2018 02 04 pm – John 1:19-28 – Witnessing 101

Many of us find it hard to share the good news about Jesus. John the Baptist sets us an example of what it takes to motivate us to tell others about Christ. We also get to see some lovely Bible connections in this section of Scripture.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

In your first year of University you take 100 level courses, in your second year, 200 level courses, and so on.  So 100 level courses are the most basic.  And a 101 course would be a 100 level course held in the first semester.  So any 101 course is usually introductory and dealing with basic principles.

That is why I have called this sermon ‘Witnessing 101.’  Witnessing is telling others the gospel; it is sharing the good news about Who Jesus is and What He came to do.  And in this passage we get the basic principles of witnessing.

And one of the best ways to teach people anything is to give them a case study.  And boys and girls, a case-study is a living example of what you are trying to teach.  So if you were studying mountain climbing, for example, your teacher might show you a documentary about Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first man to climb Mt. Everest, as a case study.  And that is exactly what John gives us in this passage.  John the disciple is the author of this Gospel, and he sets John the Baptist before us as a case study in witnessing.  And what we are going to see is that the first witness of Jesus sets us a perfect example.


vv1-18 are called the prologue of John’s Gospel; they give us a kind of overview of what John is going to prove in the rest of his Gospel, which is that Jesus is the Son of God.  But from here right through to the end of chapter 12, John describes the public ministry of Jesus.  And he does this by looking closely at the miracles of Jesus and certain conversations or sermons or discussions that Jesus was involved in.  But it begins with John the Baptist and the first disciples and then the wedding in Cana, which will take us through to 2:11.


And I want to begin with a couple of wide-angle observations from this section before we zoom in to our text and John the Baptist as the perfect example of a witness of Jesus.  And I give you these because they show the benefit of meditating on Scripture and studying Scripture rather than just reading it to be able to tick the I-must-read-the-Bible box.


  1. So firstly, take a look at the names/titles of Jesus mentioned in the rest of ch. 1:


V20  Christ.  Repeated in v41.

V21  The Prophet.

V23  The Lord.

V29  The Lamb of God.  Repeated in v36.

V33  He will baptize with the Holy Sp.

V34  Son of God.

V38  Rabbi. Repeated in v49

V41  Messiah/Christ

V45  Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph.

V49  King of Israel.

V51  Son of Man.


We learn all this about the Lord Jesus even before He has said or done anything!  This shows the benefit of meditating on Scripture.  You can use the Cross references in the margin.  Use online resources like Biblehub.com  Biblestudytools.com  Pray.


  1. Secondly, let’s note how long the events of this next section take. And we are not trying to be clever here.  John is very specific with his time stamps in these verses.  And he is not just keeping a journal; he is making a theological point about Who Jesus is!
    1. v29 says, “The next day…” That means John’s conversation with the Jewish leaders in our passage is  Day 1.
    2. And then in vv29-34 we have “the next day…” where John publicly points out Jesus – Day 2.
    3. v35 again, “the next day…” Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus – Day 3.
    4. v39 – “They spent that day with Him … tenth hour.” Probably the Sabbath Day.  So Andrew finding Peter (vv40-42) happens on the next day – Day 4.
    5. v43 – “The next day…” Jesus meets Philip – Day 5.
    6. Now, we see from v28 that all of these things happened around “Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” v35 tells us that John was there again when Jesus met his two disciples.  We don’t know where that exact spot is but Cana, where the wedding took place, would have been about a day’s journey away.  So the day they travelled from Bethany to Cana was Day 6.
    7. And we know this from 2:1, which tells us the wedding took place “on the third day.” That is simply the Jewish way of telling us how long between events.  So day 1 – Jesus met Philip, day 2 – they travelled to Cana, day 3 – they attended the wedding.  But the wedding at Cana happens on Day 7.
    8. So, putting this all together, John begins his description of the public ministry of Jesus by telling us about events that happen over 7 days. Does that remind you of anything in the Bible?  And if you are still not sure, the first three words of John 1:1 are another clue – “In the beginning.”  What we have here in these seven days of activity is a parallel to the creation week!  That Jewish man on Youtube that I told you about.  As a student of the OT, he would have seen this and had another Ah hah! moment!  Jesus is to engage in a new creation!  And where does this week end?  It ends at a wedding!  (Gen 1-Rev. 19!)  And I will just make the secondary point here that this description of the events of seven ordinary days is another reason for us to believe that Genesis 1 describes the events of seven ordinary days!


