Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- John 1:19-34
The Apostle John opens this eyewitness Gospel account by giving testimony to who Jesus the Word is- Eternal God, Creator, Life. The testimony is given so that people would believe.
John 20:30-31 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
Jesus has come and revealed grace and truth to us, so that we might believe, and have life in His name. In ancient times, when a King would be coming into an area, a messenger would be sent ahead of him to announce his arrival and prepare the way. The Apostle John introduces us to John the Baptist early in Chapter 1.
V6 There was a man named John who was sent from God. V7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. V8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
John the Baptist was of priestly descent. His father Zechariah was a priest of the order of Abijah, and his mother, Elizabeth of the daughters of Aaron. His birth was foretold by an angel, and took place six months before Jesus was born. After his birth, there is no more mention of him for thirty years. He spent years in a mountainous tract of Judah lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, preparing himself for the role he had been divinely called to. He dressed in camel’s hair and his food was locusts and wild honey.
This is John’s testimony. . .
There are two purposes for this section- One to show John’s testimony of Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Two, to clarify John’s relationship to Jesus as a witness rather than a rival to Him.
“The Jews” from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to find out who John the Baptist was. This Gospel mentions “the Jews” some 70 times, sometimes in a neutral sense, sometimes in a good sense, but most often in the role as antagonists. He was not anti-Semitic, he was just identifying who they were.
John was well known. His fame spread from the region of Galilee to Jerusalem, and the nation seemed to suppose from the character of his preaching, that he was the Messiah. The religious leaders felt it their duty to find out about the character and claims of John, and to learn who he was.
They had high Messianic expectations, because they were under Roman rule. They were looking for a mighty political deliverer. When the religious leaders in Jerusalem heard about John they wanted to check him out. This is an interrogation of sorts.
Who are you? ‘I am not the Messiah.’ He wanted them to understand he was not the Christ.
What then, are you Elijah? ‘I am not.’ They guessed this in part because of prophecy. Malachi (the last OT prophet, 400 years before JTB) said that before the great and terrible day of the Lord, God would send Elijah the prophet to restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Before Messiah came, Elijah would come.
Jesus later stated that John was the Elijah of Malachi 4 (Matthew 11:4, 17:11). The angel who predicted John the Baptist’s birth, referred to the same prophecy and said John would go as a forerunner before Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Some of the Jews expected a literal appearance of Elijah. Elijah had gone to heaven in a fiery chariot. Malachi and Jesus were not referring literally to Elijah, but to John the Baptist coming in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Are you the Prophet? No.
They were referring to the Prophet that Moses had predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. This was generally supposed to have a reference to an end-time figure.
They were insistent- Who are you then? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?
John the Baptist’s testimony- I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord- just as the prophet said.
This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.
John was communicating- if you want to know my job description, read Isaiah. No doubt he had read and studied the Prophet Isaiah to know what his role was. Undoubtedly his parents had told him the story of his birth. He knew he was a chosen vessel of the Lord to be a messenger for Jesus.
John the Baptist did not focus attention on himself- He said, I am a voice calling attention to the coming of the Lord. The reference to the wilderness was a direct reference to where John the Baptist was coming from, but it was also representative. The religious establishment was barren, ritualistic, and dry. Israel was a decadent nation, spiritually blind, and corrupt. John the Baptist came to prepare people to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah.
The Lamb of God was the One, whom all the sacrifices of Old Testament times had foretold. The teaching about the Lamb was progressive. In Genesis 4, the Lamb is indicated with the first of the flock offered by Abel in sacrifice. In Genesis 22 the Lamb was prophesied when God provided after instructing Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. In Exodus 12, the Lamb was slain in the Passover and its blood applied as the Angel of Death passed over Egypt in the tenth and final plague before God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. In Isaiah 53 the sacrificial lamb was foretold. Then the Lamb of God was identified by John the Baptist. Let’s consider the characteristics of the Lamb of God that John the Baptist communicates in His testimony about Jesus.
The Lamb of God is the Eternal Son of God. Vv30, 34
V30 This is the One I told you about: After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me. V34 I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.
He is Eternal- This connects back to the testimony that is earlier in John.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word.
1:15 This was the One of whom I said, The One coming after me has surpassed me, because He existed before me.
There is another instance in the Gospel of John where Jesus was questioned. They accused Jesus of being a Samaritan and having a demon. He had made the claim that whoever believed in Him would never die. The ones questioning Jesus said, we know for sure now that you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. Are you greater than Abraham? Who do You pretend to be?
John 8:56 Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced. V57 The Jews replied, You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham? V58 Jesus said to them, I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.
He existed from all eternity. I have existed before the ages. This was a direct claim to eternal nature as God. This also tied back to the ‘I am’ statement of God in Exodus 3:14.
He is the Son of God- The term “Son of God’ occurs more than 40 times in the NT. This does not mean He was the offspring of God as if God had a human relationship to produce Jesus. Jesus is God made manifest in the flesh. Luke 1:35 told Mary- The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. It signifies that Jesus is God in the flesh.
