The Berean Expositor
Volume 8 - Page 33 of 141
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"What sayest thou of thyself?"
pp. 158 - 160
What a temptation to flesh and blood such a question can become! The words are
taken from John 1: 22, and they come in a section of that chapter headed, "and this is the
witness of John" (1: 19). The occasion of the witness was the mission of the priests and
Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who art thou"? Such a deputation would have
turned the heart and head of many a man. John had attracted the attention of the great
ones at the metropolis, they had considered him important enough to send a deputation of
priests and Levites to ask him who he was. Before this is recorded, the Scripture has
already prepared us for the answer that he would give to their question; he was a man
sent from God; he came for a witness of the Light; he was not that Light (1: 6-8). It is
evident from these opening words that Christ was not eclipsed by the eloquence or the
prominence of His forerunner; John was simply sent to bear witness of that Light. "John
bare witness of Him and cried saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh
after me is preferred before me, for He was before me" (1: 15). Again the record of the
forerunner is interrupted by a reference to the glory of his Lord; then after three more
verses the witness of John is resumed. When the priests and Levites asked John, "Who
art thou?", we are told "he confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the
Messiah". The confession and the denial is without equivocation; most emphatically,
positively, and negatively John bore witness to His Lord and Master. His questioners
then ask, "What then? art thou Elias?".
In answer to the disciples' question, "Why then say the scribes that Elias must first
come?" the Lord replied, "Elias truly shall come and restore all things; but I say unto you
that Elias has come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever
they listed. . . . then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the
Baptist (Matt. 17: 10-13). Or again in Matt. 11: 14, "If ye will receive it (i.e., the King
and the Kingdom), this is Elias (i.e., John the Baptist), which was for to come". Before
his birth the angel had told his father that he (his son John), should be great in the sight of
the Lord, that he should be filled with the Holy Ghost before birth, and that he should go
before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1: 14-17). Few of the Lord's
servants had greater reason to make at least some claim to the title and office of Elias.
John might have explained to his questioners the angel's words, or have anticipated the
Lord's own statements; what, however, is his reply? Briefer than before he replies, "I am
not". Again they ask him, "Art thou that prophet?" They may have referred to the words
of Moses which were prophetic of Christ, or some other idea may have been in their
minds; at any rate, John answers more briefly still, "No". Each answer becomes briefer;
this was rather annoying; these men had to take back some answer, so again they put their
original question, adding the words, "What sayest thou of thyself?" What will John say
of himself? Listen, "I am A VOICE", not the voice, but a voice, simply a voice. This
chapter reveals Christ as THE WORD, and John as A VOICE. Blessed relationship!
Christ is the Light also, and of John Christ said, "He was a burning and a shining lamp"
(luchnos). If Christ be a King, John is His forerunner; if Christ be the Word, John will be
a voice; if Christ be the true light, John will be a lamp; if Christ be the bridegroom, John
will be the friend of the bridegroom. Upon the testimony of Christ, John was more than a