John the Baptist

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In John 5, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. Anyone could claim to be equal with God. But where’s the proof? We need evidence for such a claim. Jesus serves as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to the stand. You must make a verdict. Stay tuned…

A few years ago someone came into our home and stole some important items. Thankfully, we were insured and were able to make a claim to our insurance company. Now insurance companies are not in the business to give away money. They are in the insurance business to make money, so when you make a claim and ask them to give you money to compensate for your loss, they require that you present proof of your claim. They want proof of the value of the items that were stolen in the form of receipts. And they want proof that the items were really stolen in the form of a police report. So when you make a claim against an insurance company, they in effect ask you, “What’s your proof?”

Some time ago, Josh McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and later he wrote a followup book: More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The book is packed with evidence that proves that the Bible is reliable.

In John 5, Jesus makes an astounding claim. It was not an insurance claim, but a claim about himself. He claimed that God was his own Father. Jesus understood the implications of his claim for his next remarks show that he knew exactly what he was saying. The Jews understood the implications of his claim that God was his own Father for that was the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus. And John, the author of this Gospel, understood what Jesus meant, because John is the one that tells us the importance of what Jesus was saying.

As you may remember, it all began with Jesus healing a lame man. The Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath. In effect, they were asking him, “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?”

Jesus simply responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). In other words, ‘”Whatever God does, I do.”

It is now that John gives us one of his many explanations in this Gospel. Literary specialists have counted over one hundred such parenthetical comments or “asides” as they call them. In each of them, John is leading “his readers to his desired conclusion.”[1] John tells us here in the next verse, John 5:18, exactly what we are to conclude:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to understand what the Jewish authorities understood and what Jesus understood and what John himself understood: Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Jesus “justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as John 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.”[2]

This is what John tells us from the first verse of this Gospel,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Again in the 18th verse of chapter one, John tells us,

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

In several other places in this Gospel, John makes the same point: Jesus is God. “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John tells us that Jesus was making himself equal with God.

What right do you have?

Later we considered the verses that follow John’s explanation. Jesus tells us that though he is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is always submission to His Father’s will. Nonetheless, he has all the rights and privileges of God.

  • He does the works of God: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19).
  • He raises the dead and gives them life: Just “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
  • Like the Father, Jesus has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).
  • Jesus will execute judgment: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22).

The Son is to be honored just like the Father: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (5:23). So the Son receives equal honor with the Father.

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

What is your evidence? Talk is cheap. Anyone can make claims. Anyone can claim to be God. Just visit the psychiatric ward of a major hospital and you will probably find people who believe that they are God.

When we were living in French Polynesia, I had the opportunity to talk with a short little man with long hair who rode a blue bicycle. He claimed to be Jesus Christ. My Tahitian friends told me that the man had eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms. I did share the gospel with the man that day in hopes that the Holy Spirit would be able to penetrate the man’s deranged mind with the truth about Jesus Christ.

Through the centuries, many people have made strange claims. Many have had dreams and visions and revelations and as a result, some have started new religions or cults or religious groups. What makes Jesus any different from them? What proves that Jesus wasn’t simply another lunatic? Jesus had proof. Jesus had witnesses. In fact, Jesus operates in the passage as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to support his claims.

 The Need for Witnesses

In a court of law, a witness is commonly sworn in. In my country, the witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness swears an oath before God that his testimony will be true.

In the Old Testament, when capital crimes were committed — those crimes calling for the death penalty — before the death penalty could be given, there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime and their testimony had to agree completely. The idea of giving a true and accurate testimony was so important in the nation of Israel that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a witness were to bear false witness against another, he would receive the sentence and punishment he had intended for the other (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). If a man were to bear false witness against another to get him executed, he might be found out and be executed instead.

In John 5:30-31, Jesus makes the following statement:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true (John 5:30-31 ESV).

Jesus says that his judgment is just, but then he says, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT). What does he mean by that? Jesus makes a lot of statements about himself. He is not saying that every time he says something about himself that it is not true. He is referring to the need for additional witnesses.

…The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT).

