Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jesus According to John the Baptist.

John the apostle makes a great deal of the testimony of John the Baptist who came to bear witness to the light (1:7).  In the two passages where John the Baptist appears in the gospel (1:19-34 and 3:22-36), John testifies some significant things about the 'coming one':

     1.  He is much greater than John (1:27). John denies that he is the Messiah or Elijah or 'the prophet'. He is merely the voice of one calling in the wilderness 'make straight paths for the Lord'. Despite John's fame as a fearless and genuine prophet, he is not even worthy to untie the laces of his sandals. This is also implicit in his statement that the one who comes after him 'has surpassed me because he is before me' (1:28)

     2.  He is 'the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World' (1:31). This is quite different to the expectation that he will be the Messiah. There are a number of 'lambs' in the background of Israel's history (the sheep that took the place of Isaac, the passover lamb, the 'scapegoat' of Leviticus 16 that takes away the peoples sin, the guilt offering of Lev 16 and Numbers 4 and the lamb lead to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). While the reference is ambiguous it seems clear that the idea is of a lamb that dies to pay the penalty for sins. This theme will reappear in the gospel.

     3.  He is the One who baptises with the Holy Spirit (1:33).  John insists that his baptism is only with water, but that the coming one - on whom the Holy Spirit descended at his baptism - this one will baptise with the Holy Spirit. While we must wait to fully understand its significance, we can assume that the washing with the Holy Spirit involves both the forgiveness of sins and the beginning of the indwelling of the Spirit which assures us of his presence and our connection with him (14:16-17).

     4.  He is the Son of God (1:34). The term 'Son of God' is equivalent to Messiah, making this a claim that Jesus is the one the Jews have been waiting for - the one they looked for to restore their nation and to rule over God's people forever. (There is a textual variant which makes the reading 'the chosen one of God' - but this would likely point to the same idea in different language).

* When John is questioned at a later time about about Jesus ('why does he baptise?') he again emphasises his priority: 'He must become greater, I must become less' (3:30). He also testifies that:

     5.  He is the One who Comes from Above (3:31). 'The one who comes from above is above all' (3:31) John here implies what has already been said in 1:1-2 and 14, that the Word was with God and was God and that the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus. This is a claim for the pre-existence and divinity of Jesus. This ties in with his statement of 1:30, where John says of his (younger) cousin: 'A man who comes after me is be has surpassed me because he is before me.'

     6.  He is the One who Speaks the Words of God (3:34). If Jesus is the one who 'comes from above' it is not surprising that he speaks the words of God, for he is God the Son and the father has given him the Spirit without limit.

     7.  He is the Beloved Son (3:35). 'The father loves the Son and places everything in his hands'. In 1:14 and 1:18 the word is called the 'One and Only' or the 'only begotten'. Whatever else this phrase means it emphasises the uniqueness of the Son and his special relationship with the Father. The Son is his Father's beloved and God the Father has placed 'everything' in his hands. He rules over all things!

     8.  He is the One who determines our Eternity (3:36). Our response to the Son therefore determines our eternity. If anyone rejects the Son, he will not see life 'for God's wrath remains on him', but anyone who believes (trusts / follows) the son already has eternal life (Having had their sins forgiven and being baptised by the Spirit).

How do we respond to John's testimony? Do we accept what he says? If so, then how will we respond to Jesus - will we believe and have eternal life or reject him and receive God's wrath? 

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