John The Baptist Grilled With Questions (And the information he withheld): John 1:21-23

am I a sinnerLast post on the gospel of John we saw how John the Baptist declared, “I am not the Christ,” and we discussed the benefits of recognizing that fact in our own lives. This post we’ll see John grilled with more questions and learn what information he withheld from his inquisitors.

And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:21-23)

Was John The Baptist Elijah?

They asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah, and he said, “I am not.” Have you ever thought this through? Because before John the Baptist was born an angel told his father Zechariah, “…your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” And the angel also said, “…he will go before him (the Lord) in the spirit and power of Elijah…” (Luke 1:11-17)

So the angel tells Zechariah what to name his child to come, John, which means Jehovah is giver. And the angel also tells Zechariah that John the Baptist will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Did you ever think about what John the Baptist could have said to those who were posing the question, “Are you Elijah?” He could have explained what the angel said. He could have answered them. He could have said, “An angel named me John but he also prophesied to my father before I was born that I would have the spirit and power of Elijah.” But he didn’t. He just said, “I am not.”

They also asked him if he was “the prophet” (a prophet noted in Deuteronomy 18) and he said no to that too, and rightly so. But the question concerning Elijah, think about it: what he could have said…

Who Do You Point To?

So the ones sent from the Pharisees said to John, “Come on. Give us something. We can’t go back to our masters without an answer. What do you have to say about yourself?”

And John the Baptist says this: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Isaiah 40:3)

He didn’t explain about his divine gift of the spirit and power of Elijah. He didn’t explain because he’s just a voice. You can’t see a voice. A voice isn’t a person to be pointed to. This voice is pointing to the most important person possible: Jesus the Christ. John the Baptist didn’t explain about the spirit and power of Elijah because John the Baptist wasn’t about pointing people to himself. He was about pointing people to Jesus. That’s how God wants me and wants you to live too. He wants us to represent ourselves with humility. And He wants our lives to be about pointing people to Jesus, not pointing people to ourselves.

A Road For God To Travel On

John the Baptist said his mission was to “Make straight the way of the Lord.” His mission was to make a way, to build a road if you will. Not a road for people to travel to God, but a road for God to travel to people. John the Baptist is making the way for our Lord, Jesus Christ, to reach us. And that is spectacular news.

It’s spectacular news because just a few verses further from the one John the Baptist quoted about “crying out in the wilderness,” we see that,

A voice says, “Cry!”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

And here’s God’s answer: “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Peter quotes the same verse at the end of 1 Peter chapter 1.


A Cry We Must Respond To

The reason why is because it’s not until we realize how fragile, and small, and sinful we are that we recognize just how good Jesus coming to us is.

We are lost without him. This life will be over sooner than we think, and then we must meet God. We’re told plainly in the scriptures “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement…” (Hebrews 9:27)

We think to ourselves, “I’m doing okay. I mean, I’m a decent person. I’m definitely better than that guy.” But we’re wrong. We’re all sinners. We’re all guilty as Jesus points out in his sermon on the mount. Our self sufficiency is like the flower: “it fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely people are grass.”

Everything we glory in, everything we’re proud of, it’s like that flower. So soon, and it will all be gone.

How we need life from Jesus.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6)

So recognize your own fragility and sin. Receive God’s amazing grace. Jesus is knocking on your door. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” he says. (Revelation 3:20)


And give yourself to him.

(Questions? Email me at


Ray Stedman, Call the First Witness,

H.A. Ironside, John, Kregal Academic and Professional, 2006

Image via Garry Knight – Creative Commons

3 Comments on “John The Baptist Grilled With Questions (And the information he withheld): John 1:21-23

  1. Kurt, you also reminded us of:
    Act_26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

  2. Pingback: How the lambs of the Bible bleed a stream of blood (that leads to Jesus)– John 1:24-31 | God Running

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