JOHN CHAPTER ONE
John The Baptist And
The Coming King
We are about to embark on a momentous journey through the Gospel of John. While this gospel shares some characteristics with the other three gospels, it is also unique in several ways. The first three Gospels concentrate on describing events in the life of Christ, John wrote of the meaning of these events. John records fewer miracles than do the other gospels, and those miracles are usually chosen to illustrate or emphasize the teaching that he is dealing with at the time. For example, all four Gospels record the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 but only John records Jesus’ sermon on “The Bread of Life,” explaining the meaning of that miracle for the people.
We will find that John continually focuses on one major theme that runs throughout His Gospel:
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and if you commit yourself to Him, He will give you eternal life (John 20:31).
There is a strong emphasis on the meaning of faith and on the Person of Christ. This gospel contains no parables but gives us a number of Christ’s personal conversations. The gospel also relates His sermons (discourses), which focus on who Christ is. In the first chapter of this book, John records seven names and titles of Jesus that identify Him as the eternal God.[fn]
The revelation of God’s glory is also a focal point in the Gospel of John. Jesus revealed God’s glory in His person, His works, and His words. John recorded seven miracles that clearly declared the glory of God (John 2:11). The glory of the Old Covenant of The Law was a fading glory, but the glory of the New Covenant in Christ would now be the glory forever. Paul gives us more detail of this in 2 Corinthians 3:6-18 NLT:
6 He (Jesus)[fn] has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away.
8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?
9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God!
10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way.
11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!
12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.
13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.
14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.
15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.
16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
The Law given to Moses could reveal sin but it could never remove sin. Jesus Christ came bringing grace and truth, and both of these things are available to all who will trust in Him (John 1:16). As you study John’s Gospel, you will find Jesus teaching the people that He is the fulfillment of all that was required in the Law.[fn] That is important to understand because it would be necessary that the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world must be someone who had never sinned, who had never fallen short of what the Law required. Jesus, of course, was the only One in all of history who would be able to satisfy that requirement.
The people saw His works and heard His words. They observed His perfect life. He gave them every opportunity to receive the truth, believe, and be saved. Jesus is the way, but they would not walk with Him (John 6:66–71). He is the truth, but they would not believe Him (John 12:37ff). He is the life, and they crucified Him. But sinners today need not make those same mistakes. John 1:12–13 gives us the marvelous promise of God that anyone who receives Christ will be born again and enter the family of God. John says more about this new birth in John 3, but he points out here that it is a spiritual birth from God, not a physical birth such as occurs among humans.[fn]
So with that introduction let us now look more closely at this Gospel.
John 1:1-5 ESV:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him (Jesus),[fn] and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
It is always important to start at the beginning. Matthew and Luke open with telling about Jesus’ birth, His earthly beginnings. But John goes back farther than that; he establishes the eternity of Christ, the fact that He has always existed.
In Genesis 1, that is in the beginning, God spoke and the entire universe came into being. In the Bible generally, the “Word” represents God’s way of communicating with human beings. It is appropriate therefore that John used it in a unique way, to teach that Jesus was the embodiment or expression of all that God is. We just said a few minutes ago that this gospel places more emphasis on Christ’s words, whether in conversation or public speaking than the other gospels do. So it is only fitting that Christ is introduced as The Word, the Word incarnate (God has come to earth as a man). We will soon see that the Word was important in Creation as well.
Throughout Scripture we learn that God’s creation is one way that He reveals His existence to us (John 1:3). God revealed himself first as Creator (Genesis 1) and later as Redeemer or Re-creator in the person of Jesus Christ. John presents Christ’s work as the beginning of a new creation. Similarly, Paul calls the Christian a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).[fn]
It is most interesting to compare these first five verses in John with the first five verses in Genesis 1:1-5 ESV:
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light day, and the darkness he called night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Notice first the role of God’s Word. He spoke and there was light. In the creation account in Genesis 1 we often see the pattern: “And God said . . . and it was so” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14-15, 24).
Now note that the first five verses in Genesis 1 and in John 1 both make references to the beginning, creation, light, and darkness. This certainly seems that it is not mere coincidence, but that there is a definite meaning being communicated.