You may have had to go to a notary public to have your signature verified on an official document. Some documents require two signatures: there is a line your signature and another line for the signature of someone who witnesses you sign the document. Now suppose you were to sign on both lines. That would not work. You could not legally bear witness to your own action. You need someone else to confirm that you are the one who signed on the first line.

That is what Jesus mean when he said, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT).

But Jesus is not without supporting witnesses.[3] The Defense calls…

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true (John 5:32).

Jesus first makes reference to God and will come back to God as his witness, but his hearers need another witness first, so Jesus calls John the Baptist as the first main witness:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:32-35 ESV).

The importance of John the Baptist can hardly be overestimated. Other founders of cults and religions have had followers, but none have had a forerunner announcing their arrival before they came. John the Baptist did not come after Jesus to confirm him as the Messiah. John the Baptist came before Jesus. John’s ministry was outstanding. Multitudes were going to him to be baptized. People began wondering if he was the promised Messiah or the prophet that Moses had promised. “I am not,” the Baptist told them. “Then why are you baptizing?” they asked. “I am preparing the way for the one who comes after me,” he responded.

Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27 NLT).

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 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34 NLT).

Christ was born after John the Baptist and would come after him, but

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (John 1:15 NLT).

John the Baptist points to the pre-existence of Christ. Though Jesus was born at least six months after John the Baptist, John says, “He existed long before me.” Christ did not begin to exist when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. According to the first verse of this Gospel, he is the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1:1).

“Jesus, what proof do you have to back up your claims?” Jesus calls John the Baptist as his first witness. John testifies that Jesus is eternal. He is the Christ. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist was an excellent, competent, and reliable witness.

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36 ESV).

The Jewish authorities frequently asked for signs, miracles to prove that Jesus had the authority to do the things he was doing. For example, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jewish authorities understood that he was making a claim. He was claiming the right as Messiah to cleanse the temple. So they asked for a sign to show that he was indeed the Messiah. Instead, he challenged them to destroy the temple and he would raise it up in three days.

The author, the apostle John, tells us that Jesus was actually speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus was predicting his own death and resurrection. The Jewish authorities would destroy him, but Jesus had the authority to raise himself up again. On the third day, he would rise from the dead.

But there were plenty of signs for those who had eyes to see. The signs were miracles pointing beyond themselves. The signs signified something about Jesus. They pointed to his identity, who he was, and what he came to do. Jesus simply calls them his works. He says that his works prove that the Father had sent him.

In John 2, Jesus changed about 600 liters of water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed on him.

After cleansing the temple, we read in John 2:23 that Jesus did other signs and “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

In John 4, Jesus simply spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed at a distance of some 30 kilometers.

And in John 5, Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. It was that healing — that work on the Sabbath — that had stirred up the controversy with the Jewish authorities. It was their complaint against that work that had led him to explain, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

“Think about it!” “…the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

How is it that Jesus is able change the water into wine, heal a dying boy with a word, and give a man legs who has been lame for 38 years? The “works that Jesus was doing showed that God was authenticating His identity.”[4]

Again in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25 ESV).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

Jesus calls a third witness on his behalf, and that is the Father Himself. The works that Jesus did were an indirect witness of the Father to Jesus’ identity. But now Jesus says that there is a direct and personal witness that the Father gives. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the voice that many heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Or perhaps he is referring to the Father’s audible testimony when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

In any case, Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were totally ignorant of the Father; they did not know Him.

  1. First, “his voice you have never heard,” Jesus said (John 5:37). Moses had heard God’s voice (Exodus 33:11). And Jesus speaks the words of God (John 3:34; 17:8), but the Jewish authorities did not hear God’s voice in Jesus.
  2. Second, “his form you have never seen” (John 5:37). Jacob had seen his form. “I have seen God face to face,” Jacob said. Jesus was himself the manifestation of God (John 1:18; 14:9), but the Jewish authorities failed to see God in Jesus.
  3. Third, Jesus told them, “you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38). Joshua meditated on the Word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist stored up God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11; 1:2). Jesus was himself the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God, but the Jewish authorities did not delight in God’s word. They failed to recognize the Word when he was standing before them.

