20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
The religious delegation from Jerusalem fired a series of machine-gun-like questions at John the Baptist (Jn 1:20-22). To them John was an interloper who threatened their dominant leadership in religion. He was not trained in rabbinical schools. “Who does this person think he is?” “Where does he get his authority for his message?” “Where does he get the authority to call for the nation to repent?”
These questions are various speculative theories of the coming of the Messiah in the first century. There were many rumors floating around Jerusalem about who John was. John’s message commanded attention to these theories.
20 He [John the Baptist] confessed, and did not deny, but confessed,
Note repetition of the word “confessed.” The double “confessed” plus the negative is a striking denial. He patently made his point clear. He boldly stood his ground.
John’s emphasis was to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the coming King of Israel. He did not “deny” that fact. He did not refuse to answer. John told them clearly where he stood in God’s kingdom.
“I am not the Christ [the Messiah].”
“Christ” means Messiah, the anointed one. John the Baptist plainly denied that he was the Messiah. His denial is a confession that Jesus is the Messiah. He previously said that he “was not the light” (Jn 1:18).
We are to be clear in our witness.
Jesus said that “no one was greater” than John the Baptist, yet John viewed himself as a witness of Christ. His ministry was subordinate to Christ. He knew his true role in the kingdom. He understood how God viewed him. We should follow John’s pattern of not being great in our own eyes and understand our role in God’s plan for us.
May we like John the Baptist stand our ground when it comes to our witness for Him. Our “dignity” should not get in the way of our witness. Threats should not move us from sharing Christ. May God give us like courage to those outstanding witnesses who have gone before us.