The Testimony of John

Posted: November 9, 2014 in John
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John 1:19-34, “The Testimony of John”

“Who are you?”  It seems like a simple enough question, but in the case of John the Baptist, it wasn’t quite so simple.  Actually, for any of us it may not be so simple, depending on the who is asking.  If we’re introducing ourselves to a neighbor, we’re just telling them our name.  If we’re filling out a job application, they want to know our work history.  If we’re talking to a DPS officer, they may want to know why we were driving so fast, or if we have our license and registration.   The question changes quite a bit based on the context.

For John, the context was an investigation from the religious authorities.  He had appeared in Israel with something that hadn’t been seen in four centuries: a prophetic voice.  He attracted the attention of the entire nation, and people streamed to him to hear his preaching and to be baptized.  It was obvious that he needed to be checked out by the religious rulers.  That said, John wasn’t really trying to attract attention to himself; his whole mission was to point to Someone else – to point to Someone better. 

John’s mission is our mission, too.  As Christians, we’re supposed to point to Christ.  Too often, we put the attention of people on ourselves, when we ought to be putting it on Jesus.  After all, we can’t save anyone, but Jesus can.  John knew who he wasn’t, and who he was – he knew that his job was to prepare people for Jesus, the Son of God and Sacrifice for the world.  John testified of Jesus…do we?

John 1:19–34
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

  1. Vs. 19 is really an introduction and summary of this entire section.  The first 18 verses of the gospel of John was the prelude to the book; this is the transition to the narrative section.  The “testimony” of John the Baptist wasn’t so much what he said about himself (in the next couple of verses), but primarily what he said about Jesus (which takes us to vs. 39).
  2. When & why did it all happen?  Because John was asked about it.  John the Baptist had been active in his ministry (we’re not told for how long), and people came to ask him.  Who asked?  Men of authority – “priests and Levites.”  These were those in charge of the temple sacrifices and the general religious life of the nation as a whole.  Where did they come from? A city of authority – “Jerusalem.”  There’s a bit of uncertainty as to John’s location (which we’ll get to in vs. 28), but there’s no doubt about this much: he wasn’t in Jerusalem.  John baptized people in the Jordan river, and the only way that the priests and Levites were going to talk with him is if they went to where he was.  They had to leave the city (the capital city – the city of the temple) to ask John these questions.  The bottom line is that the authorities were checking John out, trying to establish his credentials.  John the Baptist was making waves (pun intended) among the people of Judea, and the religious authorities needed to sort through all of this.
  3. Keep in mind, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  If a religious teacher comes along attracting a following, while doing things that are really different, it’s natural to want to check into the person’s background, and to check out his doctrine.  That’s basically what the priests and Levites were doing here.  The only time this turns sour is when they recognize John’s qualifications from God, but then intentionally try to ignore it just because they don’t like what he’s saying.

