When Jewish leaders from Jerusalem sent some religious big wigs out to ask John if he might be the Son of God come to earth, he told them straight out: You’ve got the wrong guy.
So they asked, “Then who are you? The prophet Elijah come back from the dead?”
“Are you the Prophet?”
Finally they said, “Who are you? We need to know what to tell the people who sent us out here. Give us a clue as to who you are.”
Quoting Isaiah the prophet, John said, “I am a lone voice in the wilderness that says, ‘Get ready for God, cuz here he comes!’”
Then the religious big wigs said, “Why are you dunking people in the water as some sort of symbol of spiritual cleansing if you’re not God’s Son or Elijah or some other prophet?”
“It’s true, I dunk people,” John replied, “but your goose chase is misguided. The guy you should be looking for – he’s out there somewhere – is way out of my league and much more fascinating.”
All of this was happening at Bethany, on the other side of the Jordan river, which is where John was dunking people, AKA baptizing.
The next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here he is! The sacrifice to end all sacrifices who will completely clear our account with God. This is the guy I was talking about when I said, ‘Even though he comes after me, he’s way ahead of me because he existed long before me!’ I really didn’t know who he was, I just knew that I needed to get out here and start dunking people in water as a symbol of spiritual cleansing and somehow that would flush him out.”
Recalling how he understood Jesus to be God’s Son, John said, “God’s Spirit came down from the sky as if it were a dove and it landed on Jesus and stayed with him. I didn’t even realize who he was until that moment. The same inner voice that compelled me to start dunking people out here told me, ‘When you see God’s Spirit come down and land on someone, you’ll know he is the one who is going to be doing the real spiritual cleansing – not just the symbolic act.’ I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I assure you, this is the one we’ve been waiting for. God chose him!”