When John (the Baptist) started his public ministry, the Israelites had a greater hope the Messiah was about to deliver them from Roman captivity. Because of that the priests and Levites had some questions they wanted to ask John (the Baptist).
1:19-20 – Who are you? The priests and Levites wondered if John could be the promised Messiah. When they asked him, John said, “No.” If John was not the Messiah, could he be a figure of end-time expectation?
1:21-22 – Are you Elijah? John said, “No.” There was a greater reason the priests and Levites could have believed He was Elijah. In the Old Testament, there was something said about Elijah and the latter days (read Malachi 4:5). Even the disciples of Jesus wondered about the same thing (read Matthew 17:10). Something very unusual happened to Elijah (read 2 Kings 2:11). Luke 1:17 says, that in the latter days there will one “who will exhibit Elijah’s spirit and power.”John was asked, Are you the Prophet? He answered, “No.” Again there was a greater reason the priests and Levites could have believed John was a prophet (read Deuteronomy 18:15).
1:23 – Who then was John? He said I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord (prepare for the Messiah’s coming),’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
John knew some of the people wanted to elevate him to a position greater than what was rightfully his. John was a humble man. He said, He(Jesus) is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loosen” (John 1:27).John likened himself to a slave who was required to remove his master’s shoes. The difference was John didn’t even feel like he was worthy of removing the Messiah’s shoes.