“Light” and “darkness” are frequent themes in John’s gospel. Jesus was the source of spiritual light (John 8:12; 9:5). “Darkness” referred to the realm of spiritual evil—the satanic world system set against God (John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12). John tells his readers right at the beginning of his gospel that the darkness could not extinguish the light of Christ (verse 5).[fn] In other words, Satan does not have the ability to overpower Jesus.
It would be difficult to find another passage in all of Scripture that contains more meaning than the first five verses of John’s Gospel. Here we see Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God. Verse 1 tells us that Jesus has been around since the very beginning. In the beginning the Word already existed. Jesus was with God and He was God.
John chapter 1, verse 2 tells us again that Jesus was with God the Father from the very beginning. Verse 3 tells us that as part of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Jesus created everything. Verse 4 tells us that Jesus is both the light and life of all humankind. The saying that life was “the light of men” means that as the source of all life, Jesus is the focus of all our hopes.[fn] And verse 5 tells us that the darkness of the fallen world could not put out Jesus’ light. John clearly points out in these first 5 verses that Jesus truly is the Son of God. These opening verses also confirm what the Bible teaches about God being a Trinity (Genesis 1:26).
John 1:6-13 ESV:
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
In verses 6-8 John is not referring to himself but to John the Baptist. John (the Baptist) was sent to alert the Jews that their Messiah (Jesus)[fn] was coming. He was sent to tell people that the Light had come into the world. But the nation of Israel, in spite of all its spiritual advantages, was blind to their own Messiah. John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus, telling the people that “This is the Son of God. This is the true light.”
How desperately the world needed that Light is revealed in these words, written by Alfred Edersheim, which give us a picture of the world into which Jesus came:
“. . . Rome became to all the center of attraction, but also of fast-spreading destructive corruption. . . . Religion, philosophy, and society had passed through every stage, to that of despair. . . the issue lay between Stoicism and Epicureanism. The one flattered its pride, the other gratified its sensuality . . . Both ultimately led to atheism and despair—the one, by turning all higher aspirations self-ward, the other, by quenching them in the enjoyment of the moment; the one, by making the extinction of all feeling and self-deification, the other the indulgence of every passion and the worship of matter, its ideal.
“It would be unsavoury to describe how far the worship of indecency was carried; how public morals were corrupted by the mimic representations of everything that was vile, and even by the pandering of a corrupt art[fn]. . . . . It has been rightly said, that the idea of conscience, as we understand it, was unknown to heathenism. Absolute right did not exist. . . . The sanctity of marriage had ceased. Female dissipation and the general dissoluteness led at last to an almost entire cessation of marriage. Abortion, and the exposure and murder of newly-born children, were common and tolerated; unnatural vices, which even the greatest philosophers practiced, if not advocated, attained proportions which defy description.
“. . . . What is worse, the noblest spirits of the time felt that the state of things was utterly hopeless. Society could not reform itself; philosophy and religion had nothing to offer: they had been tried and found wanting. . . . All around, despair, conscious need, and unconscious longing.[fn] Can greater contrast be imagined, than the proclamation of a coming Kingdom of God amid such a world; or clearer evidence be afforded of the reality of this Divine message, than that it came to seek and to save that which was thus lost?”[fn]
It is very sobering when one comprehends the definite parallel between the society and culture into which Jesus was born and the current situation in which we live in the twenty-first century.
The function of John 1:6–13 is to explain to us how the “world” would not accept Jesus as the Messiah. John the Baptist was sent by God to be a witness to the world. We will find the word “believe” used many times in the Gospel of John. We see it first used here in verse 7. The word as used here actually means “trust”, a total reliance on what is being said about Jesus. “Light” as used in these verses is the kind of light described back in Genesis at the dawn of the original creation. Beginning in John 1:10 we see the good news that God was present in the world and how the world sadly rejected that presence. In verses 12 and 13 John emphasizes not the essential importance of Jesus’ birth, although that certainly was important, but of the Christian’s spiritual birth. To those who “believed” (1:12), trusted completely in Christ’s mission here on earth to provide atonement for sins, they have a belief that results in a new birth, not a physical birth but a spiritual birth, into the family of God. One becomes a brand new creature just as they were brand new physically at their physical birth (2 Corinthians 5:17).
