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What did the Pharisees think of John the Baptist? John 1:24 - 28

Updated on January 27, 2014

John 1:24 - 28

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?"

"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Simeon. I am a lawyer, a Pharisee if you will. My father taught me to love the law. He was a Pharisee with the most excellent reputation. My father was above reproach and perfect in keeping all the requirements of the holy decrees. He commanded utmost respect wherever he went. Since I was a boy I have wanted to be like him. I strive to be as pure as he was, passionate in debate, and influential among our people. Teaching the law is one of my greatest pleasures. Helping the common man understand and apply the commands given to Moses is very rewarding. It is an honor to be a part of such an illustrious vocation. We Pharisees have a long and proud history. The accomplishments of my profession are worthy and great. We take our commitment to preserving our faith seriously, and some have even died protecting our beliefs. We strive to safeguard the integrity and authority of the Torah, the law which God gave to Moses in the wilderness. It is our responsibility to interpret that law. We make sure the people know what is required to live a holy life acceptable to our God. They look to us to help them understand what is expected of them. Without the Pharisees, Jewish life as we know it would have died out a long time ago. We have preserved our fine heritage through war and exile, and most recently, Hellenization. The Greeks insist that their culture be integrated into the daily life of everyone with no exception. Their lifestyle is appealing, and many Jews embrace this new world view wholeheartedly. They do not care that the practices and ideas of these heathens are in direct conflict with the statutes of our God. It does not seem to concern them that the Greeks don’t even believe in one true God. Without the Pharisees to give clear guidance on the proper way to live one’s life in obedience to the Almighty, I’m afraid many would give in to the enticements of the modern culture. What would become of our nation then?

So perhaps you can understand our concern when this man John came preaching and baptizing out in the desert. He encourages confession of sin and baptism to show repentance. John claims to be a messenger from God, but after 400 years with no word from the Almighty, that is hard to believe. People flock to the wilderness from all over the region just to hear him speak. He’s a strange one, wearing animal skins and only eating locust and honey. At first we thought maybe his popularity would fade as the novelty wore off, but the crowds kept growing. It’s not the baptizing that bothers us so much. Ritual bathing is a part of our Jewish life. It gives us spiritual purity and cleansing. Any new convert to Judaism has to be fully immersed in water. This baptism purifies them from their idolatry and symbolizes a new start in life. They are considered to be a newly born man, like a little child, innocent and pure. Its John’s growing influence that is alarming. Rumors are whispered everywhere, claiming he is Elijah or maybe the prophet Isaiah, some even speculate that this could be the Christ we are waiting for. We need to find out firsthand what this man is about. We must know exactly who he is and what he is doing. It is important to us to determine by what authority he baptizes. It is our duty to determine if John is a threat to us. How else can we protect the people from false teachings, from being led astray by an unknown con man pretending to be a prophet?

I was chosen to be among the group sent to question John. I found his words inflammatory and disturbing. He raged against the hypocrites among us, called us vipers. John challenged us to repent. That showed us what he knew. We are the guardians of the law; we know it better than anyone else. How dare he accuse us of failing to uphold it. He did admit that he was not Elijah returned from the dead or the Messiah. What disturbed me the most was his indication that he was not the only one we would have to worry about. He was just the messenger, a forerunner. John claimed to be the fulfillment of prophesy. There was someone else among us, far greater than he was. John humbly pointed out that he only baptized with water as was our custom. This other person would baptize with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. He wasn’t worthy to untie the sandals of the one who was still to come. That was new to us. I didn't know what he meant by it and it made me uneasy. It sounded like a threat, definitely different from our way of life. I felt a shadow overcome me, a sense of change. A storm was brewing on the horizon. Would we survive what was to come?

I hope you enjoyed this viewpoint. Please continue on and read how the Pharisee's question John the Baptist.


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