Short Meditations in John 1: 25. Questions evoked
Jn 1:24,25 Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
It is interesting that it is some Pharisees who now question John. Earlier we were told there were priests and Levites, but now we find that in the group sent from Jerusalem, there were also Pharisees, those from that ultra-conservative religious group who saw themselves as guardians of the Law. They were antagonistic knit-pickers who again and against came against Jesus. If you didn’t go their way, you were an enemy, it seemed.
So the questioning has established that John is not the messiah, not Elijah come back, nor the prophet fulfilling Moses’ words, but that leaves these questioners dissatisfied. Very well, he is none of these people so is he just an ordinary man and if so, why is he doing what he is doing? That is the question, “Why then do you baptise if you are not the Christ?”
Perhaps the bigger question that they should have been asking themselves was why were such large crowds flocking to him to repent and be baptised? That was so often the problem with these various religious groups, they got their focus on one issue and missed the main one! That does so often become the problem when you settle in any particular persuasion or way of thinking; everything gets tailor-made to suit or agree with it and unfortunately that is so often wrong.
But let’s go back to that big issue that these Pharisees and the others with them seemed to be missing. Why was John apparently so successful? Why were so many people flocking to him and being baptised? The answer, I suggest, has got to be twofold. First it is obviously a work of God. John is there because God has told him to be there and do what he is doing. No one in their right mind would do it otherwise. Second, there is clearly a hunger in the people which John is satisfying. They want to be a spiritual people, they want to be right with God, they want to put their lives right so they can be right with God. Surely the Lord knew this and that is why He sent John ahead of Jesus. Spiritually the landscape that was Israel was barren but that didn’t mean the people were not hungry for God and hungry for reality. That is what these religious questioners were apparently completely missing when they challenged John. They should have been the answer to the people’s hunger – but they weren’t!