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

  1. The question the priests and Levites asked John was simple, but loaded.  “Who are you?”  They knew his name, and likely his family background (John’s father Zecharias was also a priest, Lk 1:5).  What they didn’t know was who John was in the plan of God.  Who did John see himself to be in regards to his ministry?  (It’s actually a good question for each of us to consider: who are YOU in the Lord?  Do you belong to Him?  How is God using you?  Are you even available to be used BY Him, or have you made yourself too busy with other things?)  As for John, he knew who he was, and who he was not – and he first answered the religious leaders by saying who he was not.  He was open and forthright about it, which is emphasized by the apostle John as he writes twice that John the Baptist “confessed” this.  The Baptist didn’t want anyone getting confused about this.  He didn’t want anyone misunderstanding him or thinking he made any false claims.  He didn’t parse words or leave anything open-ended.  He was “not the Christ.”  Of course we don’t read anywhere that the priests and Levites specifically asked John if he was the Christ, but John well understood that this is what they were asking.  John made no claims to be Christ, and specifically denied that he was the Christ.
  2. What was “the Christ”?  The Christ was the King of Israel.  Remember “Christ” is not the name of Jesus; it’s one of His titles.  “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term we translate as “Messiah,” and it simply means “the Anointed One.”  The Messiah was the Anointed One of God – specifically the One anointed by God to be king over all the nation of Israel.  Saul was anointed for his kingdom, David was anointed, and all of the successive kings were anointed as well.  The nation looked forward to a future king anointed (seen to be chosen) by God to rule over the people and restore the nation to its former glory in fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham, Moses, and David.  They were looking for a King – a Deliverer – and John said plainly, “I’m not it!”
  3. There is most definitely a God and King, and John isn’t Him.  Guess what?  Neither are you.  Neither am I.  This seems like a statement of the obvious – after all, people who claim to be God are routinely viewed as clinically insane.  However, we might outwardly say we’re not Christ the King, but we might ask ourselves if we live practically as if we are?  If WE are the ones making the decisions in our lives, without submitting ourselves to the plan of God, then we’ve taken over God’s place.  God is the One with the authority to rule and reign in our lives because He gave us life.  Yet when we’ve intentionally ignored what the Scripture says – when we don’t submit ourselves to God in prayer – when we live our life on our own wanting nothing to do with Jesus, then we’ve taken the position that belongs only to Him.  Sometimes the person to whom you need to confess “I am not the Christ” is yourself.

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

  1. These were the other options the priests and Levites supplied for John the Baptist, and they were all wrong.  The first was “Elijah,” and there definitely was an expectation for Elijah to appear among the nation of Israel.  The OT ends with the prophet Malachi writing that God would send Elijah before the day of the Lord (judgment day) to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and children to the fathers (Mal 4:5-6).  With John the Baptist suddenly on the scene, it isn’t necessarily a bad question from the Jewish religious scholars.  The identification is interesting, however.  Elijah was known primarily for his miracles, yet John isn’t recorded in Scripture as performing a single one.  John seems to have dressed like Elijah, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be too much outward similarity between the two prophets.  Yet obviously the Jews saw something.  Perhaps after 400 years of prophetic silence, this was a natural assumption when John appeared dressed the way he was & acting in the godly authority the way he did.  It was obvious this man had been sent by God in some way, and since Elijah was on the prophetic docket, perhaps John was him.
  2. John’s answer to the question of the Jews actually raises a different question for us.  John flatly denied being Elijah, but Jesus seems to tell people the opposite.  Matthew 11:13–15, "(13) For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (14) And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. (15) He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" []  By this point in Jesus’ ministry, John had been imprisoned by Herod for preaching the righteousness of God, and while languishing in prison awaiting certain death, John started to wonder if he got things right.  Like any normal human, he went through periods of doubt & uncertainty, and Jesus reassured him (though John’s disciples) that God’s plan was most definitely being fulfilled and that John had testified rightly of Jesus.  After John’s disciples leave, Jesus takes a moment to tell the crowd about John the Baptist’s ministry, and He says that John WAS Elijah to come.  So who’s right: John or Jesus?  Be careful how quick you answer, because the credibility of one affects the credibility of the other.  If John was mistaken, that affects his credibility as a prophet, and thus the credibility of his testimony about Jesus.  If Jesus is wrong, that affects His credibility as the Messiah (which is far worse!).  Some have suggested that John was simply being humble, denying the role for himself, but that the Lord Jesus bestowed the title upon him.  That’s possible, but it seems more likely that both of them were correct without any contradiction whatsoever.  How so?
    1. John is not Elijah the man.  Nowhere does the Bible teach reincarnation, and it’s interesting that so many people at the time seemed to have some sort of misconception about it.  The priests asked John if he was Elijah, and Herod had wondered of Jesus if Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead (Mt 14:2).  To the religious rulers, John said that no, he was not the man Elijah.  Elijah the man still exists; he just lives in heaven & not on earth.  Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, and he appeared with Moses and Jesus upon the mount of transfiguration.  John is NOT that Elijah, and God still has a prophetic plan for Elijah according to the letter of Malachi 4:5, which will likely take place during the years of the Great Tribulation.
    2. However, John DID fill a role of Elijah, which was Jesus’ point.  John was the Elijah to come, spiritually speaking – which is why Jesus said this is something people who had spiritual ears to hear needed to be willing to receive the truth.  John did not fulfill the very letter of prophecy about Elijah (because he wasn’t the person), but he did fulfill the spirit of prophecy about Elijah through his ministry. John did turn the hearts of fathers to the children and the hearts of children to the fathers as he preached repentance in preparation for the kingdom of God and approaching King.
  3. The other option given by the priests and Levites was of a certain unnamed prophet.  The religious authorities were not asking John if he was some generic prophet; as with Elijah, there was an expectation of another specific prophet to come – one mentioned centuries ago by Moses.  Deuteronomy 18:18-19 "(18) I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. (19) And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him." []  When the Hebrews saw the glory of God descend upon Mt. Sinai, it terrified them, and they asked Moses to speak to God on their behalf, and for Moses to speak to them the words of God – for Moses to be their mediator and intercessor.  God told Moses that He would one day send another to do the same thing.  This Prophet would be like Moses in his authority, in his mediation, and in his doctrine.  The people would need to hear (receive/obey) the teaching of this future Prophet with all the authority of the teaching of God, on penalty of death (God would require his life).  So the priests asked John if he was this Prophet.  John said no.  Why not?  Because this was in essence a Messianic prophecy, and John already told the priests that he wasn’t the Messiah (the Christ).  John didn’t come to set up a new law – he didn’t come to deliver the people.  John came to point people to the One who fulfilled the law – the One who gave the law – the One who delivers people not just from the slavery of Egypt, but the slavery of sin and death itself.