Well, zooming back down now to vv19-28, here we see how the first witness of Jesus sets us a perfect example.  John the Baptist has already been described as a witness of Jesus in 1:6-9.  Now we will get to see how he did this and what this teaches us about being a witness of Jesus today.

And our text is the first part of how John sets us a perfect example.  He begins by saying that he, John, is not the light.  And then, in vv29-36, he points people to He who is the light – Jesus.  And the third part of his example is that he does all this so that people might believe in Jesus.  And indeed, some who hear him do follow Jesus!  And this last part of John’s example is very important.

We have a fire evacuation drill coming up next Sunday.  But if there really was a fire and you had to press the fire alarm button, you would press it wanting everyone here to escape the fire.

And in the same way, you must tell others about Jesus wanting them to be saved.  Urgency/conviction/your life depends on this truth!

So the three parts of witnessing that we want to consider today and as we continue with this section are: First, the believer must understand that he or she is not the answer to people’s problems.  Second, the believer must understand that Jesus is the answer and point people to Him.  And third, the believer must do this wanting his or her hearers to believe in Jesus.


  1. So we begin today with vv19-28 and John denying that he is the Christ.


  1. As I said a moment ago, while we know where the Jordan River was and is, we do not know exactly where Bethany But that was the place where John was baptizing.
    1. Now, there was a long history of baptism among the OT Jews. There were even specially built pools in different places that you could go in and out of as a kind of ritual washing.  And a Jew might do this many times.  But baptism was also connected with conversion.  Non-Jewish men who wanted to become a Jew had to be circumcised and then they and Non-Jewish women would be baptized.  So baptism was a sign of joining and total devotion.
    2. And as you read the Gospels, John’s baptism seems to have elements of both of these in it: In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that “the people confessed their sins and were baptized by John.” But John also consistently attached his baptism to the coming of Messiah and the Kingdom.  So, just as the baptism of Non-Jews was a sign of their devotion to Judaism, so John’s baptism was a sign of devotion to the coming Messiah and His kingdom.


  1. Well, what John was doing had attracted the attention of the Jewish leaders. The term “Jews of Jerusalem” probably means the Sanhedrin or ruling council.  And so, a kind of Spanish inquisition was sent to investigate.  It is made up of priests and Levites.
    1. Now, only men from the tribe of Levi could be priests, so all priests were Levites, but not all Levites became priests. Nevertheless, the priest and Levites were the ruling class.  And interestingly, we know that John’s father, Zechariah, was a priest.  So John the Baptist was a Levite.  But John had chosen a very different life than the life of politics and Temple service in Jerusalem.
    2. There were two main political/religious parties in the Jewish leadership – Sadducees and Pharisees. Generally, the High Priest and the other senior priests at this time were Sadducees.  But v24 tells us that at least some in this group were Pharisees.
    3. What is very clear though is that these men do not come with an eagerness to hear John’s message, but a kind of suspicious ‘Who do you think you are?’ attitude.


