Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Read His Words Before Ours!

John 1:29-34

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’

31 I didn’t know him, but I came baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. 33 I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on—he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.

The Original Intent

1) Why would John refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God? (verse 29)

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and called out, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) In calling Jesus the “Lamb of God”, John referred to the role Jesus would play as the Messiah, the One who would atone for the sins of humanity. (Galatians 1:4)

Anyone who heard John would instantly understand that if Jesus were a Lamb, He would die a sacrificial death. The Jewish people had long used lambs as sin offerings. Author Vern Poythress explains, “In the Old Testament, the necessity for atonement is symbolized by animal sacrifices, which depict the removal [of] sin through the death of an innocent substitute. These sacrifices prefigure the coming of Christ as the final atoning substitute.”

This foreshadowing of Christ as the Lamb of God is exemplified in the Passover (Exodus 12:5), where the sacrificial lamb was required to be without fault or blemish (Exodus 12:5). A spotless lamb’s blood was spread on the doorposts of Jewish homes to save the household from the angel of death, who would pass over the homes protected by the blood of a lamb. Author Andrew Murray asserts, “All these sacrifices and offerings were only types, and shadows, till the Lord Jesus came. His blood was the reality to which these types pointed.”

This Lamb of God, foreshadowed in the Old Testament (Genesis 22:8, Isaiah 53:7) and heralded by John the Baptist in John 1:29, is Jesus, the only Sinless One who could atone for all sins.

Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, atones for the sins of the world, redeeming those who trust in Him. (Romans 10:9)

The Everyday Application

1) Why would John refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God? (verse 29)

As a kid, I had friends who didn’t like their names and used nicknames, middle names, or initials instead of their given names. My friend, Darrel, went by his middle name, Dean; Richard was called by his middle name, Aaron; my friend, Amanda, went by Mandy. But I always liked my name, Rachel Anne.

I liked Anne because it ended with an e, just like one of my favorite fictional characters, Anne Shirley. And I liked Rachel ever since I looked it up in a baby name book and discovered its Hebrew meaning is sheep. That started my life-long obsession with all things sheep and lambs! It is one reason I love that Jesus is called the Lamb of God. (John 1:29)

The significance of that name is profound for everyone, not just a sheep lover like me, because it illustrates the deep love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:18) John Piper explains that Jesus “was called the Lamb of God, because He would die. That is why God sent Him. And that is why He came . . . He was God’s Lamb for the world—not just a Jewish lamb for Israel.”

To be the Lamb of God, Jesus needed to become the atonement for our sins (1 John 2:2) by taking on our punishment so we could stand blameless in His presence (Jude 1:24) as He gives His righteousness to all who believe (2 Corinthians 5:21)!

It is astounding to consider that Jesus came with the intention of dying in my place, giving His life for mine in a final sacrifice that covered the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), His sacrifice made eternal rescue available to all through faith. No more sacrifices required, and nothing to do on my part (Titus 3:5) but accept, believe and praise Him for His amazing Love (Colossians 3:16).

The Original Intent

2) Why does John say that Jesus ranks ahead of him because He existed before Him? (verse 30)

In describing Jesus, John the Baptist asserted Jesus to be “a man who ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.” (John 1:30)

John was not speaking about Jesus’ physical existence because, as Jesus’ cousin, he knew himself to be 6 months older than Jesus. (Luke 1:36) John understood Jesus was not just his cousin, not just a man, and not just a teacher. He realized that, from Jesus’ virginal conception (Luke 1:31-35) to the moment He atoned for the sins of the world (Romans 5:8), Jesus was God; the God Who Was, Is and Is to come. (Revelation 1:8)

James Burton Coffman clarifies, “Christ was ‘before’ John the Baptist only with respect to His eternal existence, a truth John [the disciple] had already recorded in John 1:15.” John embraced the fact that his own life was purposed to be the herald of the Messiah (Luke 1:17), the one who prepared others to receive the Good News of Jesus (Luke 4:43). John was the one prophesied about in Isaiah 40:3 who would be a voice of one crying out, Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Author John Piper suggests John the Baptist’s message was, “The man coming after me is more than anyone ever dreamed. He is the God of the Old Testament—only now He is man as well as God.”