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

  1. Finally the Jews ask John in a straightforward way about his identity. Instead of throwing out all these guesses, they ask John to simply tell them who he is.  (John seems famously reluctant to draw attention to himself; he always wanted the attention to be upon Jesus.)  The priests and Levites did need some kind of answer; they had been sent from Jerusalem for that very purpose.
  2. The answer John gives is at the same time both clear and cryptic.  He doesn’t give them a specific example of a former prophet in history, but he does refer to a prophetic role written of by Isaiah.  Isaiah 40:3–5, "(3) The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. (4) Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; (5) The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”" []  Looking forward in history, Isaiah writes of the first and second comings of Jesus.  The role of John the Baptist is proclaimed in vs. 3, and vss. 4-5 will be literally fulfilled in Jesus’ 2nd Coming as earthquakes level whole cities and mountains are split in two upon Jesus’ return.  Even beyond the literal fulfillment of the 2nd coming is the picture that is takes place through John’s ministry in Jesus’ 1st coming.  When kings would approach certain cities, they needed smooth roads upon which to travel, so heralds would be sent out in advance of the king to get the cities to smooth out the roads & prepare the “king’s highway.”  John understood that this was his role in regards to Christ the King.  John was not sent as a prophet of the past, looking to things of the past.  He was sent to prepare people to look forward.  Something new was taking place: the King was approaching, and people needed to get ready!  John was the herald of Christ the King, and he cried out for people to prepare themselves for His arrival.
    1. Have you heard the voice cry out?  Has your heart been made ready?
    2. As the Church, we’ve been tasked by Jesus to carry on this ministry.  This is the essence of the Great Commission.

