Why was he baptizing people? (Jn 1:25-1:25)

“They asked him.

‘Then why are you baptizing,

If you are

Neither the Christ Messiah,

Nor Elijah,

Nor the prophet?’”

καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ Τί οὖν βαπτίζεις εἰ σὺ οὐκ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς οὐδὲ Ἡλείας οὐδὲ ὁ προφήτης;

John then had this conversation with these priests and Levites who had been sent from Jerusalem by the Pharisees continue.  They wanted to know what authority did he have to do this baptizing?  They spoke and asked John (καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ), why was he baptizing people (Τί οὖν βαπτίζεις)?  Why was he doing this, if he was not the Christ Messiah (εἰ σὺ οὐκ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς), nor Elijah (οὐδὲ Ἡλείας), nor the Prophet (οὐδὲ ὁ προφήτης)?  This is the first mention of baptism in this gospel.  There were many Jewish ritual purifications that included water, so that this cleansing with water was not that surprising.  However, the idea of a baptismal immersion in the water was new.  John the Baptist had just admitted that he was some kind of prophet, if not the prophet.  He was preparing the way for the Messiah or the Christ to come.  They wanted to know why he was doing this.  This seemed like a legitimate question since it had some religious significance.  What do you think that the purpose of Baptism is?

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