As the Son of God, He has the same nature as God. God has a unique love for Jesus as His Son. In Colossians, Paul describes Jesus as the Son of God’s love. Two times in the earthly life of Jesus- once at His baptism and once on the Mt. of Transfiguration- God the Father said- ‘This is my beloved Son.’
In Matthew 11:27 Jesus said– No one knows the Son except the Father. In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asks His disciples- Who do you say that I am? Peter answered- You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said, Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
1 John 5:12 God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, he who has not the Son has not life.
Because Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, life is in Him. Because He lives, we can live. Because Jesus is eternal, there is hope for every person. He will see us through, because in Him, we are the eternal possession of God. Nothing can separate us from His love!
The Lamb of God takes away sin. V29 Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!
The sacrificial system in the OT set the stage for the coming of Jesus. When Jesus is called the Lamb of God, He is referred to as the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin. To understand who Christ was and what He did, we can look back to the OT, which has prophecies about the coming of Christ as a “guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).
Sacrificial lambs played an important part in the Jewish religious life and sacrificial system. The Passover feast was one of the main Jewish holidays and a celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. The slaying of the Passover Lamb and the applying of the blood to the doorposts of the houses (Exodus 12:11-13) is a beautiful picture of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world- ‘takes away’ is the sense of bearing them upon Himself or taking them away.
The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), also known as Yom Kippur, was the most holy of the Israelite feasts and festivals. It took place once a year. The High Priest Aaron, and those to follow, would ritually cleanse themselves and put on special garments. Then a bull would be sacrificed for a sin offering for the High Priest and his family. The blood of the bull was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place.
Then the High Priest would bring two goats- one to be sacrificed for the sins of the Israelites, and its blood was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. The other was goat was used as a scapegoat. Aaron placed his hands on its head, confessed the sins of the Israelites, and sent the goat out with an appointed man who released it into the wilderness. The goat symbolically carried all the sins of the people, which were forgiven for another year. The blood of bulls and goats could not atone for sins, a perfect sacrifice was needed.
Another sacrifice involving lambs was the daily sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. In the morning and the evening, a lamb was sacrificed in the Temple for the sins of the people. The daily sacrifices also pointed people to the once and for all sacrifice. We may have a hard time understanding the sacrifices, but we can understand the idea of payment. The wages of sin is death and our sin separates us from God.
Jesus was the sacrifice God would provide as atonement for the sins of His people (Hebrews 10). Sin separates from God, and we stand guilty before Him. The only hope we can have is if God reconciles us to Himself, and that is what He accomplished through the sending of His Son.
1Peter 1:18-21 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish. He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Christ died to make atonement for sin and to pay the penalty of the sins of all who believe in Him. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God has the capacity to forgive every sin and cleanse every sinner. It is big enough for the whole world. John was not teaching universalism though, because not everyone is saved- it is applied only to the elect, those who believe in Jesus and are saved. The fact that God has provided the offering that atones for our sins is good news!
The Lamb of God baptizes with the Spirit. Vv26-27;31-33
V26-27 I baptize with water. . .Someone stands among you, but you don’t know Him. He is the One coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.
The comparison is made between being baptized with water and being baptized with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist preached a message of repentance. The message of repentance and the baptism John was administering, was in anticipation of the coming of Messiah. It was not an end to itself, but pointed to the coming of Jesus.
John the Baptist was humble. He was a Nazarite from the time he was born. He never cut his hair, never touched a dead body, never drank of the fruit of the vine. He lived a pure life. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born. He was the greatest of all men and could have exalted himself. He would have none of it. He would say later in John 3:30 He must increase but I must decrease. People need to be impressed with Jesus, not us. The world teaches us to esteem ourselves. Genuine servants don’t draw attention to themselves but point people to Jesus!
V31 I didn’t know Him, but I came baptizing with water so He might be revealed to Israel. V32 And John testified, ‘I watched the Spirit’ descending from heaven like a dove, and He rested on Him. V33 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.’
John the Baptist is referring to the Baptism of Jesus. He baptized Jesus in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing- most likely toward the southern end of the Jordan River near Jericho.
Matthew 3:16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately out of the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son, I take delight in Him!
At the baptism of Jesus there was a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit that looked like a dove to those who saw it. The OT foretold that the Messiah would be anointed by the Spirit.
Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord had anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of our God’s vengeance, to comfort all who mourn.
Jesus quoted this passage in Isaiah about Himself in Luke’s Gospel. The Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus and the voice from Heaven affirming Jesus as God’s beloved Son, was a revelation of the Trinity from the outset of His ministry. The entire ministry of Jesus would be characterized by the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He promised the coming of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I am coming to you.
This was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place when a person is born again through faith in Jesus.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. . .and were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Romans 8:9 You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
We should seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we continually yield to Him. When we follow Jesus, we yield to the Holy Spirit in our lives and are continually filled and empowered to do the work of God.
Jesus is the Lamb of God!