Jesus calls a fourth witness, a witness that the Jewish authorities should have known:

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

This is a most stunning indictment. The Jewish authorities searched the Scriptures but failed to understand that the Scripture themselves bear witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking, of course, of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament.

We read in Luke 24:44 that before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalm had to be fulfilled. It was all written about him. Then after his resurrection, talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27 ESV).

The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Christ. The Christ would be more than just a man. He would be fully human, but he would be fully God: the God-man. So later in his ministry, Jesus asked the Pharisees how David in Psalm 110 could call the Christ “Lord” if the Christ were simply a descendent of David (Matthew 22:41-46). You don’t call your many times great-grandson “Lord,” unless he is… ah.. the Lord. The Christ would be much more than a human descendent of David. He would be that, but he would also be the Word made flesh, God in the flesh.

Isaiah said that he would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again Isaiah said this virgin-born son would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“Mighty God, Everlasting Father!” Yes, Jesus made himself equal with God, but that is exactly what the Scriptures had said he would be. The Scriptures gave witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Five: Moses

We might consider Moses simply as part of the Old Testament Scriptures, but Jesus mentions him specifically:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47 ESV).

Moses wrote of Jesus in a number of ways, but let me point to one very specific prophecy that Moses gave concerning Christ:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV).

[God says] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, they were still looking for that prophet:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV).

The people were still waiting. So when John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him, “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he replied.

When the people saw Jesus feed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish, they said, “This is surely the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).

In John 7, Jesus promises flowing rivers of living water, that is to say the Holy Spirit, to those who come to him. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40 ESV).

Yes, Moses was another witness of Christ. Christ was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of.

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

Jesus calls on four or five witnesses in chapter 5 to verify his claim to being equal with God. But there are two more witnesses in the Gospel of John.

In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will bear witness about him.

“But I will send you the Advocate– the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26 NLT).

Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ (John 16:13-15 NLT).

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

Finally, Jesus mentions the disciples. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus Christ:

And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27 ESV).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his witnesses. Forty days after his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said this,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).

We are Jesus’ witnesses. The message of the early Church was Jesus Christ. The disciples went everywhere preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:42). Peter preached Christ (Acts 10:36). Stephen was a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 22:20). Philip went to Samaria and preached the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The disciples that were scattered because of the persecution went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Yes, the focus of the church has always been on Jesus Christ, who he is – God in the flesh – and what he did for us on the cross.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. He claimed equality with God. He had the rights and privileges of God, and he called seven witnesses to authenticate his claims.

  1. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ that he was the Son of God.
  2. The works — miracles — that Jesus did showed that God authenticated his identity.
  3. The Father himself in a personal and direct manner bore witness to His Son at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and again in John 12 when his voice thundered from heaven.
  4. The Scriptures all pointed to Christ and identified him as the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel: God with us.
  5. Moses bore witness to Christ as the Prophet whose words we must obey.
  6. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
  7. True disciples will always preach Christ. He is the message we preach:

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV).

So you have heard the evidence. What is your verdict? Is Jesus who he says he is? Is he equal with God? He does what God does. The witnesses say that he is equal with God. What do you say? As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. He is the only way to the Father.

[1]Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 135.

[2]New English Translation (NET) note on John 5:18.

[3]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1262). Kindle Edition.

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1292). Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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John 01:35-51, “Finding the Messiah”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

In John 1, everyone is looking for something.

Most people go through life, never finding what they are looking for. Most people never know what it was that they were looking for. They are born, grow up, live and die, without ever knowing what it is that they were missing.

Some people give up on the idea of ever finding that missing something. They talk about the journey. It’s all about the journey, they say, not the destination. They are going, but they don’t know where they are going, and they are okay with that, so they say. They have given up on knowing the meaning of life. It’s just a puzzle. It doesn’t have meaning. We are just here. We are accidents of nature. Going through the motions. Trying to find momentary satisfaction in the endless monotony of life.

Today, the theory of evolution and the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and others have left many adrift on an endless sea of meaninglessness, hopelessness, and despair.

