Comments on John 1:19-36
From John: The book about Life, by Matthew R. Freije
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission.
The Jews questioned John the Baptist as to who he was. They asked if he was Elijah because they were expecting Elijah to return at some point based on Malachi’s prophecy:
But John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah (1:21).
The Jews then asked if John was the Prophet referred to in Deuteronomy:
But John said he was not the Prophet.
John also denied being the Christ, saying that the Christ is much greater than him.
In 1:23, John finally says who he is:
Other verses confirm the role of John the Baptist as the one who would prepare the way for Jesus:
How did John prepare the way for Jesus? In two ways: First, by telling people that the Messiah was here. Second, by baptizing with water for repentance. Repentance means to choose to change directions. A person who repents sees that his or her life is not right—that they need to change—and they decide to turn away from their bad habits and go in the opposite direction, living righteously. The problem, however, is that nobody can live perfectly, no matter how hard we try. We therefore need a Savior in order to receive forgiveness for our sins, to receive joy, contentment, and fulfillment, and to receive the power to think, say, and do what is right. Jesus gives life-His life. To be forgiven by God for our mistakes, and to have the power to live righteously—in love and with fullness of joy—we need the life of Jesus Christ in us, which is given by way of the Holy Spirit.
The baptism of John for repentance prepared the people to believe Jesus and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Before a person entrusts his life to Jesus, he must see his need for Him. Jesus’ life is a gift; we need only to reach out and accept it. But we won’t reach out and accept it if we do not see our need for it. This is why John’s baptism of repentance preceded the ministry and preaching of Jesus. John preached a hard sermon, telling the people of Israel that their ways were wrong and they needed to repent. If they agreed that they were not living right and needed to repent (change their ways), they got baptized by John as an outward expression of their commitment to change their ways. John’s baptism did not make the people "clean" or new. They were the same. But it prepared them with the humility required to submit their lives to Jesus, so that they could be baptized with the Holy Spirit and receive Life.
The same principle applies to you. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to clean yourself up for God. If you would like to have God in your life, don’t try to clean up your life before coming to Christ—it won’t work, and it won’t make you any more acceptable to God. Simply tell God that you want to change your ways and receive forgiveness and new life, and ask for Christ to come into your life and take over from this point forward. The only thing you need to do—indeed the only thing you can do—is decide to change directions and give the reigns to Jesus Christ. He will do the rest.
The following verses reiterate the role of John the Baptist:
This story emphasizes the difference between John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit:
As in 1:29, John the Baptist addresses Jesus as the Lamb of God. In the Old Testament days, asexplained in the comments under 1:17, God had the people of Israel sacrifice animals to temporarily cleanse them from their sins. God's plan was for Jesus to be the perfect and ultimate sacrifice, the final payment for sin. John calls Jesus the Lamb of God because Jesus was sacrificed—killed on a cross—so that we could receive forgiveness and life.