Scripture: The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” John 1:29-34 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, the priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees interrogate John the Baptist regarding his perceived identity and ministry. The Baptist dismisses the notion that he is the Christ, Elijah, or a great prophet and quotes Isaiah 40:3-5 to clarify that he is the voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. So they ask him why he baptizes fellow Israelites. The Baptist does not answer their question and instead declares that while he baptizes with water, amid the crowd stands one unknown to them who comes to complete the work that the Baptist has begun. Moreover, this unnamed man (Jesus) is preeminent in his life and mission.
Today’s devotion continues with the next day’s events, where the Baptist sees Jesus approaching and announces to his disciples to behold “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (v.29). And John reiterates (from their conversation the day before) that this is the one who is superior to him. Indeed, John explains that he has been baptizing with water (baptism of repentance) to reveal Christ (i.e., to prepare repentant Israelites to look beyond cultural expectations and perceive that Jesus is the Messiah, the one they should follow). Then, to remove any doubt, John adds that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus from heaven and indwelled him. And he further explains that God foretold him of this supernatural anointing. Lastly, to ensure no misunderstanding of the Lamb of God’s identity, John tells his disciples that he is an eyewitness to Jesus being the Son of God.
Takeaway: While the Old Testament often mentions the sacrifice of a lamb to take away sins, there is no direct connection to the Messiah. However, Isaiah does prophesy regarding the fate of the Suffering Servant, whom others will lead away like a lamb for the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). So Peter alludes to this prophecy to connect the dots with Jesus (1 Peter 1:19). Elsewhere, we find this same Greek word for lamb (amnos) in just two other verses of the New Testament: John 1:36 (again referring to Jesus, covered in tomorrow’s reading) and Acts 8:32 (where Phillip supernaturally approaches the Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot to explain that the Isaiah passage he was reading pointed to Jesus).
But why the emphasis in this first chapter of John’s Gospel? He is eager for his readers to understand that the shocking crucifixion of this Gospel story’s hero is not a tragedy but a divine and glorious plan: to save the world from its actual enemy, unatoned sin. So our Gospeller carefully details the Baptist’s repeated assurances to his disciples of Jesus’ identity:
- The Baptist foretold Jesus’ preeminence before he arrived at the Jordan (v.30).
- The Baptist prepared the way with a baptism of repentance (v.31).
- The Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove and indwell him (v.32).
- God the Father, who commissioned the Baptist, foretold him that the Spirit would rest on the Messiah and anoint him to baptize with the Holy Spirit (v.33).
- The Baptist has seen and testified that Jesus is the Son of God (v.34).
Our takeaway? Heaping evidence upon evidence, the Baptist and his chronicler, John, want their audiences to know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah Israel longed to see. Yet, sadly, most of the nation missed this climactic epoch, so take advantage of the evidence and receive Christ, the Lamb of God, who has borne our sins in his body and paid the price in full to atone for them—setting us free to live an abundant life (10:10) amid the lingering suffering of our sin-marred world. And how do we appropriate this Good News? By grace through faith, we receive God’s beautiful gift of life in Christ (Ephesians 2:8). Then we live it out according to the good works the Father prepared for us through his Son (Ephesians 2:10). So behold and bear witness to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who faithfully testified to you and bore witness to us of your salvation plan completed in him. And we thank you for John the Gospeller, as well as Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, and Jude, and all later copyists, who risked and even laid down their lives to ensure we would behold the Lamb of God who takes away our sins. So would you please strengthen and encourage us to cooperate with your Holy Spirit to live an abundant life, bearing witness to Christ to a lost world that desperately needs him? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling