John the Baptist looked
toward the coming Messiah as one far superior to himself. All the people
of that time were in expectation of the coming Saviour and "questioned
in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Messiah"
John replied to them all: "I
baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the
thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you
with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Luke 3:16).
These statements were all
consistent with those of the former prophets who had predicted the glory
of the coming Messiah whom John openly identified as Jesus. John too
spoke of the pre-existence of the Messiah as Micah and others had done
before him and, being the only prophet to rise at the same time as
Jesus, rejoiced at the honor of being appointed to reveal him to the
nation (John 1:31). John was indeed sent from God, but only as a prophet
to bear witness to the true light who was coming into the world just as
the former prophets had done. "He was not the light, but came to bear
witness to the light" (John 1:8).
Some months later a Samaritan
woman came to the well of Jacob at Sychar and saw Jesus sitting next to
it. A brief discussion followed and, when she saw that he could see
right through her and could read the background of her life, she said,
"Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet" (John 4:19). Yet, as he
continued to discuss with her and now began to speak of a new age that
was about to be brought in where opportunities would arise for all men
in all nations to have a living knowledge of the truth of God in their
hearts and thus worship him fully in spirit and in truth, she sensed
that he was far more than a prophet. So she said to him: "I know that
Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show
us all things" (John 4:25). To this Jesus openly declared: "I who speak
to you am he" (John 4:26).
Her question was an indirect
way of prompting Jesus to disclose himself—was he just another prophet
or was he possibly God’s Supremely Anointed One, the heavenly ruler of
ancient days who would bring the full and final revelation of God to
man? Jesus gave her an emphatic answer— "I am he."
On another occasion, when the
Jews said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the
Messiah, tell us plainly" (John 10:24), Jesus again answered quite
openly "I told you, and you do not believe" (John 10:25). He had no
doubt whatsoever that he was the Messiah, the man of glory foretold in
the prophecies of the prophets who came before him. Indeed when the high
priest of Israel himself directly asked him "Are you the Messiah?" (Mark
15:61), he answered equally directly, "I am" (Mark 15:62). He could not
have declared his messiahship more clearly.