This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
Many prayer meetings I have attended end with testimonies shared by members of the group. It has often seemed to me that what was shared was more about the person than about Jesus. You can always spot these by the frequency of the word “I” used over the word “Jesus”. I don’t believe that this is intentional—like many things we do, it is because we haven’ been taught properly—so how do we testify properly? We can learn a few lessons from John the Baptist!
Priests and Levites go to John with the question: “Who are you?” Given his lifestyle and his call to repentance, they wonder if he is the Messiah, but he immediately declares: “I am not the Messiah.” And with this denial, we can see that he is already attempting to do what God has sent him to do: to prepare a way for the Messiah. One, we must always point towards Jesus as Messiah, or Savior.
Then they ask him: “Who then? Are you Elijah?” Scripture has declared that John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah (see Luke 1:17), but modestly John the Baptist says, “I am not.” So, they then ask, “Are you the prophet?” And again he says no. He is doing the work of a prophet, is he not? Yet, he makes himself nothing. Later John would say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). So, two, we must always die to ourselves so Christ can live in us.
“So who are you then?”, they want to know. And he says he is simply a voice calling people to repentance and preparing a way for Jesus. A lot of us are doing great things for Jesus, but as I said in a recent reflection (see The Preparers: https://youtu.be/_4FMSq-SUWU), our role is to just prepare a way for the return of the Lord. So, three, we must remember we are nothing more than a voice calling people to Christ.
And then they ask him why he is doing what he is doing. And he makes himself less than nothing. Jesus said that “among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11), yet John the Baptist says he is not worthy to even untie Jesus’ sandals. Removing footwear was something only servants did. John was saying he was even less than this. So, four, we must make ourselves as humble servants.
If we can keep these four things in mind, our testimonies will be really powerful. As they should be.