When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest.
He didn't evade the question. He told the plain truth: "I am not the Messiah."
They pressed him, "Who, then? Elijah?" "I am not." "The Prophet?" "No."
Exasperated, they said, "Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something - anything! - about yourself."
"I'm thunder in the desert: 'Make the road straight for God!' I'm doing what the prophet Isaiah preached."
Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party.
Now they had a question of their own: "If you're neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?"
John answered, "I only baptize using water. A person you don't recognize has taken his stand in your midst.
He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I'm not even worthy to hold his coat for him."
These conversations took place in Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing at the time.
The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out,
"Here he is, God's Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I've been talking about, 'the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.'
I knew nothing about who he was - only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God."
John clinched his witness with this: "I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making himself at home in him.
I repeat, I know nothing about him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, 'The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'
That's exactly what I saw happen, and I'm telling you, there's no question about it: This is the Son of God."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)