1:24 The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees.
1:25 They asked him,
"Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
1:26 John answered them,
"I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don't know.
1:27 He is the one who comes after me,
who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to loosen."
1:28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Order of events: Given that John is
providing a daily record of events, commentators have concluded
that the events described here occurred after Jesus' baptism and
subsequent 40 day temptation in the wilderness.
"That prophet" refers to Deut 18:15 "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." That prophet turned out to be Jesus as Peter affirms in Acts 3:22.
Thus the priests and Levites were incorrect in their
of the literal Elijah preceding the coming of Christ, and their
the prophet Moses speaks of was different than Christ. The Muslims
also clearly incorrect today in their position of Mohammed being
spoken of by Moses.
In quoting Isaiah 40:3 note that John operates in the
wilderness rather from within institutionalized religion. Such is the
case both with John and with Jesus. One might say that they didn't
operate within organized religion. In fact both were treated with
suspicion and hostility by the institutionally elite. To prepare for the
Lord's coming John attempted to make the way straight. Isaiah
continues, " Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain." Isaiah 40:4 The mountains are
the proud, largely portrayed in the institutionally elite. These need to
be humiliated. The valleys are the hopeless sinners. These need to be
shown grace and the potential for forgiveness.
The way is also to be straight rather than crooked. People need to stop their crooked ways and go straight.
vs 29-34 "The Lamb of God" refers to the sacrifices made under the Law of Moses whereby sins were covered by animal sacrifices. But these were only a symbolic precursor to the atoning sacrifice to be made by Christ on the cross who would substantively take away the sin of the world. Notice he speaks of the world and not simply Israel. Thus from the start the gospel was not simply about God's relationship with the Jews, but God's relationship with the whole world. I think "sin" is singular in order to expressed it as a whole category and thus incorporate all sins.
It is unclear to me exactly what John meant when he said "I knew him not", for John was his cousin and his mother Elizabeth had declared Jesus as Lord even while still in Mary's womb. (Luke 1:43) and John also in the womb had somehow sensed the presence of the Lord Jesus as well (Luke1:44). And furthermore in Matthew 3:14 John revealed that he knew him even before revealed by the signs. It could be that John meant that he did not recognize him as Christ in an official capacity based upon external observations, even though he knew him personally as Christ. The word for "know" here is not ginosko which is a relational knowledge, but oida which is knowledge gained by perception. And although even in the womb he perceived Christ, yet did not perceive him based on external signs. It was here at Christ's baptism that he would officially declare Jesus as Christ - the annointed one - based on the signs given by God and in a similar manner as the prophets had annointed the kings, so he would annoint this King with baptism.