25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
JOHN 1: 25-27 ESV
25 καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· Τί οὖν βαπτίζεις εἰ σὺ οὐκ εἶ ὁ χριστὸς οὐδὲ Ἠλίας οὐδὲ ὁ προφήτης; 26 ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰωάννης λέγων· Ἐγὼ βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι· μέσος ὑμῶν ἕστηκεν ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε, 27 ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος ἵνα λύσω αὐτοῦ τὸν ἱμάντα τοῦ ὑποδήματος.
JOHN 1: 25-27 SBLGNT
The confrontation continued as the Jews sought further justification from The Baptist for his actions. This time with the administering of Baptism.
As D A Carson outlines in his book, ‘The Gospel of John’, Baptism was not an unknown practise since many Jewish groups practised it. He writes.
“The question put to John the Baptist by the Pharisees in the deputation reflects one of their concerns: Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet? Their interest is in what authorizes John’s baptismal practices. It is not that Baptism was unknown. Some Jewish groups practised ‘proselyte baptism’, i.e. proselytes were baptized in converting to Judaism. In the monastic community at Qumram, members invoked passages such as Ezekiel 36:25 to justify their daily Baptism, a sign that they were the righteous community of the end-time. However, in both instances, Baptism was self-administered. Candidates baptized themselves. One of the things that characterized the Baptism of John the Baptist is that he administered it. It may even be that the authority implicit in such an innovative step triggered the assumption in the minds of at least some Pharisees that John’s Baptism was an end-time rite administered by an end-time figure with great authority.
Nevertheless, their question should not mean that they have all unambiguously identified John’s Baptism as an eschatological rite: there is no good evidence to support such a view (contra Bultmann, p. 88). Rather, they want to discover by what authority John is baptizing Jewish people as part of their preparation for the kingdom he is announcing. Looking around for an adequate authority to sanction such extraordinary practice, they wonder if he is an eschatological figure. Furthermore, if he is not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet (principal eschatological figures), then what could justify his Baptism?”
If Baptism was a practice, then why the concern about The Baptist baptizing people? It has to be the proclamation that was being exalted, because it called everyone to repent as the New Covenant was ushering itself in. Therefore, the New Covenant would end the Old Covenant, which was the foundation upon what these Jews held.
These people needed an answer to bring to those who sent them, and so far, they had nothing to reveal, which made them weary and perturbed.
John had provided them with the answers they did not want to hear, and now they were questioning his authority to baptize. “John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,”
John had responded both to the nature of his Baptism and his official status. In baptizing, John states nothing surprising, for water was almost assumed for baptism and other synoptic reasons. One familiar with the Synoptics would expect John to respond with a more extraordinary kind of baptism, which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which the three Gospels refer to in Matt 3:11, Mark 1:7-8, and Luke 3:16. John was not comparing the difference between the baptisms but between himself and the one to come (between “I’ and ‘him.’)
The revelation of the greatness of Jesus Christ that the topic of baptism fades away, for the subject, which is the primary focus of baptism, “is among you.”
The role in baptism is not downplayed, but the intention was to confront the Jews with the reality that the one who comes later brings significance to the choice of baptism, which The Baptist stands as a witness to the one who comes and nothing further he revealed in the earlier prologue.
John the Baptist was preparing the people for the coming Messiah, and he is the witness to that revelation. John reveals that baptism of the water attest to our faith and our repentance of our past, whilst baptism of the spirit is the pinnacle of the faith in the Messiah. It is the coming of the Messiah that minimizes baptisms of The Baptist’s role and the person himself.
As Edward Klink writes in his book, “John” in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament collection,
“The presence of the Word minimizes not only the role of the baptism but also the person of the Baptist. Yet at this moment, the Baptist and his baptism serve as a rebuking witness to his interlocutors, who do not know who stands among them (“Whom you do not know”)”
The Baptist then makes it very clear that the person who follows after him, Jesus Christ, is incomparably greater than The Baptist, and The Baptist’s logically prior role makes it known to them.
Again Klink writes,
“John’s role is logically prior, though ony on the plane of historical temporality (for the Word was in the beginning), and he is a preparatory witness to prepare the way for Jesus (vv.22-23). John explains this emphatically by defining himself as not ‘worthy” enough to perform probably the most demeaning task assigned to household servants, caring of the feet of one’s master.”
John knew his place and the glory of the Messiah that was to come. He did not want any honour given him to obsure the superiority of Jesus Christ.
John knew what was to come, and he played his role diligently to those who would hear the message. Ironically, We live in the reality of these revelations. Jesus has come and has lived amongst us. He taught us the manner of life to live, which is portrayed as an example. Jesus did all that was asked from Him from the Father in Heaven. He did not leave us empty and wanting, but he took it upon himself to bear the weight of all our sins. He died for us – he took our place on the cross. A death that would have been our ultimate destiny in our immoral and broken lives which we deserved.
How much more do you expect than the reality of this historical fact. Like the Jews, we continue to seek alternatives in our life. We look but do not see, and it is the vision entwined in the truth that has been revealed. We hear but refuse to understand the truth, acting without remorse and feelings to what has been justified for us by one man on the cross. It was God himself, and his divine (agape)love for his creation that he took it upon himself to provide us with a means to salvation.
Don’t throw an eternity away for a moment of bliss now. Whereas whatever we face today justifies us to an eternity of bliss: simple logic but stubborn minds.