John the Baptist was very popular at the time and his name was on the lips of those who came to hear him preaching and through them his message was spread to the whole region. John was a charismatic preacher and his message was clear, simple and easy to remember: repent and believe in the Good News. This simple message touched the hearts of thousands who had heard him and they in turn had passed on his message to others. There was another reason that people were drawn to John and that was his life style: he lived in the wilderness and ate honey and locusts. His fame spread far and fast like fire and that made the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to question John about his identity. Popularity often presents an image that the person is bigger than life and the person enjoys the image the crowds had created of them. The danger of popularity is that it doesn't last long and when it goes and the person suffers greatly and loses hope when the false image dies. John the Baptist was very much aware of the false image the crowds had given him and he set himself free from it. John knew his message and even better knew who he was and had never accepted what people gave him. He told them
I am the voice that cries in the wilderness. Make a straight way for the Lord
The priests and Levites who were the messengers of the Jews were unhappy about the truth that John had revealed of himself and his mission. They pressed on for an answer and when they didn't hear what they wanted they challenged him but John didn't give in easily and he reconfirmed his role once more.
John denied that he was the Messiah or one of the prophets. The denial of popularity is not a sign of weakness or low self esteem but rather it is the sign of the inner strength. People who are powered with God's spiritual strength know their self worth that comes from God and this internal power enables them to resist against the temptation of this world, including fame. They are happy people and are content with the enlightenment that comes from within. As an honest person John would not accept what is not his and as a humble person John has never made claim of anything for himself or anything from him but he always refers to the One who comes after him. He has never lost focus in pointing forward to the One who comes after him. John was faithful to the message he preached and was ready to give up all that he had, including his own disciples, to the One who comes after him.