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

  1. Notice that it wasn’t just the priests who came to John; the Pharisees were represented as well.  The priests were primarily comprised of the sect of the Sadducees, whereas the Levites could have been either Pharisees or Sadducees.  The two groups didn’t often agree with each other, and it emphasizes the idea that John got the attention of the whole nation.  All the religious authorities came to him, asking about him.
  2. What they ask is a good question.  Why did John baptize?  Baptism was known among the Jews prior to John.  He took a practice that they were already using, and adapted it for his own purposes.  Baptism was known among the Jews in their ritual cleansings, as the priests would immerse themselves in mikvehs (large pools), as would other worshippers who came to offer their sacrifices to God.  The mikveh was also used by Gentile proselytes who converted to Judaism, showing a break from their old life, being cleansed and joining into a new covenant relationship with God.  John took this practice and did something new with it.  For John, it didn’t have anything to do with engaging in ritual cleansing or converting into Judaism; it was something that Jew would do in humility and repentance.  The other gospel accounts show John preaching righteousness as he prepared people to receive King Jesus.  As people were cut to the heart, they needed some way to respond – that way was baptism.
  3. This was the point of the Pharisee’s question.  If John was not one of their expected prophets, why was he baptizing?  Why was he changing things up?  They needed a good reason, and rightfully so.  They needed to know whether or not this was a presumptuous false teacher in their midst.

26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

  1. John’s answer goes to the heart of his ministry.  He had come as a herald to announce the approaching King, and thus John baptized people.  People needed to be prepared before the King’s arrival in order to receive the King…and the King was already there.  The King was among them, even if they didn’t yet know it.  What John preached was not some far off event in the future.  The Jews had waited 400 years for John (or any prophet); they would not be waiting another 400 for the Christ.  The Christ was already there; He simply had not revealed Himself to the nation.  His time had not yet come.
  2. But the Messiah WAS there already, and even if He wasn’t revealed, He was glorious.  It may not have seemed that way to the people.  One would expect an announced king to arrive in all kinds of pomp and circumstance.  There ought to be parades, trumpets, royal robes, and everything else that makes the king’s honor evident to everyone.  That wasn’t the way it was with Jesus.  The Word of God had all of that glory in eternity, but He clothed Himself in humble humanity and walked in virtual anonymity for 30 years.  The Son of God had been in Judea among the Jews for decades, and no one knew it.  But that didn’t make Him any less glorious or less worthy of honor.  John knew of the Messiah’s glory even in His humble anonymity.  Jesus was so much to be honored that John was unworthy to even deal with His shoes.
  3. Consider this for a moment…think of how this would have sounded to the Pharisees and others.  They already had much respect for John, even while investigating his credentials.  They thought so highly of John that they asked him if he was Christ the King.  That’s not something to take lightly.  After 400 years of silence, they recognized a prophetic voice in John, and it was so powerful that they thought he might be the fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel.  And John WAS a powerful prophet, though he did not perform a single miracle or write a single book that we know of.  Jesus said of John that John was the greatest of all the prophets, even the greatest of all men (Mt 11:11).  Yet this greatest of prophets was unworthy to even touch the sandals of Jesus.  If John was great, Jesus was greater.  That is how much greater the King was from His herald.  The glory of Jesus was without measure, even in all of His anonymity among Israel.
  4. That is the glory of our Lord Jesus!  He is the Word of God made flesh, and He is without compare.  There is none worth more honor than Him – there is none worth our worship other than Him.  To spend time in the presence of Jesus is an incredible privilege and honor, because like John, we are also unworthy to untie Jesus’ shoes.  Yet as born-again believers, we have been MADE worthy to come into the presence of Jesus.  Because of the forgiveness of God, we know Jesus as our Lord, Savior, Master, and Friend.  How amazing is that?!  It is beyond comprehension!
    1. If that is the case, why do we act as if it’s sometimes a burden or obligation?  Why is prayer the last thing on our list?  Why is Bible reading something to simply check off our agenda, or something to feel guilty about because it’s been so long since we did it?  None of us are forced under obligation to spend time with Jesus; we GET to spend time with Jesus!  We were unworthy to even be in the presence of God, but God loved us so much that He sought us out and made it possible not just to be in the same room as Jesus, but to know Him, serve Him, and talk with Him.  What an amazing privilege we have in Christ!  (What’s stopping you from taking full advantage of this?  What’s in your life holding you back from Jesus?  Be rid of it today!)
    2. And this relationship is not limited to just a precious few…it’s available to all.  At the same time that Jesus said that John the Baptist was the greatest among men, He also said that the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than John (Mt 11:11).  You’re invited to be a part of the kingdom.  No one is left out from coming to Christ in faith.  Today, you can know Jesus in this same way.