Philosopher “Bertrand Russell was an outspoken atheist. He even wrote a book called Why I Am Not A Christian. When Russell was 81 years old, he was interviewed on a British Broadcasting Corporation radio talk show. The interviewer asked him what he had to hang onto when death was obviously so close. Russell responded, “I have nothing to hang onto but grim, unyielding despair.” What an honest yet hopeless response. You see, when you live only for this life, … when you think that this is all there is, you can’t help but live in despair.”[1]

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,

‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

What are you looking for?

For some people it is the endless pursuit of success. Doing better than your neighbor. Climbing to the top of the ladder. Looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The one with the most toys at the end of life… wins

For others it is the temporary pleasure of the bottle, the high, the party, only to be followed by the emptiness of the morning after.

What are you looking for?

At the end of the day, we are all looking for the same thing. We are looking for a sense of completeness, peace, joy, contentment. As Augustine put it, “Our hearts are not content…”

What are you looking for?

Some people don’t really know what they are looking for. It is the lack of contentment that pushes them to seek, to look for something to relieve the emptiness, to fill the vacuum of their hearts and lives.

ANDREW PETERSON: ALL I’LL EVER NEED (3:02)

Most people don’t know what they are looking for. Have you ever gone into a room to find something and not been able to remember why you are there? Not yet, huh? Wait for it. It will come. But for most people, that is the story of their life. They have no idea what they are looking for. They are lost in the dark and have no idea where to find the light.

JOHN THE BAPTIST KNEW WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR.

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was not the case with John the Baptist. He knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God. God had sent John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Lord. And God had told John that he would recognize the Messiah when the Holy Spirit came down and stayed on him.

That’s exactly what happened when John baptized Jesus.

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God.

JOHN’S DISCIPLES KNEW WHAT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR.

John’s disciples were looking for the Lamb of God:

The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus (John 1:35-37 NLT).

John came to point people to the light. So when John saw the light, he pointed others to the light.

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 (John 1:7-8 ESV).

The Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

“Look! There he is! The Lamb of God!”

When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. But why? They had been faithful to John. Why do they now follow Jesus?

They followed Jesus because they knew what they were looking for. John had said in verse 29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Like you and me, John’s disciples had a sin problem.

We were made for God. We were made to know him, and to glorify him by enjoying him forever. But our sins, the Bible tells us, have separated us from God. God is holy. There is no sin in Him. Our sins have built a wall between us and God. Our lives are empty. Our hearts are agitated, troubled, empty, looking for that missing something. Looking, rather, for that missing Someone.

Yes, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are not at rest until they find their rest in you.”

ILLUSTRATION

Some children are born with a hole in their heart. It is called atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect. It is actually a hole in the chambers so that the blood is not pumped correctly. Sometimes it heals by itself and sometimes it has to be corrected by surgery.

But there is another kind of hole in the heart that everyone of us is born with. It is an emptiness that will not heal itself and cannot be corrected by surgery. It is a hole that is so big that only God himself can fill it. And until He fills it, our hearts are not at rest.

So these two disciples of John began following Jesus. They were taking the first steps of becoming disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple means to be a follower, one who follows Jesus. One who follows the teachings of Jesus. One who obeys the commands of Jesus. These two disciples of John the Baptist, who were Andrew and probably John the beloved who was the author of this Gospel, these two disciples began following Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”

There it is, that question again: What are you looking for?

This is the first time in this gospel that Jesus speaks. The first time that he speaks in his ministry, he asks a question. It is the most profound question that all of us must answer: “What are you looking for?”

A simple answer was not possible.

And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:38 ESV).

This is not a quick fix. This is not a matter of repeating some magical prayer or even of being baptized in water. Christ came to reconcile us to God, to put us into a right relationship with the Father. He came to restore the fellowship that was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. God wants a relationship with you, but as Isaiah says in 59:1-2,

Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore (Isaiah 59:1-2 NLT).

Our problem is our estrangement, our separation from God. God made us for himself, and there is a hole in our hearts and lives until God comes and fills our lives with himself.

But the sin problem has to be dealt with and only the Lamb of God could take away the sin of the world. Christ alone came to bear your sins on the cross. Christ alone can take away your sin.