John 1:14-18 RSV:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, "This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'")
16 And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
How incredible is this truth. God came to earth in the form of the Man, Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully man. As hard as we try I am not sure any of us could really understand that concept. But Jesus Christ was God and a man, with all the physical characteristics of a man and all the spiritual characteristics of the Divine in the same person.
John the Baptist is a very important New Testament figure. In fact he is mentioned just under a 100 times. John was privileged to be able to announce the coming of the Messiah, as well as the more difficult task of convincing the people that Jesus was the Messiah. He called them to repent of their sins and to be baptized as a proof of repenting from those sins.
In John 1:15-18 the apostle John summarizes what John the Baptist said about the coming Messiah, Jesus. First, John tells us in verse 15 that Jesus is an eternal being. You see John the Baptist was actually born six months before Jesus (Luke 1:36); so in verse 15 John is referring to Jesus’ preexistence, not His birth date. Jesus existed before John the Baptist was ever conceived.
John recalled the message of John the Baptist concerning Christ’s greatness. Christ did not come to give a new law, but to proclaim, and by his sacrificial death, make possible God’s grace, which is God doing for humans what they cannot do for themselves. Though several Old Testament saints “saw” God (Isaiah 6:1–7), none had seen His essential nature. This was disclosed only in and through Jesus (John 14:8–9).[fn]
Jesus Christ represents the fullness of grace and truth (John 1:16–17). Grace is God’s favor and kindness bestowed on those who do not deserve it and cannot earn it. If God dealt with us only according to truth, according to the actual way we have lived our lives, none of us would be saved. But He deals with us on the basis of grace and truth. Jesus Christ, in His life, death, and resurrection, met all the demands of the Law; so now God is free to share the fullness of His grace with those who trust Christ.[fn] You see, sin is so serious that God will not permit it in His presence. Therefore in order for sin to be forgiven by God, a perfect sacrifice was required. “Perfect” means that the sacrifice had to come from a human being who lived a life in perfect compliance to God’s Law. In other words the sacrifice of someone who had never sinned, who had never broken any of God’s laws, would be the only way for God to forgive the sins of mankind. And that does not mean that all mankind is saved by what Jesus has done. Only those who believe in what He did for them will be saved. Blood is the life-giving source that keeps us alive. Nothing could be considered more precious to life in a physical sense. Therefore it is the only sacrifice that would be accepted for forgiveness, and then only from a sinless human being. No one else who has or whoever will live could accomplish that, only Christ.
In John 1:17, John acknowledges that something newer and far better has replaced the Mosaic system. John was not suggesting there was no grace or truth under the Law. The Law contained both. The sacrifices that were offered in the Temple represented the grace of God. In Jesus Christ, however, grace and truth reach their fullness; and this fullness is available to you and me. According to Ephesians 2:8-9 we are saved by grace:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)
We also live by grace according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV:
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
We depend on God’s grace in everything we do and God’s grace just keeps on giving and giving and giving. James 4:6 tells us:
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (ESV)
Getting back to John 1, in verse 18 John says something that far too many people skim over. He says, ”No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” So in verse 18 John tells us that Jesus Christ reveals God to us. Let us read it from the Amplified Version to get the full impact.
No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [that is, in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him – He has revealed Him, brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known.
So then we ask, how does Jesus reveal God to us?
Colossians 1:15 ESV:
15 He (Christ)[fn]is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
And Hebrews 1:3 tells us:
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
The word Son is used for the first time in John’s Gospel as a title for Jesus Christ (John 1:18). The phrase “only-begotten” (in some translations) means “unique,” the only one of its kind. Jesus is called “the Son of God” at least nine times in John’s Gospel.[fn]
John the Baptist is one of six persons named in the Gospel of John who gave witness that Jesus is God. The others are Nathanael (John 1:49), Peter (John 6:69), the blind man who was healed (John 9:35–38), Martha (John 11:27), and Thomas (John 20:28). If you add our Lord Himself (John 5:25; 10:36), then you have seven witnesses. The circle of witnesses to the powerful work of God is exclusive. Not everyone is able to bear witness, but only those who have seen and believed God’s glory and witness through Jesus.[fn]
MEET THE LAMB OF GOD
As we look around at what is going on in the world today, we can sometimes get a feeling of hopelessness. We may feel the culture and politics are on a slippery slope, heading south. Lack of respect for human life is rampant, whether in the form of abortion, suicide/homicide, bombings and stark terrorism, or cloaked in the form of “quality of life” or “alleviating suffering,” issues regarding disabled people, the elderly, or those in vegetative states. But hopelessness is not the proper response. We are now going to be introduced to One who stands against all that is wrong in the world, the One who not only gives hope but who demonstrates it in the way He lives His life.
