After John makes clear the Word’s (Christ’s) relationship to God, and that He is God, He turns his attention to preparing man’s heart to receive the very special message God has prepared. The book of John proceeds to introduce us to the first true prophet from God to come on the scene for many, many years. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes would like the people to think they speak for God, but as we see in the Gospels, God is not pleased with their message. His message is quite different than theirs, even though it is the same message He has given to man from the beginning. That is one of repentance, restoration of a relationship, and salvation in the face of eternal death. To deliver this message, God sends what seems to be an unlikely spokesman – John the Baptist.
To us he seems like he would be less than a desirable messenger, but to God he is the right man at the right time. We would want the most appealing countenance we could find, with the richest speaking voice, and the most eloquent vocabulary available at the time to deliver our message. What God sent was a hermit from the rough land of the desert who was not much more than a homeless outcast in that society. What made him compelling was the message he delivered. It is all according to God’s plan.
The message resonated with the people primarily because it was God’s message. God intended it to be compelling and powerful – to stir hearts and minds. It is the same message we preach today.
John the Baptist was sent from God. He came to share the message that the Christ was on the scene. The writer named the coming one the Light. This is the light by which we see our true nature. It is the light by which everything is revealed. If we look at ourselves by this light, there is no way for us to think more highly of ourselves than we are. We see that we need redemption. It is this light that compels us to repent and seek forgiveness from an Almighty God.
Because of his message, there were those who thought John the Baptist might be the Light of the World referred to in these verses. I think it is worth noting that John the Baptist was not the first or only person that people mistook for the Messiah. The Jewish people had been looking for Him for so long, they were ready to believe anyone to made the claim was the Messiah. I can imagine that they had chased after a lot of different men over the years only to be disappointed in the end. If I were there, I can imagine that I would want to know if I was chasing another pipe-dream.
The writer makes it clear that this John is not the Messiah, but is only a forerunner of the Messiah. It appears that John knows the Messiah is living in those days and that he is expecting Him to reveal Himself at any time. Is it possible that he grew up with the stories from his mother Elizabeth being visited by Mary who was carrying the Savior? I think it is highly likely. They may not have had much contact as they grew up, but he certainly would have known about Jesus and the words from the angel concerning him.