That’s why Andrew and John were following the Lamb of God.

“Teacher, where are you staying?” You are the Lamb of God. We want to be with you.

Christ gives the gracious invitation: “Come and you will see.” Jesus invites you to come.

“Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day (John 1:39 NLT).

Coming to Christ is not a matter of doing something that will put us into right relationship with God and then going back and living our lives without him. Christ invites us into a permanent, ongoing, continuous, growing relationship. Being a Christian is not a Sunday morning affair. It is an invitation to continual fellowship with Christ for a lifetime. It’s an invitation to continuous fellowship for now and for eternity:

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV).

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

They had found the Lamb of God.

Andrew and John had spent the day with Jesus. We don’t know what he said to them, but Jesus had had a profound effect on them. The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah!” he told him.

CHRIS TOMLIN: JESUS MESSIAH (4:50) – 22 second lead

The Messiah was the one who had been promised for 4,000 years. John tells us in 1:41 that Messiah means Christ. Now we must not confuse all the titles of Jesus Christ and say that they all mean the same thing. We must not say that Christ means Son of God and Son of God means Son of Man and Son of Man means King of kings, and so forth. He is given many titles in Scripture and they mean different things. In this first chapter of John alone, Jesus is identified as

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

We must not imagine that all these titles mean the same thing. They all refer to Jesus, but they mean different things. They tell us different things about him, who he is, what he came to do.

But the titles Messiah and Christ do mean the same thing. They both mean “anointed.” The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word “mashiach” while the word Christ comes from the Greek word “christos.” So Messiah and Christ are the Hebrew and Greek words meaning “anointed.”

Anointing oil was a symbol of the blessing of the Lord or of the Holy Spirit’s empowering. When prophets, priests, and kings were consecrated to their office, they were anointed with oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s enabling, the ability that He gives. But Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be consecrated as Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, he speaks the Word of God. As Priest, he offers his own body as a sacrifice for our sins and sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. As King, he will rule the nations and everyone will recognize that he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

That is what Andrew meant with he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew and John had found the One who had been anointed by God the Father as Prophet, Priest, and King! That’s why they had followed John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the lamp that led them to the light. They were looking for the Messiah.

What are you looking for? You may not know it, but you are looking for the Messiah too.

Then Andrew brought Simon [his brother] to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John– but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) (John 1:42 NLT).

The Word of Transformation

Every time we see Andrew, he is bringing someone to Jesus. First he brings his brother Simon Peter. Later he will bring to Jesus a small boy who has five loaves and two fishes. Finally, he will bring a group of Greek worshippers to Christ.

When Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, Simon had never been called Peter. But Jesus tells him that his nature will be changed. He will become stable, like a rock. It would not be instantaneous. It would not happen in a moment. But he would be transformed by Christ.

Christ takes you where you are. He knows what you are and what you’ve done, and he knows what his plans are for you. He knows how to change you from what you are to what you were meant to be.

Jesus Finds Philip

This is an interesting turn in the story. Andrew had announced to his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. John had probably announced to his brother James that they had found the Messiah.

Andrew and Peter were from the same town as Philip. They were probably all disciples of John the Baptist. But they had not thought of Philip. It was no brother who went looking for Philip. No close friend thought to bring him to Christ. “According to the record, nobody went after Philip.”[2] Nobody? There was One:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me” (John 1:43 NLT).

Now it is the Messiah who is doing the finding. Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me” (1:43).

We might wonder why Jesus went and found Philip. Philip had been looking for the Messiah.

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” (John 1:45 ESV).

Philip knew what he was looking for. He had read the promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah. He too had been looking for and hoping for the Messiah. Jesus is looking for those who are looking for him. And when Jesus came, Philip recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.

Those who seek for God are found by God. Philip had been looking for the Messiah, and the Messiah found him.

What are you looking for?

It is important to note that this was not some new religion. This was not some new theology or philosophy. This was not some new interpretation. Philip told Nathanael, “This is the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about.” Jesus himself said,

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose (Matthew 5:17 NLT).

The Apostle Paul began his letter to the Romans by insisting that the gospel was not new:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, (Romans 1:1-2 ESV).