John 1:19-28 ESV:
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)
25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,
27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
“Who are you?” was a logical question. Was John the promised Messiah? Was he the prophet Elijah spoken of in Malachi 4:5 NAS?
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
Great crowds had gathered to hear John, and many people had been baptized. It was therefore possible the people thought that he was the promised Messiah. John the Baptist told them that he was neither Elijah nor the Messiah. John referred them back to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 40:1-3 and confirmed that he was the fulfillment of that prophecy:
1 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
3 A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” (NAS)
John the Baptist said he was the voice of someone crying, which speaks of his genuineness and sincerity in calling people to repentance.
Proverbs 8:1 NRSV:
Does not wisdom cry out, And understanding lift up her voice?
Preachers, or anyone who testifies about Jesus, must be sincere and must underscore that sincerity by demonstrating that their lives have been changed by that message. Note also where John was crying out. It was in the wilderness, in a place of silence and solitude, away from the noise of the world and the hustle and bustle of its business. When we can disentangle ourselves from the concerns of worldly dealings the better prepared we are to hear from God. What did John cry out? “Make straight the way of the Lord.” John came to correct the misunderstanding that had developed among the people about the ways of God. In other words, God had taught the people the right ways to live but the religious leaders had changed the teaching to satisfy their own selfish purposes. They had taken the straight road that God had established and made it crooked. Now John the Baptist was calling people to return to the original plan of God. So John is calling out to people to straighten out the crooked road that the religious leaders have built, and get back on the straight and narrow road that God wants them on. That road leads them straight to repentance and trust in God, and prepares them to welcome the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His Gospel message. It is kind of like in olden times when messengers would go before the king blowing trumpets and announcing his coming, alerting the people to receive him warmly.
Psalm 24:7 NCV:
7 Open up, you gates. Open wide, you aged doors and the glorious King will come in.
John the Baptist came to prepare people to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.
Having found out who John was, these religious leaders (that is, the heads of the nation, the members of the Sanhedrin[fn]) then asked what he was doing. “Why are you baptizing?” John got his authority to baptize, not from men, but from Heaven, because he was commissioned by God (Matthew 21:23–32). Their question to John was, in effect, “Since you have no official title, why are you baptizing people?[fn] The Jewish religious leaders in that day baptized Gentiles who wanted to become Jews; but John was baptizing Jews.
The Jewish religious leaders considered baptism a sacred ceremony. They had used it along with circumcision when allowing non-Jews to convert from paganism to Judaism. Baptism represented their cleansing from the evil of their former lives.[fn] They expected it would be used when the Messiah came, because it was promised that then there would be a fountain opened and clean water sprinkled upon the people. It was taken for granted that Christ and Elijah would baptize when they came in order to purify a polluted world.
Zechariah 13:1 NAS:
On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
What was going on here? The question about the Prophet Elijah in verse 21 refers back to Deuteronomy 18:15–18, which was generally supposed to have reference to an end-time figure who would appear before the second coming of Christ.[fn] But many did not understand that there would be two comings of Christ. So they thought it possible that John the Baptist was the Elijah prophesied to come.
These priests and Levites who were sent to investigate John the Baptist were proud, self-righteous priests who thought they did not need to repent, and therefore could not tolerate anyone who thought it necessary to preach repentance. These priests were so conceited that they could not understand the need for a doctrine of repentance. They also were the type of men who liked to parade their authority before the people. They undoubtedly felt pretty puffed up when they called John to account for his actions in front of people who considered him a prophet. They most likely had every desire to silence John’s teaching, if they could find a justifiable reason to do so, because they were undoubtedly envious of his growing following among the people. They were also probably resentful of John’s teaching because it did not follow the rules of religion that the Sanhedrin (Jewish leaders) had established, nor did it conform to what they had come to expect of the Messiah’s kingdom. They wanted a Messiah who would be a conquering military leader and restore Israel once again to a position of world power.