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

  1. Some translations say “Bethabara,” and others say “Bethany” – there is a bit of disagreement among ancient manuscripts regarding the name of the town.  There was more than one Bethany in Judea, including the town of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha just outside of Jerusalem.  It’s absolutely certain that John was not baptizing there, because that Bethany is nowhere near the Jordan river.  A probable location is far to the north of Jerusalem, up near the Sea of Galilee (which makes sense, considering Jesus was a Galilean).  If that is indeed the case, then it emphasizes John’s impact among the Jews.  People travelled great distances to hear him, and to be baptized.  His message was worth hearing!

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.’

  1. The priests, Levites, and Pharisees either had really good timing, or really bad timing.  We’re not told if they stuck around at all, but it seems that the very next day after they asked John all of these questions, that Jesus came to John.  Either the religious authorities got to hear John’s testimony of Jesus with their own ears, or they missed it by “that much”!
  2. John had plainly denied that he himself was the Christ, but he did not hesitate to point out the Christ when He arrived!  Jesus came towards John, and John pointed him out for anyone who was listening.  The “Lamb of God” had come – the Man “who is preferred” had come – the One who was worthy of all honor, who had previously been unknown among Israel was walking among the Jews at that very moment, standing in front of John.  John made it clear, basically saying: “THIS is the One!  It’s not me; it’s HIM.  Look to Him, and listen to Him!”  John’s whole purpose in life was to prepare people to receive Jesus, and once Jesus was there, people didn’t need to see John any longer.  A herald proclaims the king; he doesn’t call attention to himself.  John was proclaiming Jesus.
    1. This is our job as the church!  We’re not to proclaim ourselves, and put all of the attention on us.  It’s not about us, or our programs, or how cool (or not) we think we are.  It’s not about trying to draw attention to ourselves; it’s about trying to draw attention to Jesus.  To be sure, people see Christ through Christians – but when the focus is on the Christian only, there’s a problem.  Even when the Christian is really good, a Christian is still human.  Even the best among us are going to fail.  No pastor or evangelist is perfect. (I of all people am not!)  When our trust is in men, our trust will be disappointed.  So what do we do?  We put our trust in God.  Likewise, as Christians, we want people to trust Christ…which means we need to get the attention off of ourselves and onto Jesus.
    2. You can’t do that if you’re not spending any time with Jesus.  Have you ever been around someone whose faith in Jesus is almost tangible?  It’s almost as if they exude Jesus from their pores…that’s a person that spends a lot of time in the presence of Christ.  That’s someone, that when you spend time with him/her, you’re immediately thinking of Jesus.  THAT’s what we want to do for others!  The more time you spend with Jesus, the more time you’ll help others spend with Jesus because they will see Him in your life.  That puts the attention on Him, and not us – and that’s a great thing!
  3. How did John identify Jesus?  Two ways. (1) Jesus is the One that John had already testified of, saying that He was “preferred before” John, because He “was before” John.  The gospel of John already mentioned that back in the prelude, when the apostle summarized the Baptist’s ministry.  Jesus as the Word of God is eternal.  He became physically incarnate and walked the earth during the life of John the Baptist, but Jesus was eternally existent prior to John the Baptist, and had infinitely more glory and worth.  (2) Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  The Honored One – the Preferred One – the Glorious One – the Eternal God and Wondrous Christ…He was also a sacrificial lamb.  He was to be slain for the sin of the world, in order that we could be forgiven.  Our culture has a difficult time understanding this because although our faith is based on the sacrifice of Jesus for us, we don’t see sacrifices on a regular basis.  The Jews, however, did.  The first five chapters of Leviticus provide detailed instruction for all kinds of bloody sacrifices to be done on behalf of the Jews.  Their freedom from Egyptian slavery was based solely upon a sacrifice of a lamb.  If a Jewish household had not slaughtered a lamb and placed the blood on the doorposts of their home, the oldest child in their house would have died, just as children died all over Egypt on the night of the Passover.  It was brutal and bloody, but that was the price of forgiveness and freedom.  The wages of sin is death, and the Jews saw it with their own eyes on a regular basis.  John’s testimony regarding Jesus?  He was the One who would brutally die on our behalf.  He would be slain as a Lamb.  The Holy Son of God – the One worthy of all glory, whose sandals John was not even worthy to loose – humbled Himself to such a point that He laid down His very life as a sacrifice for people who had sinned against Him.
    1. Think of it: we owed Jesus a sacrifice, but Jesus became our sacrifice.  We were the ones in need of saving from the wrath of God due our sin, and God the Son stepped in on our behalf and personally took it.  Regular lambs were not good enough – no animal livestock is ever truly worth the price of a man or woman.  Only a human can take the place of a human, but every human is just as sinful as the other.  So God became a Human, and took our place.  The sacrifice was needed to satisfy the justice of God, and God knew we couldn’t pay the price…so He did.
    2. That is the love of God for you!  That is what He did to secure your freedom and to give you eternal life.  Jesus loved you so much that He died for you as a bloody sacrifice.  No wonder Paul writes in the book of Romans that the only proper response from us is to be living sacrifices for Jesus, dedicating our lives to Him.
    3. How have you responded to Jesus’ sacrifice for you?  God sent Him to take away the sin of the world, and He has – but you must receive of His sacrifice to partake of His gift.  What good is a sacrificed performed on your behalf if you never know of it?  How would you ever appropriate the benefits?  Just like you need to receive a gift in order to enjoy what’s been given, you need to receive the sacrifice that Jesus gave for you.

