7).
As we read the Bible there are many things that we can over-look, simply because we think them insignificant. Today I challenge you to take another look at John the Baptist. He was humble at a time when it was being said “the whole world has gone after him.” He remained a servant, announcing the coming of his Lord. That is a timeless example.