Humble Hero


“We Have Found the Messiah”

This chapter is based on John 1:19-51.

John the Baptist was now preaching at Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where people daily crowded the banks of the Jordan. John’s preaching had taken a deep hold on the nation. He had not recognized the authority of the Sanhedrin by seeking their approval, yet interest in his work seemed to increase continually. HH 53.1

The Sanhedrin was made up of priests, rulers, and teachers. In the days of Jewish independence, the Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the nation. Though now reduced in power by the Roman governors, it still exercised a strong influence in civil as well as religious matters. The Sanhedrin could no longer afford to put off an investigation of John’s work. Some recalled the angel’s revelation to Zacharias in the temple that had pointed to his child as the Messiah’s herald. The excitement concerning John’s ministry now reminded the leaders of these things. HH 53.2

It had been a long time since Israel had had a prophet. John’s demand for confession of sin seemed new and startling. Many leaders would not go to hear John for fear that they might be led to reveal the secrets of their lives. Yet his preaching was a direct announcement of the Messiah. HH 53.3

It was well known that the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, covering the Messiah’s arrival, were nearly ended, and all were eager to share in the national glory they expected would follow. The popular enthusiasm was so great that the Sanhedrin would soon be forced either to approve or to reject John’s work. Already it was becoming a serious question how to maintain their power over the people. In hope of coming to some conclusion, they sent a delegation of priests and Levites to the Jordan to confer with the new teacher. HH 53.4

A large crowd was listening to John’s words when the delegates approached. The haughty rabbis came with an air of authority designed to impress the people and gain the esteem of the prophet. With respect, almost fear, the crowd opened to let them pass. The great men, in their rich robes, in the pride of rank and power, stood before the prophet of the wilderness. HH 53.5

“Who are you?” they demanded. HH 53.6

Knowing what was in their thoughts, John answered, “I am not the Christ.” HH 53.7

“What then? Are you Elijah?” HH 54.1

“I am not.” HH 54.2

“Are you the Prophet?” HH 54.3

“No.” HH 54.4

“Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” HH 54.5

“I am ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “‘Make straight the way of the Lord,”” as the prophet Isaiah said.” HH 54.6

Anciently, when a king traveled through his realm, men were sent ahead to level the steep places and fill up the hollows so that the king could travel safely. The prophet Isaiah used this custom to illustrate the work of the gospel. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Isaiah 40:4. When the Spirit of God touches the heart, it brings human pride low. The person sees that worldly pleasure, position, and power are worthless. Then only humility and self-sacrificing love are exalted as having any value. This is the work of the gospel, of which John’s message was a part. HH 54.7

The rabbis continued their questioning: “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” The words “the Prophet” referred to Moses. When the Baptist began his ministry, many thought he might be Moses risen from the dead. HH 54.8

Many people also believed that before the Messiah came, Elijah would personally appear. John denied this expectation, but later Jesus said, referring to John, “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.” Matthew 11:14. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to do a work like Elijah did. But the Jews did not receive his message. To them he was not Elijah. HH 54.9