19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 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.’”
Thoughts: John the Baptist was a priest- descended from the line of Aaron (Zechariah his father was one). Yet crowds were attracted to John, and he was not behaving according to the norm of his day. The priests and Levites thought John was someone famous predicted about in scripture. John was too humble to assume any of these titles, but would only claim that he was a voice of repentance asking people to become straight. Today we need more Christians who live their faith sacrificially as John did. John said he must become greater and I lesser. Yesterday in Tuscon, Darwin Stoddard maintenance minister at the Mountain Ave. Church of Christ died shielding his wife from bullets. On the web page for the church it says, "As believers, the members of the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ seek to model the self-giving life of Christ through service to each other and to our greater community." Mr. Stoddard proved himself to be a servant, a voice for what is right in this life. He elevated love and sacrifice above our innate desire for self-preservation and selfishness.
Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to be a voice for you, calling attention to your righteousness.
John Calvin abridged: It had been a long time since the people had heard a prophet. John was different from what they expected, and they were aroused to expect the Messiah's coming. John had already begun to change the way things were done by the church of that time. So they began their inquiry not out of malice but out of a desire for redemption. They asked if he was Elijah because of the prophecy (Malachi 4:2,5) that Elijah would come as the morning star before the Sun of Righteousness comes. They were expecting the same Elijah that was in the days of Ahab. So when John answered that he was not Elijah in that sense, he was speaking the truth. While Jesus gave John the authority of a prophet (Mt. 11:9), John was trying not to boast about his identity. So John calls himself a voice- which is more like a minister than a prophet. If a ruler sends two ambassadors- one to go ahead and herald the second messenger, and one with the message itself. So John goes ahead of Christ and his message is absorbed into Christ's.