And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?…
This may be regarded as a temptation of John corresponding to the simultaneous temptation of Christ. John refused the titles in which the hierarchical party expressed their false views, even as Christ refused to satisfy their expectations by the assumption of external power.
(Canon Westcott.)Is it a little thing to have a deputation waiting upon you from the capital, in whose heart there is evidently a very special expectation, and to hear them say, "Who art thou?" in a tone which seems to imply "We shall not be surprised if thou dost reveal thyself as the very light we have been expecting." This temptation often seizes a man, and, extending himself beyond his proper function and calling by flattering persuasions, the result is self-mortification and ignominy; and he who might have done something really good goes out of the world having mis-spent his little day. When a man says, "I claim infallibility," and, whether at Rome or in London, he commits the most grievous sins, though he wear the holiest of names. Look at John, see how the great men crowd round him. It never occurred to him that he was some great one. Hence the subtlety of these tempting flatteries. But he baffled them, and kept them at arm's length. He would have no compliments, and declined the illustrious titles that were offered him one by one. But this was not enough. John did not stop at the half truth. A man may resist a temptation to lie, and yet conceal the whole of the truth he has been commissioned to tell. If John was not the Christ, but knew who the Christ was, it was not enough for him to decline the Messiahship. He must declare the Christ. This he did with a promptness, clearness, and fulness that puts many a so-called evangelical ministry to the blush. Hence John came out unscathed, and was rewarded by one of the greatest eulogies ever pronounced by Christ on man.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?