What does John 1:23 mean?
ESV: 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."
NIV: John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ "
CSB: He said, "I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord —just as Isaiah the prophet said."
NLT: John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: 'I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’'
KJV: He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.
NKJV: He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Verse Commentary:
John the Baptist makes a single clear claim to fulfill Old Testament prophecy. He is "the voice" of Isaiah 40:3, from the Greek word phone. Jesus, on the other hand, is "the Word," from the Greek word logos (John 1:1). The "voice" brings awareness of "the Word," which people are then expected to respond to. There, in the desert outside of Jerusalem, John the Baptist was crying out, making "the way" for the Lord (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:1–3).

People hearing this prophecy would have understood it as "making a road," meaning a path for the incoming King. Our conversations, and our discussions, are meant to "make a way" for Christ to reach others (2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Peter 3:15–16).

John the Baptist is also reassuring others by denying that he is the Messiah. What he preaches is not a new religion, nor even a new revelation. It is the fulfillment of what was already prophesied (Isaiah 9:2–7; Jeremiah 33:15–16). This is not God changing His mind—it is God completing His plan.
Verse Context:
John 1:19–28 describes a conversation. On one side is John the Baptist, different from the author of this gospel. On the other are local religious leaders. Baptizing converts to Judaism was common, but the Baptist was calling on Jews to repent and be baptized. The Baptist makes it clear that he is not the "Promised One," but equally clear that his mission is to prepare the way for that One.
Chapter Summary:
The first chapter of John introduces Jesus as "the Word," from the Greek logos. This chapter clearly describes Jesus as God. After this prologue, the chapter describes Jesus recruiting the first of His disciples, as well as a conversation between John the Baptist and the Pharisees. There are seven names or titles for Christ in this chapter, including "the Son of God," "the Word," and "the King of Israel."
Chapter Context:
The first chapter of the gospel of John equates Christ with God and introduces John the Baptist. The Baptist specifically points to Jesus as the Promised One. Jesus collects the first five of His disciples. In this chapter, Jesus is given seven descriptive names, including "the Word," "the Son of God," and "the King of Israel." This chapter sets the stage for the rest of the gospel, by giving the reader a sense of who Jesus truly is, and why He has come. The rest of the gospel is an exploration of the claims made in this initial passage.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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