Let’s continue in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John. We are at the beginning Of Jesus’ first week of ministry. Jesus has just been baptized by John
John is explaining the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus, using John the Baptist’s own words. John is reinforcing that John the Baptist was just a man called to be a prophet in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. John the writer is preparing us to see the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry as it transitions from John the Baptist’s ministry as a Prophet to Jesus’ ministry in fulfillment of what the prophet declared. We should also know that chapter 1 into chapter 2 reflects a series of events that all transpire in the course of only 7 days. This is the first week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. gospel of John
John’s role in announcing Jesus’ ministry is the first event of the week. In last month’s study of John’s Gospel, we saw John the Baptist being interrogated on one of those days by men who had come up to question him as to what his ministry was all about. Scribes, Priest, men of the Levites we are told. In that exchange he says I am not the Messiah, I am not the Christ, I am not the Prophet, and I am not Elijah. gospel of John
And now we move forward as we pick up in verse 29 into the second day of this week when the Messiah arrives and meets John.
John 1:29-34 (NKJV)
The Lamb of God
29 The next day John 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 is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
This is day 2 and this day begins with John in his usual place, baptizing in Bethany beyond the Jordan. As he is at his work baptizing, John looks up to see Jesus approaching. At this, John declares, as he looks at Jesus, is the Lamb of God, the One Who takes away the sins of the world. John makes this declaration to who? Presumably, to those who were there with him at the moment. Which would mean those who had come up that day to be baptized by John in the Jordan and perhaps the rest of John’s disciples who were there with him waiting for the appearing of the Messiah? After all, that is why they had gone to John in the first place for they believed in his call the Messiah was coming. gospel of John
But notice in verses 30-31 John begins to speak in the past tense as he relates his experience. This is not the first time he’s seen Jesus at the water. This is not the day he baptizes Jesus. John baptized Jesus earlier than this. On the second day, Jesus approaches John at the waterside and John testifies, this is the one I have been telling you about. This is the Son of God, this is the Lamb of God, this is One I saw the dove come down on. This is the One who had the Holy Spirit descend upon Him. I knew He was the One because I was told to look for that sign. When I saw the sign, I knew it was Him. I didn’t recognize Him before that but now I know Him. gospel of John
That scene in which John actually baptized Jesus is not recorded in John’s Gospel, but we can get a sense of it by going to one of the synoptic Gospels. Briefly in Mark:
Mark 1:4-11 (NKJV)
4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission (forgiveness) of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea and those from Jerusalem went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. 8 I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John Baptizes Jesus
9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
All four Gospel writers describe this moment when Jesus came to John to be
baptized in water. But John speaks of it in the past tense. Through the words of John the Baptist, relaying what he had done in a prior moment. As John describes it, as Jesus comes up from the water, a theophany appeared. Theophany (the·oph·a·ny) is a fancy word for a manifestation of God in some kind of physical form. We are not saying God was the dove, we’re saying God used the image of a dove to communicate His presence to man. So we call it a theophany. The Holy Spirit, in this case, being manifested as a dove that descended from the heavens (when we say heavens, we don’t mean the heavenly throne room of God, we use it in the sense of how the Jews described the sky and the clouds. So the dove is coming out of the clouds) and it descended down upon Jesus. In conjunction with that arrival, the Lord speak words from the heavens as you read in Marks account. gospel of John
In John’s Gospel, we come to understand why Jesus needed to be baptized by John. We also come to understand the relationship between water baptism and the Holy Spirit. All this is being given to us in John’s gospel but we have to take a moment to see it. First, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at this moment. He received it in order to enable Him to serve in His earthly ministry. The Gospel tells us that Jesus’ ability to perform the miracles that He performed in His earthly ministry was an ability made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit in Him. That’s why when some saw that power displayed and declared it was not truly the work of God but of the enemy, of Beelzebub, they committed the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They were denying the power of the Spirit as it had been manifested in Jesus the man. gospel of John
Jesus became a man when He was born of flesh through Mary. He willingly was lowering Himself the scripture tells us and was setting aside His power to act in supernatural ways. Jesus was not a superhero or a superhuman. He couldn’t stop bullets with His skin. This was a man who was no different than you and I in the sense of what it meant to become a man. He was truly a man, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, He could accomplish great miracles. The arrival of the Holy Spirit at this moment was the moment that Jesus transitioned from being just the carpenter’s son to becoming the rabbi and the Messiah. He was never less who He was, He was never less God in that sense. He never sinned in other words. But when He did become a man, it was not merely He took on a different form and yet retained all that it meant to be God seated at the right hand of the Father. No, He lowered Himself Paul says and made Himself something less than what He was previously. What He lessen was His power. Not His authority, but His power. That power had to be regained through the work of the Holy Spirit in Him. The arrival of the Holy Spirit was the moment for His earthly ministry to begin. gospel of John
Secondly, Jesus comes to John to receive the Spirit, not because John was the means by which God delivered the Spirit to His Son. But because John was the man anointed by God to identify the Messiah to the world. That was John’s ministry. Those who were ready and waiting for the Messiah, in John’s day, still needed someone to point out to them Who the Messiah was. In that day there were no advance pictures, no one sent text or emails, He didn’t have a stamp on His forehead, there was no way you would know Who the true Messiah was given that God’s method of delivering the Messiah was in a form that was not an attractive form we are told in Isaiah. There was nothing about Him that screamed, I am the Messiah. So God gave a man to us, John the Baptist, whose ministry it was to call attention to Jesus. And more than that, to name Him as the Messiah. Jesus came to be baptized so that John’s ministry could be made complete. That he could serve his purpose. As you see in John’s Gospel he does that, saying this is the one I have been telling you about. gospel of John
