Behold the Lamb of God

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Our gaze needs to be on Jesus who is our sacrificial Lamb

Behold the Lamb of God: An Exposition of John 1:29-34 We now come to where we would expect the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. What is described in this passage, such as the Spirit descending and resting upon Jesus is recorded in the other gospels. But there is no direct mention of Jesus’ baptism. John’s gospel seems to be full of mysterious lapses such as these. Most notable is the omission of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, even though John describes details consistent with the other gospels. But where Luke mentions a dispute at the Last Supper which Jesus verbally addresses, John mentions the foot washing which also addresses the problem which Luke brings up. Scholars are divided over whether John was familiar with one or more of the gospels. Whereas this might be an interesting speculation, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is the author of all Scripture and uses human personalities to express Himself. For purposes known to God, John’s gospel seems to go in a parallel direction. Yet the witness John bears is consistent with the portrait of Jesus in the other gospels. The same is true of the testimony they bear of John the Baptist. It sort of makes in a sense John the Paul Harvey of gospel writers who brings the rest of the story. What is important about the gospels is the testimony they tell of the person of Jesus Christ. In courtroom testimony, witnesses of a certain event are called upon to testify of what they have seen or heard. So what makes the testimony of witnesses valid? If the testimonies completely disagree in substance, then one or both of the testimonies is highly suspect, and the jury must decide who if anyone is telling the truth. But there is an equal problem if the testimony is identical. One should suspect that the witnesses have been coached as it is well known that people see an event from different perspectives. What makes a testimony valid is that the witness agree on the central details. If the testimonies agree on these vital facts, then the testimony is to be believed. In the gospels, we have three which are similar, similar enough that many scholars see a common source to them, whether that be Mark, or an earlier gospel now lost. So some would dismiss this as being one testimony and not by itself valid as it takes at least two independent witnesses. So then we have John who seems quite independent of these so-called “synoptic gospels.” And even though John records events the other gospels omit, and John seems to omit much which is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the gospels all unite on the central facts. Jesus was born, lived among mankind, taught, did miracles, was accepted by some and rejected by others. The things which Jesus did and said show that He was more than a human being, but God incarnate. He was crucified and buried. On the Third Day, He rose from the dead. He ascended. He was the One who baptized the early believers with the Holy Ghost. He promised He would return. John the Baptist’s presentation in the gospels is very similar. In saying that there are differences, I am not saying that the events presented in the gospels are not historical, or that the details presented are in error. Many have tried to harmonize the gospels, and I will leave you to study them if you so wish. We can reliably trust all of these human witnesses, who by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote their gospels. We should look at the unity presented by their blessed diversity. Getting back to the text, we see this section begin with “on the next day.” If we look back, then on the previous day, we see John the Baptist testifying of one who already stood in their midst that they did not know. He had denied that he was the Messiah, Elijah or the prophet. We need to hold on to this as we look into this passage. As we go through John, we will see that he is infatuated with time, both natural and cosmic. We will see this time marker come up twice later in this chapter which makes a three-day sequence. The number three is frequent in John, especially in relation to Peter who denies three times that he will deny Jesus, denies Him three times, and then affirms him three times. The text then says literally: “John sees Jesus coming.” We would expect the past tense “John saw Jesus coming.” This is what most English translations render. Greek tends to follow the same rules of tense that English does, so why is the present tense used? Greek has a simple past called the Aorist tense. John uses the aorist tense correctly many times. So it isn’t a matter that John who was a Jew might have been clumsy in his Greek which was a foreign tongue. But in the structure of all languages is a means of introducing the unexpected for emphasis. Each language has its own way of expressing this. By willful departing from the normal was of expression, it puts emphasis upon what stands out. So John says “He sees.” The technical use of this Greek verb is called a “historical present.” The use of the historical present is to transport the reader or listener back to the scene, to include them in it. It is as though we were at the Jordan River with John and with him saw Jesus coming. So it is important for us to see and experience John’s view of Jesus personally. As this isn’t physically possible, we must be transported there in mind and spirit. So imagine that you are standing next to John on that day. Imagine what that day would have been like, if only you had been there. John responds to the vision of Jesus with the well known “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” I think of it every time I hear Handel’s Messiah. Look upon Him! It is He who takes away the sin of the world, even YOUR sin. What is meant by the lamb? We think of a lamb as being an innocent and helpless victim of animal sacrifice. We think of the sin offerings of the Temple in which a lamb without blemish was sacrificed. We think as Christians, rightly I think, that it refers to Jesus’ offering of Himself on a cross. It is His offering of Himself as a sacrifice for our sin. But you might read in commentaries that the Lamb of God was an apocalyptic figure in Jesus’ day who would bring judgment upon the world (Gentiles) for its sin. We even see this in the Book of Revelation where it say that people tried to flee from the wrath of the Lamb. In a sense, both views are correct. To reject Christ’s offering of Himself is to bring eternal judgment upon one’s self. Sin is also singular. It is not “sins” but “sin.” Ultimately, there is only one sin, that is to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior. All other sins can be forgiven but this one. All the adulteries and murders of the world are paid for on the cross. But one must believe that Jesus died for his/her sin. John then testifies again to what has been previously said and in agreement with the other gospels.” He identifies Jesus as being the fulfillment of his prophecy. Again, John testifies that this Jesus is greater than himself, “because he was before me.” This should take us back to the prologue and the words: “In the beginning WAS the Word.” Even though the time of the Incarnation and birth of Jesus was after the conception and birth of John the Baptist, the Word already existed. In the thought of the day, the earlier was always superior to the later. The father was always greater than his children. If John the Baptist was born earlier than Jesus, the world would think that he was greater than Jesus. And when John baptixed Jesus, the same line of thinking would further confirm this. The greater was assumed to baptize the lesser. Perhaps this is why Jesus’ baptism is omitted here. As we have already mentioned in this study earlier, confusion on the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus was evident. Besides John’s frequent denials, we also know that the Word WAS, before John. In fact, Jesus in the 8th chapter says: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” So the thought that the earlier was greater than the later stands. With Jesus being eternally preexistent, it then stands that He is over all as well. Verses 31-34 form a complex parallelism. The form of parallelism used here is one in which a truth is stated twice, using a common phrase to tie the two, in this case “I would not have known Him,” and an element which is similar but stated differently. Verses 31-32 form the first half of the parallelism, and verses 33-34 the second half. “I would not have known Him.” When we remember that John had said the day before that there was one standing in the midst that they did not know, he was in a sense including himself. John is acting as the perfect witness to Jesus. He would not have known any more than the people who had come to John for baptism except for the fact that God had revealed it to him. There is no spiritual place for pride is us preachers or theologians of the church if there is none for John. We would not have known the truth except God had revealed it to us, by the Word of God and revelation by the Holy Spirit by whatever means He has chosen. By God’s calling and grace, He can use His called ministers to be that means. But we were all in the dark, and by God’s grace, the light has been revealed to us. We must have this in mind when we witness. But for the grace of God alone, we would not have known. We never in our own wisdom would have figured it out. The common element just mentioned is offset by the word “BUT.” The Greek word is strong and says to replace the first thought with the second. I would not have known Him” is replaced by “I do know Him.” The rest is proof. John had been sent to baptize in water as a sign. The sign was meant to reveal the One who was coming to them. They could not have known unless they had believed the message of John and submitted to water baptism in preparation. But John had been given a personal sign above that which was given to Israel. John beheld the Holy Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven and remaining on Him.” It is interesting this appears in the first part of the parallel. The fact that he had been given this sign does not come until verse 33b. this seems to be the opposite of what we would expect. We would expect John’s testifying that he would know the Lamb of God by this sign to come first, and the actual fulfillment of the sign later. When things come out of order, there is a reason. The word “beheld” in English is a simple past tense. But in the Greek, it is in the perfect tense. The perfect in Greek use is different than the perfect “I have beheld” in English. The perfect mentions an act that happened in the past which has ongoing implications. The Greek word is different than the one for “behold.” Our English word “theatre” comes from it. So the verb in this tense has the idea of the wonder of seeing the event. It is still impressed upon John’s mind. He continually remembers the day, a dramatic day when He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus. One should conclude that this properly happened at Jesus’ baptism in accordance with the other gospels. But is this gazing upon Jesus mentioned here after Jesus’s baptism? Is this another appearance of Jesus after his baptism in which John can still see the Holy Spirit resting on Him? Did John have another apparition of the Spirit, or is John seeing Jesus’ baptism in his mind’s eye? It is hard to answer this question, but one thing is clear for us. This is the way we should see Jesus. We cant behold Him with our physical eyes, at least not yet, but can we see with John the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove. John the Baptist and the Apostles saw Jesus in a physical way we can not. Thomas is asked to physically encounter Jesus after the resurrection so that Thomas might believe. He responds with: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then says “Blessed are those who have not seen but believe.” John concludes this passage with two perfect verbs. He has both seen and testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Thomas makes this confession in 20:26. Jesus commends others who have not physically seen and heard to do likewise. This is followed by John’s explicit purpose of the gospel, that you might believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you might have eternal life through His name. So here we see the consistency of witness that Jesus asks of those who believe on and follow Him. What John says is “I can still see Him, and I continue to witness that Jesus is the Son of God. This Jesus and no one else is God’s Son. There is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. And even though we who believe can be called children of God as stated in the prologue: “He gave them authority to become children of God,” it is in a different sense than how Jesus is the Son. His Sonship is unique. He is Son in Himself. We have to be made children. And we only can become children through Jesus Christ. We must constantly let this truth appear as frontlets to our eyes. We should be continuously beholding the Son of God. We need to testify to others of this truth. The world can not know except He be revealed. John was faithful in this task as God’s appointed witness to the truth. He was faithful in baptizing which was a sign as we have said. He also revealed Jesus to the people that they might believe. What are we doing to be God’s means? First of wall, we need to be enlightened. Then we must enlighten. God has called us to continue this witness.
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