This gospel is not a new teaching or a new religion. If it is new, it is to be condemned. But it is not new. It is what God promised long ago by his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Jesus was not some prophet who showed up without credentials or without any proof that he was from God. He had been promised hundreds and thousands of years before. Over 300 prophecies pointed to him.

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied (John 1:45-46 NLT).

Nathanael was prejudiced against Nazareth. Nazareth did not have the best reputation. When Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he made up his mind: Jesus could not be the Messiah.

What do you think? Do you think this whole thing is just a sham, a deception, a lie? Are you prejudiced against Christ because of what people have told you? Perhaps by what you have experienced by people who claimed to be disciples of Christ?

Well, I can only tell you what Philip told Nathanael: “Come and see for yourself.” Investigate the claims of Christ for yourself. Make up your own mind instead of depending on someone else’s opinion. Come and see.

Philip had found Nathanael and was bringing him to Jesus.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47 ESV).

This surprised Nathanael: “How do you know me?”

Jesus does know Nathanael, but Nathanael does not know how. Nathanael had been under a fig tree when Philip found him. Perhaps he was meditating on the story of Jacob and the ladder. It was Philip who had found Nathanael. Jesus was not even there. But Jesus had seen Nathanael before Philip had even found him. Jesus knew that Nathanael was a man of integrity because he knew all about him. Jesus knew what Nathanael was doing even when he was not physically present. Jesus knew what Nathanael had been meditating on under the fig tree.

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” (John 1:48 ESV).

Jesus knows you. He knows what is in your heart. He knows what kind of a person you are. He sees you even though you cannot see him.

Nathanael’s doubts were removed. There is only one way that Jesus could have known Nathanael’s heart:

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God– the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 NLT).

Nathanael recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, but he spoke better than he knew. Jesus is the eternal Son of God and the only way to God:

Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth” (John 1:50-51 NLT).

Jacob had seen a stairway between heaven and earth. That stairway is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the link between heaven and earth. He is the one and only mediator between God and man. John the Baptist declared that Jesus is

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV).

Jesus is the Son of Man whose Kingdom will not pass away.

What are you looking for?

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

The person who has found the Messiah has a different motto:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ
Will last.

John the Baptist came that Christ the Messiah might be revealed.

Christ came to take away your sin and mine.

When Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael found Christ, they found what they were looking for.

And Christ is looking for you. He knew Nathanael, and he knows you. He knows your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your name. He is calling you to come and follow him.

03 TOMMY WALKER – HE KNOWS MY NAME (3:20) 

John 01:06-08, 19-34, “The Witness”

How do you know what you know? In a court of law, the verdict is based not on hearsay or opinions but on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses. So how do you know what you know? How do you know that what you believe about God is right? Is it simply hearsay, what others have told you? Is it just your opinion? Or is your faith in God based on facts that have been established by competent and reliable witnesses?

Today we are going to look at the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Christ.

Grünewald's Crucifixion

Grünewald’s Crucifixion

“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” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

We have all heard about this man called John the Baptist. He was that strange man who lived in the wilderness and was “clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey” (Mar 1:6 ESV).

John the Baptist was a rather strange man, wouldn’t you say?

And one of the amazing things about the gospel is the important role that John had in preparing people for the coming of Christ. We may not have thought about it much, but each of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist, this man who came before Christ to prepare the way for him.

Seven hundred years before John’s birth, Isaiah the prophet had spoken of John the Baptist as one who would be a “voice crying in the wilderness:

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! 4 Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. 5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NLT).

The last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, had also spoken of the coming of John the Baptist:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1 ESV).

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV).

That is exactly what the angel Gabriel said about John the Baptist when Gabriel announced John’s birth to Zechariah.

“for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:15-17 ESV).

Yes, even John’s birth was special because his parents were elderly. Elizabeth had been barren. But God intervened and Zechariah and Elizabeth were able to have a son, John the Baptist. He was a forerunner to Christ. He was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of Christ.