Let us insert something at this point to give you an idea of what these Jewish leaders were expecting when the Messiah came. They looked to Zechariah 12, which they interpreted to be the coming of the Messiah. Actually that chapter is predicting the second coming of Christ in the end times but these leaders did not realize that.
Zechariah 12:1-10 NLT:
1 This message concerning the fate of Israel came from the Lord: “This message is from the Lord, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and formed the human spirit.
2 I will make Jerusalem like an intoxicating drink that makes the nearby nations stagger when they send their armies to besiege Jerusalem and Judah.
3 On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves.
4 “On that day,” says the Lord, “I will cause every horse to panic and every rider to lose his nerve. I will watch over the people of Judah, but I will blind all the horses of their enemies.
5 And the clans of Judah will say to themselves, ‘The people of Jerusalem have found strength in the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, their God.’
6 “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a flame that sets a woodpile ablaze or like a burning torch among sheaves of grain. They will burn up all the neighboring nations right and left, while the people living in Jerusalem remain secure.
7 “The Lord will give victory to the rest of Judah first, before Jerusalem, so that the people of Jerusalem and the royal line of David will not have greater honor than the rest of Judah.
8 On that day the Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal descendants will be like God, like the angel of the Lord who goes before them!
9 For on that day I will begin to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10 “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem.”
So when these Jewish leaders heard about this guy out in the wilderness who was calling people to repent and be baptized in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, they decided to go out there with the intention of discrediting an imposter.
But John the Baptist simply kept a low profile telling them that he was not anything special. He was only the messenger carrying the message of the Messiah who would soon be made known. John told them that his baptism was of water but that there was someone who was soon to come who was far greater than he. John made it clear that he was not trying to start a new religion or make himself out to be the Messiah. He was pointing people to the Messiah, the Son of God (John 1:34), their Savior. The baptism of water was only a sign of the baptism that Christ would give them, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
There is a message here for all of us. It is our function as Christ followers to direct people to Christ. We are not to attempt to glorify ourselves in our service to our Lord, but to point others to His glory.
John tells the Jewish leaders of Christ’s presence among them even though they do not yet know who He is. Christ stood among the common people and was one of them. That which is hidden in this world is often a source of excellence. Saints (believers) are God’s hidden treasures and much of the world does not know them. People who love Christ with all their hearts treasure His presence in their lives, even in the most severe trial. They feel this way in spite of the fact that much of the world rejects Him. They believe it is a privilege and honor to suffer in His service and for His glory. A lowly position in the service of Christ means far more to a true Christian than great positions of power in a godless situation, as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 84:10 ESV:
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Now one would think these chief priests and Pharisees, having been informed of the coming of the Messiah, would have asked how they could find out more about Him. But no, apparently this was not of importance to them. They came to discredit John, not to receive any instructions from him. They apparently had no interest in learning anything more about Jesus even though they were told He was coming. Seems almost unbelievable does it not? But I know there are many people in the world today, including many who claim to be Christians, who would not be that interested if they heard Jesus would soon return. What about you?
John 1:29-34 ESV:
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’
31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
“Behold! The Lamb of God!” Jesus came to be baptized by John, and John clearly identified him as:
- The person who, as the sacrificial Lamb of God, would make final
atonement for sin (1:29)
- The Messiah (1:30)
- The One who would baptize “with the Holy Spirit,” as shown by the Spirit’s descending upon Him as a dove (1:32–33). John’s own practice of water baptism was but a representation of Christ’s Spirit baptism that was to come later (1:33).
- The Son of God (1:34)[fn]
This is the day after the priests had fired all their questions at John the Baptist, the second day of the week that the Apostle John is recording (He is recording the events of this week sequentially.) No doubt some of the same religious leaders were still hanging around to hear what else John the Baptist had to say. This time, he called Jesus “the Lamb of God,” a title he would repeat the next day (John 1:35–36).
