Of all the commentaries Leon Morris wrote in his illustrious career, some thirteen by my unofficial count, perhaps he is best known for his commentary on the Gospel of John in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (NICNT; Eerdmans). Morris provides a goldmine of quotable material for the preacher/teacher in this volume, and in this post I shall share one such example.
In John 1:19-28, John the Baptist undergoes a line of questioning brought forth by the Pharisees as to his identity. In John 1:21, they continue to press the Baptist on his identity, questioning him, "Then who are you?Are you Elijah?;" to which John responds, "I am not." They then ask the Baptist if he is the Prophet, to which he also responds in the negative. Morris discusses the tension of John the Baptist's fulfilling the role of Malachi 4:5, where Elijah would precede the coming of the "great and dreadful day of the Lord" and his denial that he is in fact Elijah in v.21. He writes:
The solution to the difficulty is probably that there was a sense in which John was Elijah and a sense in which he was not. He fulfilled all the preliminary ministry that Malachi had foretold (cf. Luke 1:17), and thus in a very real sense Jesus could say that he was Elijah. But the Jews remembered that Elijah had left the earth in a chariot of fire without passing through death (2 Kings 2:11), and that they expected that in due course the identical figure would reappear. John was not Elijah in this sense, and he had no option but to deny that he was. And, of course, we must bear in mind the possibility that John may not have known that he was Elijah.Now for the kind of quote that Pastors and teachers love, Morris continues:
No man is what he is in his own eyes: he really is only as he is known to God.
(Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Rev. [NICNT; Grand Rapids: MI; Eerdmans; 1995]), 118-119.
This is Morris at his theological best, drawing out profound truths from the text. Only one who is spent a lifetime in the texts of the NT can draw out these insights, something Morris did with stunning regularity.