The Second Testimony of John the Baptist

Posted by Thaddaeus

John 1:6-8, 19-28


A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.  And this is the testimony of John.  When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?”  He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”  So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”  And he said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  He answered, “No.”  So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?  What do you have to say for yourself?”  He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.”  Some Pharisees were also sent.  They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”  John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,  the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”  This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


Background:  Last week, Mark introduces the first testimony of John the Baptist.  He appears in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  This passage is referred to as the second testimony of John the Baptist where the role of John the Baptist is contrast with the mission of Jesus.  John wears a garment of camel-skin with a leather belt around his waist and lives on locust and honey.  He neither drinks wine or strong drink.  He is hairy like prophet Elijah.  Signs of an ancient nazarite vow.  He is consecrated to God from birth as foretold by Gabriel to his father, Zachariah, “…he must drink no wine or strong drink.  Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for Him….”     


The Testimony of John the Baptist:  Jewish prophecy has it that the return of Elijah would precede the Messiah, the appointed agent of the LORD.  The Jews from Jerusalem send priests and Levites:  “the Jews” refers here to the religious leaders.  The priests and the Levites depicted here would have been Sadducees, not Pharisees.  The religious leaders were all well aware that John is the son of a Chief Priest, that his mysterious birth was beyond human possibilities, that he is a Nararite from birth.  Some Jewish people think that John may be the Messiah.  But, prophecy tells that Elijah must first return to earth. John declares that he is not the Christ, or Elijah, or a prophet.  This prompts the Pharisees (the teachers and lawyers) to question why he baptizes.  John answers, “I baptize with water:  true baptism is with fire and the Holy Spirit.  John’s emphasis is on purification and preparation for a better baptism.