We might ask at this point, why would Christ present Himself as a Lamb? Why not as a Lion, which He also is? What image comes to mind when you think of a lamb? Probably you think of a creature who is gentle and non-aggressive. Perhaps you think of a sacrifice; certainly your image is of something that is non-threatening. Yet these Jewish leaders did feel threatened. Later Christ will come as a warrior, as the lion conqueror; but first He wanted to draw people to Himself in salvation. If you are in a field and see both a lamb and a lion, which one are you most likely to approach and which one will you flee from? As He was approaching the time of the cross, Christ told His disciples, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32 NAS). The Lamb drew the weary and the burdened to Himself through His earthly ministry and through His sacrificial death. That is why the Holy Spirit led John to introduce Christ as the “Lamb of God.”
When John used this title for Christ he pretty much summed up what the Bible is all about. Do you remember what Isaac said to his father, Abraham, as they walked toward the place where God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son?
Genesis 22:7 NAS:
7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
The people of Israel were familiar with lambs for the sacrifices. At Passover, each family had to have a lamb; and during the year, two lambs a day were sacrificed at the Temple altar, plus all the other lambs brought for personal sacrifices. Those lambs could not remove the sin of a person, but the Lamb of God, Jesus, is capable of removing a person’s sin. The lambs sacrificed at the Temple were for the people of Israel only, but this Lamb would shed His blood for the whole world.
What does John’s baptism of Jesus here have to do with Jesus being the Lamb of God? It is believed by most scholars that baptism in Jesus’ day was by immersion. It pictured death, burial, and resurrection. We see here a representation of the “baptism” Jesus would suffer when He was placed on a cross. He would then be the sacrificial Lamb of God that Isaiah spoke of in Isaiah 53:7 NAS:
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
It would be through death, burial, and resurrection that the Lamb of God would fulfill His purpose in bringing salvation to all the world. His death and burial would represent the end of a godless life of sin, and His resurrection would speak of a new life, having been born again and united with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. One would then be capable of living a righteous life by seeking the guidance of and then following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to live within us the moment that we are saved by expressing our faith in the atoning death of Jesus. The sin nature will still be present in our physical bodies, but it will no longer have the power to control us, because the Holy Spirit is capable of overpowering any kind of sin.
As Jesus approached John the Baptist for baptism, the Spirit of God undoubtedly said to John something similar to what He had said to Samuel at the anointing of King David in 1 Samuel 16:12 NAS:
“Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”
The sign God told John to expect was the actual descent of the Spirit upon Jesus in the form of a dove. John had seen this as Christ came up out of the water after His baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17). Then, hearing the voice from Heaven, John saw first hand evidence that this was the Son of God.[fn] We have here a picture of the Trinity all involved in this scene(Father, Son. and Holy Spirit).[fn] John saw the Spirit as a dove rest on Jesus. Do you remember what Isaiah predicted about the coming Messiah in Isaiah 11:2 NAS?[fn]
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
God had told John that when he saw this sign of the dove, the Person on whom the dove, in other words the Holy Spirit, landed would be the One who would baptize with that same Holy Spirit. Cleansing by water is one thing, but the cleansing produced by the Spirit of God is what cleanses one from sin forever.
Later at Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the baptism by the Holy Spirit brought in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a New Covenant of salvation and eternal life for all who accepted Jesus’ death as atonement for their sins. We read about this in Acts 2:1-13 NLT:
1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.
2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.
3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.
4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem.
6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee,
8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!
9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia,
10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism),
11 Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”
12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.
13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”
1 Corinthians 12:1-13 NLT:
1 Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this.
2 You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols.
3 So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.
5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.
6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.
9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.
10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.
11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.
13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
I hope you all get what this is all about. Have you personally met the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior by the grace of God will give you salvation, forgiveness for your sins, and thereby eternal life in Heaven. When that salvation occurs by the grace of God as a result of your faith, Christ sends His Holy Spirit to dwell within you and provide you all the power of God to live your life according to His will. Your responsibility is to submit your will to His so that He might provide you with the fruit of the Spirit, which includes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. What more could anyone ask from life? And it is all yours simply by accepting this free gift of grace and allowing the Holy Spirit to reign in your life. That is why Jesus the Lamb of God came. May you all know the joy and peace that come from Him.