John wanted to point others to Christ, letting them know that, as great as they thought John the Baptist was, Jesus was so much greater that John wasn’t even worthy to unlace His sandals. (John 1:27) John’s goal was to give all the attention, the glory and the honor to the One who promised salvation and eternal life.

The Everyday Application

2) Why does John say that Jesus ranks ahead of him because He existed before Him? (verse 30)

When I was young, a commercial break during my favorite TV program meant I had 2 minutes to use the bathroom, refill snacks and reclaim my comfy spot on the sofa. Today, my kids often watch a program solely for the commercials just because a trailer for their favorite movie will play during the advertisements.

The commercials become the main event because my kids are so eager to get a sneak peek of an upcoming movie they have been waiting years to release. Then they spend an hour talking about the clip and speculating about the upcoming production. They are excited when the trailer is good, because it probably means the movie will far exceed their expectations.

John the Baptist had a similar role in the story of Jesus. (John 1:30) John was charged with preparing the way for Jesus (Malachi 3:1) letting people know that the long-awaited Messiah was walking among them, fulfilling the promises of God in their midst. (Isaiah 53:11-12) John’s message to his followers was simple: repent and prepare, for the Messiah is at hand; I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:7)

Jesus told His followers that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet, but anyone who comes to faith in Jesus is greater even then John the Baptist. (Mathew 11:11-14) This was no surprise to John as it was his message as well; Jesus is the Light and Salvation, bringing the New Covenant the world had been waiting for. (John 1:1-5)

John Piper explains, “John the Baptist is a root partly underground in the Old Testament and partly exposed in the New Testament. He has a foot in both worlds.” John the Baptist helped bridge the gap between the promise of Messiah’s coming and the Good News that He has come.

The Original Intent

3) What makes John certain that Jesus is the Son of God? (verses 33-34)

In John 1:33-34, John the Baptist proclaims about Jesus, “I didn’t know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One you see the Spirit descending and resting on—He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

John the Baptist knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He recognized Jesus as God from the moment they met, each still in the womb of his own mother. (Luke 1:44) God revealed to John that his own life was specially planned to be the one who would make a way for Jesus. (Luke 1:76) God also spoke audibly to John as the Holy Spirit descended as a Dove when John baptized Jesus, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17) The Lord’s words assured John that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

Author David Guzik asserts, “The gospel of John emphasizes John’s role as a witness, not a baptizer. Witnesses give testimony as to what they have seen and experienced, in an effort to establish the truth.” John’s main objective was introducing people to Jesus, God’s Son.

John baptized people because he wanted them to make an overt statement about repenting from sin and embracing God, but he was emphatic that people must understood the Son of God was in their midst.

The Everyday Application

3) What makes John certain that Jesus is the Son of God? (verses 33-34)

My husband is a big fan of the University of Kansas sports teams, and he determined to pass that love for the Jayhawks on to his children. He succeeded with our daughter, who wore the crimson and blue and knew the chants and traditions all during her childhood.

When she graduated high school, she went from being a KU fan to being an actual KU Jayhawk, enrolling in the school to pursue a degree and take part in the lore and legacies she had loved from afar. Being a fan was great, but the experience of living on campus as a Jayhawk was on a different level.

Until John the Baptist met Jesus at the Jordan River’s edge, his life had been lived at the Jesus “fandom” level. He knew and believed the prophecies and promises and even his early womb encounter (Luke 1:44) with Jesus, but seeing the Holy Spirit descend as a Dove and hearing God say Jesus is God’s Son cemented everything he believed about the long-awaited Messiah. (John 1:33-34)

Vern Poythress notices the similarities to Old Testament visitations of God in stating, “The appearance like a dove is analogous to Old Testament visual displays of the presence of God; the voice from heaven is like Mount Sinai and the voice of God to Isaiah and to Ezekiel […] God the Father speaks from heaven. God the Spirit descends like a dove. God the Son is the one addressed by the voice of the Father. It is fitting, because Jesus in His incarnation is the fulfillment of Old Testament [appearances of God].”

This Old Testament like encounter was irrefutable evidence to John the Baptist that Jesus was the One he was born to prepare the way for.

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