THE IMPORTANCE

The significance of John the Baptist’s ministry is not always seen, but it is clear from the gospels that John’s role in preparing the people for the Messiah was of great importance. As we have said, all four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give much attention to the ministry of John the Baptist as a forerunner of the Messiah. They speak of…

  • His miraculous birth of parents who had not been able to have children
  • His strange clothing
  • His bold preaching
  • His ministry of water baptism
  • His disciples
  • His baptism of Jesus Christ
  • His courage to confront King Herod
  • His imprisonment
  • His question about Jesus’ mission
  • His execution by decapitation
  • His burial

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. No other religion puts such an emphasis on the forerunner of its founder. In fact, it would be difficult for us to name a forerunner for any other religion.

Who was Muhammad’s forerunner? Who announced his coming?

  • Who was Buddha’s forerunner?
  • Or Joseph Smith’s forerunner?

Look around at the religions and cults that were based on the teachings of a man or a woman and try to find that founder’s forerunner. Who announced that that man or woman would come?

Why is this important?

Because Jesus did not just show up and say, “I am come from God. I’ve had a dream. I’ve had a vision. I receive revelations from God. Follow me.”

No, for 4,000 years the people of God had been waiting for Jesus Christ. The prophets had spoken of him for centuries. They had told about his identity, his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his coming kingdom. The prophets had even told about his forerunner, John the Baptist. And John the Baptist came and when he came, he pointed to Christ.

Furthermore, John did not come after Jesus and say, “Yes, I agree. He’s the one.” No. When John began his ministry of baptism, he did not know who the Messiah was going to be. He only knew that God had told him to prepare the way for the Messiah, and that God had given him a special sign so that he would recognize the Messiah when he came. We will see that sign in a few moments.

With everything else that we have mentioned about John (his birth, his life, his ministry, and his death), the most important thing about John is his witness. John pointed the people to Jesus Christ. As we read,

“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” (John 1:6-8 ESV).

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PURPOSE

This Gospel tells us clearly:

  • Origin: John the Baptist was sent from God.
  • He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.
  • Ultimate purpose: that all might believe through him.

Notice that John was not the focus of his own ministry. He did not come speaking about himself. A witness does not talk about himself. He talks about something else. He talks about someone else. He talks about what he has seen. He explains, “This is what I saw. This is what I heard. This is what happened. This is what I know.”

John did not come boasting about himself, or his birth, or his ministry, or his anointing. John’s purpose was to lift up Jesus Christ. His purpose was to point people to the light. John 1:19-22 (NLT) tells us,

This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” 20 He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?” “No,” he replied. “Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” “No.” 22 “Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”

Notice that John the Baptist is not talking about himself. That was not his purpose. His purpose is to point people to the light, to point them to Christ. He doesn’t tell them who he is, but who he is not!

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Are you Elijah?”

“No.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

“No.”

Elijah

John the Baptist did not see himself as Elijah, though the angel Gabriel had said of John, “he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).

And Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah prophesied by Malachi, though the people failed to recognize him (Matthew 17:12).

The Prophet

What about the prophet? The Pharisees asked John, “Are you the Prophet that we have been waiting for?”

What prophet is this? What prophet are they talking about? This is another prophecy concerning the coming of Christ. The Pharisees are talking about a prophecy that Moses had made in Deuteronomy 18:15 about another prophet who would come. Moses had told the Israelites,

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen–(Deuteronomy 18:15- ESV).

[The LORD said,] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But when we come to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, we find these words:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, (Deuteronomy 34:10 ESV).

There had been many prophets in the history of Israel—Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many others—but none had a “face-to-face” relationship with God. They were still looking for him, waiting for him.

“Are you the Prophet?” they asked John the Baptist. No, I’m not the one.

The one who was face to face with God was Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…” That is a face to face relationship with the Father. Jesus was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of. That is another one of over 300 prophecies that Christ fulfilled.

You remember the story of Jesus multiplying the five loaves and two fishes and feeding the multitude of over 5,000 men plus woman and children:

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14 ESV).

Again in John 7,

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:37-40 ESV).

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?” they asked John.

“No.”

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?” (John 1:22 ESV).