31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

  1. It’s interesting to read that John “did not know Him,” because John and Jesus were cousins.  When Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she traveled to her cousin Elizabeth, herself pregnant with John.  The baby John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb upon Mary’s arrival, and Elizabeth basically prophesied that Mary was carrying the Lord of all the world in her womb.  There’s little doubt that John and Jesus would have known each other as boys, and it would have been highly unlikely that the story of their pre-natal meeting was never shared with them at some point during their childhood.  How could John NOT have known who Jesus was?
  2. It’s not that John didn’t know Jesus as a person or a family member, but John was apparently waiting for a certain confirmation from God regarding the Messiah.  Even if John was well aware of the past history, John had been given a specific mission from God, and had been told a specific sign to watch for.  That sign had not yet come, so John could honestly say that he didn’t know the Lamb of God, because that had not been confirmed to him.
  3. So what did he do in the meantime?  He “came baptizing with water.”  The very reason John did what he did was so that the Messiah (the Lamb of God) would be revealed unto Israel.  Apparently the sign that God promised John would not occur until John baptized others with water.  So what did John do?  He baptized.  John wanted to fulfill his own purpose, and he wanted Jesus to be proclaimed, so he set out doing what God had given him to do.  God would fulfill His will in His own timing; John just needed to be responsible to do his own part.
    1. Again, John serves as an example to the rest of us in the Church.  We don’t know the timing of the rapture, when Jesus will call us home to Himself.  What we DO know is what Jesus told us to do until it all happens: make disciples of all the nations.  Let us do our part, and we can trust God is going to work everything out in His own timing.

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.’