  1. And as we have noted, John emphasizes the fact that John the Baptist’s response begins with a denial: “I am not the Christ.” And note the words before that in v20, “He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely…”  Literally, his words are, “He confessed and did not deny, but confessed…”  John’s testimony or John’s witness begins with his denial: I am not the Christ.”  He is already witnessing to Jesus in his denials.  And this continues through v21: “I am not [Elijah],” and “I am not [the Prophet].”
    1. Now, before we say anything more about these denials, let’s think about why Christ, Elijah, and the Prophet are mentioned as the three possibilities.
      1. Christ is the Greek form of the Hebrew title Messiah. They both mean the Anointed One.
        1. Psalm 2:2 in our Bibles ends with Anointed One. In Hebrew the word is Meshiach and the Greek word is Christos.  Every serious student of the OT knew that God was going to send Messiah/Christ.
        2. Now, remember also that the Jews for six hundred years, had been ruled by the Babylonians, then the Medes and Persians, then the Greeks, and now by the Romans. And they hated this!
  • But they had prophecies like Psalm 132:17-18, “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent.”  Psalm 72 is another one, “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth … his enemies will lick the dust … All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.”  You can see then why the Jews were mistakenly looking for an earthly king who would smash the Romans.  And you can also see why they were suspicious about John right from the get go – baptizing in the Jordan is surely not how you smashed the Romans!
  1. But that is why the first denial has to do with the Christ.
  1. The second denial is about Elijah. Malachi 4:5 says, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”  Now, we know, because we have the NT, that the Lord meant an Elijah-type figure, which was actually John the Baptist.  But the Jews of John’s day took it literally and expected Elijah to come back before Messiah came.  So that is why they ask John if he is Elijah
  2. But thirdly, they ask him if he is the Prophet. And this is because way back in 18, God said this about Moses and the people of Israel, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.”  So the Jews were waiting for THE prophet.  So it is perfectly reasonable that these Jewish leaders mention these three possibilities.
  1. But John denies being any of these three. And when asked, in v21, to identify himself, he quotes from our earlier reading from Isaiah 40, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”  John did not want anyone to look at him; he just wanted people to listen to him.  He was a voice!  His task was to point people to Jesus.
  2. And this is exactly what he does in v26 as the Pharisees probe a little deeper. In answer to their question about why he baptizes, he says, “I baptize with water … but among you stands one you do not know.  He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
    1. I was at a rest home the other day, and one of the staff was doing the rounds of the residents, cutting toenails and cleaning the gunge out of cuticles. Now, in all my life, I have never heard anyone say that when they grow up they want to cut other people’s toenails and clean their feet.  What an act of loving service!
    2. And we have nice socks and shoes and clean floors and footpaths, but in Bible times, you had open sandals and you walked on dirt paths with all sorts of filth and faeces on them. So it was the task of the lowliest slave in the house to take off his master’s sandals and wash his feet.  It was such a disgusting job that though disciples of Rabbis in that time were viewed as their servants, the one thing they were exempt from was untying the sandals.
    3. But John says, I am not even worthy of that task when it comes to Jesus! And in saying this, John lowers himself and elevates  He believes that Jesus is the King of kings and that he, John, is just His lowly servant.  His task is to point people to King Jesus!

And right there, congregation, we have the first lesson from John as the perfect example of a witness of Jesus: And it is this – An effective witness of Jesus forgets him or her self and thinks about others and their need for the Saviour.  If you focus on what you like and how you feel and your needs and your personal interests and your comfort and your free time and your work and your ambition and your struggles and your inabilities, you will not be an effective witness for Jesus.  But if your heart goes out to the need of others to know Jesus as Saviour and Lord, then you will be an effective witness for Jesus.

  • Boys and girls do you remember the account of the young Jewish girl who served as a slave in the house of the Syrian general Naaman? Naaman had taken her from her family!  He was a Syrian General!  But she told him how he could be cured.
  • What about Nick Vujicic? No arms, no legs.  There was a time when he focused on what he did not have (hold wife’s hand).  That changed to what he has!  Salvation!
  • A big view of Jesus! Only way to forget yourself and focus on others – Jesus!
  • Acts 2 – 3000 added! One church historian – “explosion of Christianity in first 200 years was due to ‘informal missionaries.’”  How about you?


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