John the Baptist is finally forced to say something about himself, but he will only say that he is to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming:

23 John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Clear the way for the LORD’s coming!'”

This tells us more about the one who would come than it does about John. John is simply preparing the way for the LORD. The one that John points to is the LORD.

JOHN’S BAPTISM

Clearly the Pharisees are not satisfied with John’s answer.

 24 Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. John was calling the nation of Israel to repent of their sin. But this was God’s nation! This was the people of God! They were a people of faith! They saw themselves as the children of God.

John calls them to repent. He tells them that being a descendent of Abraham, the father of faith, is not enough. They are unclean. They must be cleansed of their sins. Their lives must be changed. They must repent. No more corruption. No more immorality. No more lying.

John Points to Jesus

But once again, John points to Jesus. He is a witness to the presence of Christ:

26 John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. 27 Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”

John tells them that there was another one. Someone who was present in the crowd. Someone whom they had not recognized. Someone who was infinitely greater than John himself: “Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (v. 27).

JESUS THE LAMB OF GOD

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God made it clear in the Garden of Eden that without the shedding of blood there was no forgiveness of sins. A price had to be paid. God Himself clothed Adam and Even with the skins of the first animal that was sacrificed. But year after year after year, lambs were slain, showing that the blood of animals has not taken care of the sin problem.

  • Animals are not equal to us.
  • They are not voluntary victims.
  • They cannot take our place. Our sins are offences against God. No one but God can remove those offences.

Then why the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament? They were a shadow pointing to the reality that is in Christ. Finally, the sin problem would be dealt with. Christ would be our sacrifice. Christ himself would bear our sins. Paul tells us,

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV).

Peter tells us,

… you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT).

John the Baptist points to Jesus as the Lamb of God who will take care of the sin problem. Again in the book of Revelation, we read of Christ our Lamb who was slain:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13 ESV).

Worthy is the Lamb!

Jesus the Eternal One

When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’

How is this? John says that Jesus was coming after him. This means two things:

  1. First, Jesus was born after John the Baptist. Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear a son named Jesus.
  2. It also means that John was the forerunner. John’s ministry would come first. Jesus would follow him. Jesus would come after him.

But now John makes the amazing remark that Jesus is “far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.” John says that the reason that Jesus is “far greater” than he is, is that Jesus existed long before John.

If Jesus came after John, how did he exist before John?

John the Baptist is pointing here to the fact that Jesus’ existence did not begin with his birth or his conception. As verse 1 says, In the beginning, the Word was already, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This is what the prophet Micah had said when he prophesied that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2 NAU).

Christ was greater than John the Baptist because he came from eternity.

Recognizing the Messiah (or the Christ)

When John the Baptist began his ministry, he did not know who the Messiah was.

31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John the Baptist was sent from God. He was sent to reveal the Messiah to Israel. But how would John know who the Messiah was? John knew Jesus for they were related; they were family. But he did not know that Jesus was the Messiah. He only knew that Jesus was a righteous man. So when Jesus came to John to be baptized by him,

… John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” 15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him (Matthew 3:14-15 NLT).

That’s when it happened!

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

Here the Father is speaking to His Son, and the Holy Spirit is descending from the Father and resting on the Son. We see interactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not three gods, but three persons in one true God.

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John the Baptist was a man sent from God to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the LORD Jesus. God had told him that he would recognize the Messiah by this: the Holy Spirit would come down on the Messiah and stay. And God told John, “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit.”

John baptized with water. It was preparation for the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. That’s what the prophets had promised:

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT).

That’s what we need! A new heart! And God’s Spirit within!

Education is wonderful, but education will not give you a new heart. Our problem is that we are sinners by nature. When Adam fell, we fell with him. And we have all chosen to go our own way.

But Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What sin are you carrying? What sin dominates your life and gets you down and is destroying you? Jesus Christ came to take away your sin. He came to break the power of sin in you. He came to give you a new heart and a new spirit. He came to put His Spirit in you so that you would follow his ways and obey his commandments. You need more than water baptism. You need Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

John was a witness to Jesus. No other founder of a religion had a forerunner like John. Every Gospel—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—every Gospel puts John in a place of prominence, but John himself says, “It’s not me. Jesus Christ is the One. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”