THE LAMB OF GOD John 1:19–2:25
“Then John gave this testimony: ’I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. . . . I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God’ ” (John 1:32, 34).Discipleship calls us to be ever aware of the power of God and to live confidently we are as in His presence.
John explained his mission (1:19–28) denying that he was the Christ and identified Jesus as the Son of God (vv. 29–34). Several future disciples, including Andrew and Peter, met Jesus for the first time (vv. 35–42) and returned with Him to Galilee (vv. 43–51). There Jesus prefigured His ministry of transformation by changing water into wine (2:1–11), and later His ministry of purification by driving money changers from the temple (vv. 12–17). At that time Jesus spoke of His coming death and resurrection (vv. 18–25).
Understanding the Text
“Who are you?” John 1:19–28
An official delegation questioned John the Baptist concerning his identity. Who did he claim to be? The Messiah? Elijah, returned from the dead? (cf. Mal. 4:5) The Prophet predicted by Moses? (cf. Deut. 18:18) John refused each of these important titles, and spoke of himself simply as a “road builder.” His mission was to make it easier for folks to meet the “One who comes after me.” And, John added, he himself was “not worthy” to untie the thongs of that One’s sandals. What’s significant here is that the lowest servant in the house was given the task of stooping to untie a guest’s sandals. John was saying, “I’m a nobody.” Yet later Jesus Himself said that John was greater than any of the mighty prophets of the Old Testament! (Matt. 11:11) John was a “nobody” only in comparison to the One he announced, who towered so much above him. I can think of nothing more fulfilling than to be “road builders” today. The “nobody” who introduces somebody to Jesus has become important indeed. “I myself did not know Him” John 1:29–34. John’s confession is one of the most interesting sidelights on Jesus to be found in the Bible. You see, John was Jesus’ cousin, and undoubtedly knew Him well. In fact, the other Gospels tell us that when Christ came to be baptized, John didn’t want to do it! The reason is simple. John knew Jesus as a truly righteous and good Jew. John called on people to be baptized as a sign of repentance of sins and recommitment to God. John didn’t think it was right for Jesus to “recommit,” when He had been committed all along! But why then didn’t John recognize Him? Probably because John, like all of us, had an image in his mind of what the Messiah would be like. And “a truly good man” wasn’t a major element of that image. Hopefully, folks around us will be surprised when they learn we’re Christians. No, not because we’ve tried to hide the fact, or failed to speak of Jesus. But because we won’t fit the image portrayed on TV and in the movies of narrow, bigoted, insensitive people who never have any fun, and hate to see others enjoy themselves either. How delightful when someone says, “Oh, you’re a born-again Christian? But you’re so friendly!” Or, “You’re such a good listener!” Or, “You’re so understanding!” Or best of all, “But you really care!” “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” John 1:34. John fulfilled his mission in life by preparing folks to meet the Son of God, and then identifying Jesus as God’s Son. This also brings our ministry of road building into perspective. “I have seen,” John said. It’s very little help to others to engage in arguments over their beliefs, or over the interpretation of a verse in the Bible. What we need to do is to testify, as John did, to our experience of God’s truth. I don’t mean we shouldn’t share Scripture. I simply mean we should share Scripture through our experience. A good friend of mine, Dr. Paul Johnson of Seattle, had life-threatening cancer a few years ago. As he was going under the anesthetic before his operation, Paul felt himself falling, falling, falling. And then suddenly, he felt himself caught and held, and he realized he was being held in Jesus’ arms. Paul tells the story today, not as some mystic experience, but as an illustration of Scripture’s promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Josh. 1:5), and especially of the phrase, “underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27). Paul’s faith in Jesus provided peace and hope in the darkest time of his life. You and I needn’t argue about the Bible. All we need to do is to share it, and say with John, “I have seen and I testify.” “Come . . . and you will see” John 1:35–39. John could and did point his followers to Jesus. But as today, each person must find out who Jesus is for himself. Curiosity may lead some to approach Jesus; a sense of need or desperation may move others. Yet each person must then come, and see for himself if Christianity “works.” Each person must meet Jesus for himself, listen to His teachings, observe His actions, and respond to His voice. One of the most important things we can do to help any inquirer is to encourage him or her to read the Bible—especially a Gospel like Luke or John. We can do so confidently. As Christ told the questioning pair so long ago, “Come, and you will see!” “The first thing Andrew did” John 1:40–42. This too follows a basic pattern. Evangelism is the spread, not just the sharing, of the Good News. Often sharing our salvation is one of the first things that happens to us as new Christians. Too often the failure of others to respond surprises and hurts us. For all too many, a negative first experience stops witnessing altogether. There’s a special word here, however, that will encourage us to keep on sharing Christ. Andrew told his brother, Peter. And Peter later became the chief of the apostles; the outspoken, enthusiastic and especially human disciple whom God used to preach the first Christian sermon to the Jews (Acts 2) and to the Gentiles (Acts 10–11), and to write two of the epistles in our New Testament. How is that encouraging? This way. You never know when you share Christ with someone how important that person may become! “He . . . drove all from the temple area” John 2:12–14. John’s failure to follow chronology in his report of events makes it difficult to place this incident. The other Gospel writers report that a similiar incident took place the last week of Christ’s life. John, however, organized events out of sequence, to impress his readers with their significance. And this event truly is significant. Christ, who transformed water into wine, also purified the temple. He drove out corruption, and insisted that the worship of God be holy and clean. He does this in our lives too. As He transforms He cleanses, until, purified, we exhibit a holiness which is appropriate to those who worship and honor God. Perhaps this is why John also places a reference to the Cross in this passage. The transforming and purifying ministry of Christ is costly. There is no cheap salvation. The price of our renewal was the sacrificial death of God’s unique and only Son.
I Saw You!(John 1:43–51)
I’ve always liked this passage, ever since as a young seminary graduate working with preschoolers I wrote a lesson for three and four-year-olds based on it. It illustrates how a simple story can convey the most profound theological concepts. The lesson I wrote was called, “Jesus Always Sees Me.” That’s another way of talking about the doctrine of omnipresence, which states that God can be and is everywhere in the created universe at once. He is always present with us: He sees us at all times. While Jesus did not exercise this attribute at all times, a number of biblical stories show that He was aware of events that took place beyond the range of sight. For instance, Jesus in Galilee knew that His friend Lazarus had died in Bethany, near Jerusalem in Judea (John 11). Nathanael, obviously accurate theologically, knew that there was no way Jesus could have seen him under that fig tree before Philip arrived, and came to the conclusion that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. And of course Nathanael had reasoned correctly. None of this, however, was important to the preschoolers for whom I wrote. They weren’t interested in solving the mystery of the theantropic person (God/Man). They didn’t care to debate to what extent Jesus surrendered exercise of the attributes of Deity when He took on humanity. But they did care that “Jesus always sees me.” They did care that even when Mommy and Daddy were out of sight, Jesus was watching over them. They did care that whether they were riding in a car, sleeping in the dark, or playing outdoors, Jesus was there, and could see. What a lesson for us today. Yes, theology is profound. But relationship with God is far greater than the most profound depiction of doctrine. And our relationship with God can be expressed in words just as simple as “I saw you.” And can be understood in the comforting terms of “Jesus always sees me.”
Let the assurance that Jesus is with you bring you peace.
“In all thy actions think God sees thee; and in all His actions labor to see Him; that will make thee fear Him; this will move thee to love Him. The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, and the knowledge of God is the perfection of love.”—Francis Quarles