  1. This was the sign.  God had told John that when he saw the Spirit descend and remain upon a person, the One upon whom the Spirit remained was the Messiah.  All of that happened with Jesus.  Interestingly, the Apostle John doesn’t record the actual baptism of Jesus itself, but the three synoptics do.  Jesus actually came to John to be baptized by him, and when John realized what was happening, he initially tried to refuse, saying that he needed to be baptized by Jesus.  However, this was the will of God, and humility of Jesus.  Jesus was baptized by John, God’s voice from heaven declared “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” and God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, remaining upon Him.  This was the sign that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed One.  The whole idea of anointing is to picture the coming of the Holy Spirit upon someone.  The oil is poured upon the person’s head, and it is like the Holy Spirit running over them.  At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, anointing Him – not as oil, but as a dove.  The peace of God was visibly demonstrated upon Jesus as the Person of the Holy Spirit came upon Him.
  2. And because the Holy Spirit remained upon Jesus, Jesus was shown to have the authority to baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John’s baptism was with water; it was only symbolic.  It was an important symbol to be sure, but it was still just a symbol.  The baptism Jesus performs takes place in the reality of a person’s soul.  When someone comes to faith in Jesus as Lord, then that person is truly baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Their sins are forgiven in truth, and the person isn’t just ritually cleansed, but truly spiritually cleansed.  He or she is a brand-new creation with a new relationship with God as their Father.
    1. That’s what our physical baptisms represent today.  It’s not only a humility of heart, showing that we’re prepared to receive Jesus as our King; it’s a statement of faith that we HAVE received Jesus as our King.  It’s a demonstration of the fact that we have been cleansed by Jesus’ forgiveness, and that we’ve been born again of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a testimony that we have been made a new creation, and brought into the family of God.  John baptized to look forward to that event; we are baptized in proclamation of it. (If you’ve never been baptized in faith, do it!)

34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

  1. This was John’s testimony.  The Lamb of God is the Son of God.  The One worthy of all glory is the One come to sacrifice Himself for sin.  The One who baptizes with the Spirit of God is the One who is the Son of God.  The One in whom the Spirit of God remains is the One declared by the Father to be the Son of God Himself.  This is the One upon whom all the hope of Israel rested.  This is the One who John proclaimed to all who came to hear.  This is who the world needed to be prepared to receive.  The Son of God was in their midst, and He had come to save.

Conclusion:
John testified of Jesus.  John didn’t come to gather a lot of attention to himself.  He knew who he was, and who he wasn’t.  In the grand scheme of things, that wasn’t all that important.  What was important was that people were prepared to see and receive Jesus.  What was important was that people recognize Jesus as the Lamb of God – the One worthy of all honor and glory – the One upon whom the Holy Spirit rests, and who baptizes others with the Holy Spirit.  He is the Son of God, and the Sacrifice of God – the One sent to take away the sins of the world.  He is the King, and He is to be received and glorified.

That is John’s testimony of Jesus.  Is it yours?  Is that how you know Jesus?  When we see Jesus from that perspective, it’s hard to imagine wanting to do anything else but spend time in His presence, giving Him all our lives, worship, and service.  From that perspective, that’s a Jesus we want to tell all the world about, so that they would know Him and be saved.  That’s a Jesus that we’re excited about, and excited to spend time with.

If that’s the case…why aren’t we?  I hope that you are!  I hope that Jesus is tangibly present in your life, and that when you’re around other people that they cannot help but see Jesus in your life.  But if we’re being honest (myself included), I wonder if that’s really the case.  But here’s the thing: it CAN be the case!  The more time we spend in the presence of Jesus, the more people will see Him in our own lives.  The more time we spend worshipping Him, and knowing Him through the Bible, the more our own testimonies will reflect that of John the Baptist’s.  We’ll also be pointing people to Jesus, and they won’t be able to help but see Jesus in us.

That’s what we want, and that’s what Jesus has called us to do.  Like John, we also have a mission to testify of Christ.  Jesus has specifically sent us out into the world to make disciples of the nations, and to be witnesses of Him to the ends of the earth.  He gives us the power to do it through the work of the Holy Spirit, and now we are to do it.  So what are we waiting for?  What’s holding us back?  May nothing hold us back from testifying of Jesus to the entire world!

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