Jesus Gathers His Disciples
Have you ever reflected on the group of men that became Jesus’ disciples? They were a motley group: rugged fishermen, a tax collector, some doubtful individuals, some zealots who wanted to change the world through overthrowing the current government, men who deserted Christ when the chips were down. Yet how merciful of God to include such individuals in His select group to accompany His Son for three years. We all relate to them with relief, especially when we have put our foot in our mouth like Peter so often did, or when we have not spoken up for Christ when we know we had an opportunity. Now we will begin to meet some of these men who walked with Christ through Judah and Galilee.
John 1:35-42 ESV:
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,
36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).
42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
Remember that John is going through this week sequentially. So we are now at the third day of the week. On the seventh day we will be at a Wedding in Cana (John 2:1). Since Jewish weddings were usually on Wednesdays, it would make this third day the Sabbath. So on this Sabbath Day Jesus began selecting His disciples.
The two disciples of John the Baptist who left him to follow Jesus were John, the writer of the Gospel, and his friend Andrew. How did the Baptist feel about his followers leaving him to follow Jesus? John 3:30 records the Baptist’s comments regarding this question: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
When Jesus asked these two men, “What are you seeking?” He was undoubtedly trying to determine what it was they were looking for in a Messiah. If they were expecting a military leader to overthrow the Roman Empire, they would not want to serve Jesus. Jesus invited them to spend the day with Him. Jesus very likely used this time to develop a relationship with these men, perhaps telling them some of what He planned to do, and answering questions they may have had. They must have been very favorably impressed by what Jesus told them because Andrew went and got his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. It is interesting that most of the references concerning Andrew show him bringing someone to Jesus. That is what Christians want to do once they have met the Lord. They want to bring others to Him too. The language here in verse 41 suggests that John also went to get his brother, James, to introduce him to Jesus.
Jesus named Simon, Cephas (Peter). Both of those names mean “a rock,” although it would take a lot of time and effort before Jesus could develop Simon into a rock. But that shows us what Jesus wants to do for everyone who follows Him. He makes them God’s children, as we read in John 1:12 NRSV:
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
Andrew told his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah!” In Hebrew the word Messiah means “anointed,” and the meaning of the Greek word is “Christ.” To the Jews, the meaning was the same as “Son of God.”[fn] In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed and thereby set apart for special service. Kings were especially called “God’s anointed” (1 Samuel 26:11; Psalm 89:20). So, when the Jews spoke about their Messiah, they had in mind a king who would come to deliver them and establish the kingdom.
Jesus had to explain, however, even to His own followers that the cross had to come before the crown, that He must suffer before He could enter into His glory (Luke 24:13–35). The Jews of that time found it very difficult to accept that Jesus was the Messiah.[fn]
John 1:43-51 ESV:
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”[fn]
48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
This is the fourth day of the seven-day period that John is describing. Jesus called Philip and Philip trusted Him and followed Him. Philip gave evidence of his trust and faith in Jesus by sharing it with Nathanael. Philip told Nathanael that Jesus was the Promised One of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.[fn]
Nathanael knew that the town in which Jesus was raised, Nazareth, had a very bad reputation (Acts 24:5) and he questioned how anything good could come from there, especially the expected Messiah. It would be like saying in today’s world that Jesus came from the wrong side of the tracks. It would make sense to most Jews that Jesus would come from a place like Jerusalem or Hebron. Philip, however, gave the only sensible answer: “Come and see.” He knew that once Nathanael had an opportunity to meet and talk with Jesus, all his questions would be answered. “Come” in the Bible represents an invitation of God’s grace.[fn]
We all need to guard against prejudices and Nathanael was no exception. Though a good man, Nathanael allowed his prejudice toward the people of Nazareth to make him think Jesus was an impostor. It did not take long, however, for Jesus to wipe away any doubts that Nathanael might have.
