6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight  the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:6-8 John 1:19-28 (ESV)
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”
This is John’s answer to the Jews and Levites from Jerusalem who ask him who he is, who have seemingly gone through all the options. The Christ, Elijah, the prophet. John confesses and does not deny that he is any of these three, neither the Christ, or the Prophet or Elijah. The Christ, the messiah would be one in the same as the Prophet to whom he pointed, the light about which he bore witness, who would bring with him life and salvation through that waters of baptism. Elijah? That John denies being Elijah is curious, because of course Jesus himself says that he is Elijah who was to come. But then John wasn’t actually Elijah in the manner that we was being asked. He wasn’t Elijah reincarnated or come back from the dead or any such thing like that. But he was a new Elijah, sent with his zeal and love for God and his law, willing to stand true and preach the word of God unvarnished to any in his path as he in the wilderness prepared the way of the Lord.
And this is what He does, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord. Sent ahead a forerunner of Christ. As all the prophets before him. In many and various ways God spoke to us of old, the author of Hebrews will say, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his son whom he appointed heir of all things. He would be the last of the prophets, one to sum up the entire work of the law and the prophets, he would bring it to conclusion, saying behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
And this he would do preaching the law in all its ferocity, to warn the people that the axe was laid to the root of the tree, that the messiah comes with a winnowing fork in his hand to separate the wheat from the chaff, judgment is coming. So the people would confess their sins to him as he would call them out, tax collectors for collecting too much, Soldiers for extortion, the people fornicating and adultery, dishonoring their parents, stealing and gossip, coveting and murder, even as he tells the soldiers they would kill to be content with their pay. Hatred can so easily overcome a soul, and justify itself in its own eyes, thinking of what they have done to us, family members, we tell ourselves we really only want justice. You can see how his preaching penetrated into their hearts, and convicted them of their sin, the sin the wells up from within our souls, manifesting itself in greed, lust, rage and jealousy. And for this the bellows of hell would blow us like chaff to burn in the furnace.
But then John’s crying in the wilderness wasn’t about putting the fear of hell into everyone, but to prepare the way of the Lord, and let us all realize the need we have for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He cried in the wilderness that we would know our need for one who is mightier than him. He came not as light but as one who bore witness to the light, the light whose salvation, death and resurrection is greater than the law that condemns you, one who stands among you today gathered and baptized into his name, that you would be given the eternal life and the forgiveness of sins through the blood of the lamb, the New Testament given for you. That when the axe is laid to the root of the tree, we would believe in the rose blooming from Jessie’s stem, and have salvation.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.