30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
John now revealed how he discovered that Jesus was the Messiah (vv. 30-31).
This is he of whom I [John the Baptist] said,
This phrase harks back to verses 15 and 27. Jesus held priority not only in what He did but in who He was.
‘After me comes a man who ranks before me,
The narrative continues the focus on the superiority of Christ. Jesus was far higher and superior in rank to John the Baptist.
because he was before me.’
John asserted the priority of Christ because He came from eternity. He preexisted in eternity past. The person of Jesus was the eternal Word present before time began. We see where Jesus existed in eternity past in these verses: Jn 1:1, 15; 8:58; 16:28; 17:5, 24; 2 Co 8:9; Php 2:6–7; Co 1:17; He 1:3.
I myself did not know him,
John and Jesus were cousins and knew each other growing up. Jesus was born six months after John, so they were contemporaries. The Baptist knew Jesus on a human level, but he did not know that He was the God-man while they were growing as young men.
John the Baptist did not know that Jesus was the Messiah until God revealed it to him (v. 31). The “know” here is more than recognition of Jesus’ physical appearance. John had not understood that Jesus was the appointed Messiah. He did not know that Jesus was more than man. He did not know that He was God incarnate. John viewed him only as a relative before this revelation.
but [emphatic] for this purpose
The word “but” is emphatic. The Baptizer did not understand who Jesus was prior to His baptism but, now that Jesus was about to be baptized, He would be “revealed” as the Messiah. God’s purpose for the Baptizer was to introduce the unique Messiah to Israel.
I came baptizing with water,
John baptized in the Jordan River.
that he might be revealed [manifested] to Israel.”
God’s purpose for John the Baptist was to prepare the nation Israel for the coming of the Messiah. Israel was God’s chosen people, to whom He gave unconditional promises in the Old Testament that are yet to be fulfilled.
“Israel” the nation stands in contrast to the “Jews.” The Jews were hostile to Jesus.
God sovereignly works in ways not apparent to us.
God does many things in our lives that we may not understand. His working behind the scenes is like our not seeing the lower part of an iceberg but only the surface. We see only the surface of how God is working in the world today.