Let us look at verse 47 where Jesus says Nathanael is an “Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” This is probably a reference to his ancestor Jacob who was deceitful. You may recall that in Genesis 27:35 Jacob is labeled as an Israelite who was deceitful.[fn] Jacob was born holding the heel of his brother, so that he was named Jacob, meaning “to supplant, deceive, attack from the rear.”[fn] Jesus may have immediately seen a contrast between Jacob and Nathanael, which prompted Him to refer to Nathanael as a man without deceit. Jesus may also be suggesting that Nathanael’s directness indicated that he was an Israelite without any underlying motives and that he was willing to check out for himself the things that were being said about this Jesus.
Nathanael was amazed that Jesus knew about him. Jesus said He knew exactly what Nathanael was doing before Philip approached him: he was under the fig tree. Jesus’ ability to see Nathanael without actually being physically present convinced Nathanael that Jesus was the Son of God and the appointed King of Israel. Nathanael’s experience was like that of the Samaritan woman at the well, which we will investigate in chapter four.
Jesus gave Nathanael a mild scolding here, asking whether it was just because He saw him under the fig tree that he believed. Jesus promised Nathanael that he would see greater things than this, and in the next three years Nathanael did see much greater things than these.
In verse 51 when Jesus says that Nathanael will see angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, He is again referring to Jacob in the Old Testament. Nathanael would have instantly understood the reference, but since we may not, let us recall what Jesus is talking about. After deceiving his brother, Esau, for his father’s blessing and birthright, he had run away from home in fear that his brother would kill him. His first night away from home was spent at Bethel where God appeared to him in a dream. A ladder was let down from Heaven on which the angels were ascending and descending. At Bethel Jacob learned that God would always be with him. This is what Jesus wanted Nathanael and the other disciples to know about Him. Just as Jacob received supernatural communication from God, so would Nathanael and the others. The Son of Man (Jesus) replaced the ladder in Jacob’s dream. The angels would minister to Jesus and they would be subject to Him. Here Jesus was given charge over the angels. He could send them as messengers to Heaven, and they would return with messages for Him and to care for Him. So Jesus is saying that Nathanael will see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.[fn]
This illustration is also for us when we consider that the ladder is Christ. Only through Him can you and I make contact with God. Jesus said, ". . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6).
Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary.
Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 1:1.
[fn] Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 1:1.
[fn] Hughes, Robert B. ; Laney, J. Carl ; Hughes, Robert B.: Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001 (The Tyndale Reference Library), S. 465.
[fn] Op cit., Hughes s. 466.
[fn] Richards, Larry: The Bible Reader's Companion. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1991, S. 678.
[fn] My footnote. I couldn’t help but associate Edersheim’s description here of the Roman Empire with the Hollywood entertainment industry today.
[fn] My footnote. Does this description not also remind you of conditions in the world today?
[fn] Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Originally published in 1883; 1973 printing; Bk. II, pp. 257, 258, 259, 260.
[fn] Willmington, H. L.: Willmington's Bible Handbook. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 1997, S. 607.
[fn] Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 1:15.
[fn] John 1:34, 49; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31.
[fn] Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 1:15.
[fn] Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Jn 1:19
[fn] Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, Roy B.; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:274.
[fn] Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Jn 1:19.
[fn] Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Jn 1:19.
[fn] Willmington, H. L.: Willmington's Bible Handbook. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997, S. 607.
[fn] Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A. R.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Jn 1:31.
[fn] Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Jn 1:29.
[fn] Walvoord, John F.; Zuck, Roy B.; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:275.
[fn] Matt. 26:63–64; Mark 14:61–62; Luke 22:67–70.
[fn] John 7:26, 40–44; 9:22; 10:24.
[fn] By calling him “an Israelite in whom is no guile (deceit),” Jesus was certainly referring to Jacob, the ancestor of the Jews, a man who used guile (deceit) to trick his brother, his father, and his father-in-law.
[fn] Deut. 18:18-19; John 1:21, 25; Isa. 52:13-53:12; Dan. 7:13; Micah 5:2; Zech. 9:9.
[fn] John 1:39; 7:37; 21:12.
[fn] You can read the whole story about Jacob’s deceitful behavior toward his brother Esau in Genesis 27.
[fn] Elwell, Walter A.; Comfort, Philip Wesley: Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001 (Tyndale Reference Library), S. 661.
[fn] John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary – John 1-11, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2006), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 73.