Finally, water baptism was a part of what Jesus experienced at that moment so God could create a picture for us of Spirit baptism. As when He instituted the Last Supper, the communion meal, Jesus is blazing a path here for future believers in the church to follow in later years. Like our Lord, every believer receives an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The very same thing the Spirit did for Jesus is still happening today for believers in the world. Not that the Spirit will necessarily grant to us all the same miraculous powers. Because that is self-evidently not God’s purpose. But that does not lessen the reality the Spirit is in our life. Nor does it lessen the potential for what can be done through the Spirit in our life. We all follow in Jesus’ footsteps as believers in receiving the indwelling of the Spirit. But we don’t get the dove. We know the Spirit isn’t in the habit of descending that way on every believer in their moment of faith. But every believer can and should submit to water baptism just as Jesus did. Just as He commanded us to do. In doing so we achieve a picture of that indwelling. Our own water baptism is the picture of the Spirit baptism that came upon us in our moment of faith. gospel of John
Jesus’ own baptism involved both water and a dove to make sure we would make the connection in our own experience. We understand when we do what He did we are receiving what He received. Not because in His case He needed to be cleansed, by water, of sin. That’s not the picture. It’s never been the picture of baptism. That is actually a false understanding of the picture of baptism. The right picture of baptism is you are receiving an indwelling, a saturation of the Holy Spirit By going into the water you die with Christ and by coming up out of the water you are being resurrected into new life through your faith. All that being made possible by the Spirit. A believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment we come to faith. At some later point, we submit to water baptism to picture the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we received at the moment of faith. gospel of John
Notice in verse 31 John says, he didn’t know who the Messiah was going to be before he baptized Him. That is such a curious and striking detail when you think about it. We know that Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins. They were earthly cousins, their mothers were related. Elizabeth and Mary. We know they were born only 6 months apart. We know Mary and Elizabeth met together and spent time together while they both were pregnant. So perhaps you would expect those families to be pretty close. You would have thought somewhere along the line in 30 some odd years since that happened, they might have had some family reunions, a bar-b-que or something and there would be some discussion. What kind of conversation would you expect? Yet John said he had no idea his cousin, Jesus, was the Messiah. He didn’t realize that until he witnesses the dove and gets the confirmation. gospel of John
That is important to understand because the four Gospel writers record only two people having witnessed the theophany of the dove. You may have assumed the whole crowd saw it. But that’s not what the writers tell us. Between the four writers, we learn only Jesus and John the Baptist saw the dove and heard the words of God spoken from the heavens. No one else who were present saw the theophany. Proof again that it was a theophany not a natural physical thing happening. Only John and Jesus witnessed what God made available. For anyone else who happened to be present in that moment, Jesus’ water baptism looked just like any other person who came out to baptized by John on that day. The theophany was for the benefit of John and perhaps also for Christ. For Jesus, it confirmed to Him that the Father was bringing the Spirit that was promised to Him. That now He had confirmation of His own that His earthly ministry was to begin. And for John, it is the sign he had been waiting for to know Jesus was the Messiah. gospel of John
That makes more sense, now you understand why John was so adamant about testifying to everyone. About who the Messiah was. You would think that if the theophany would have been a publicly witnessed event. You wouldn’t need John telling everyone. The whole countryside would have been talking about the event. But John is still doing what he was called to do. He had to tell everyone what he heard from God, what he had seen from God so he could convince them of what was true. That’s exactly what God does in general with revelation. God appoints, typically one man, a prophet here and there, at times in Israel’s past in the Old Testament. A man with supernatural revelation from God and then that man has the job to go to the rest of the world and testify to the truth for what God has revealed to him. And of course, that means most people reject him but those who are appointed, believe.
John said Jesus was the Messiah, and those who would accept that word began to follow Jesus from the first day of His ministry based on John’s testimony. That’s John’s ( the gospel writer) point in the gospel in chapter 1 here. It was John the Baptist’s testimony that Jesus is the Son of God. If you have any credence to John the Baptist as a prophet then you should take his word. And his word was he saw what he saw to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah
John’s uncertainty of who the Messiah would be, based on the fact that John could live 30 years and not know who the Lord is, we must conclude that Jesus’ true identity was completely unknown prior to him coming to this moment in baptism. We know, first of all, Jesus’ earthly mother and father knew of His spiritual destiny because the angel told them before He was born They would probably carry that knowledge forward as they raised Him but it doesn’t seem anyone else knew that fact. No one else knew that truth.
Jesus’ own earthly brothers had no regard for Him when He was living in the home with them. They didn’t believe in Him, they mocked Him. So if John the Baptist was in the dark about the Man he was called to announce, his own cousin, then certainly it was a secret to everyone else. That fact reinforces for us the true humanity of Christ. He lived an absolutely normal human life because He was fully human. People make jokes, did He levitate the table when He was 2 years old, did He walk on water when He was in the bathtub. We forget, in calling Him man means what it means. He was fully human though He was always divined. But His divine nature didn’t trump His humanity in the way it somehow made Him superhuman. He was living as a man and based on the fact nobody had any suspicions that He was the Messiah. In fact, when some people suggest He was the Messiah as recorded later in this gospel, they can’t believe anything good comes from Nazareth. There’s just no reason to suspect Him. Which means He must have lived an ordinary life and no one knew they were next door to the Creator. Jesus was sinless, let’s be clear on that. We know Jesus would never sin so even as a child growing up, He was sinless. But apparently, a person can live sinlessly without drawing too much attention to himself. This fact would also explain why the Gospels contain so little detail of Jesus early years. Why record details of an otherwise mundane, ordinary human life? It’s certainly not pertinent to the purpose of the gospel and that would seem to make sense.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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