It is only here in the later verses of the first chapter that the narrative begins. John makes sure that his readers have an understanding of the eternal value and timelessness of this story – the greatest story ever told. God who loves His created being so much that He became one of them to give His life as a sacrifice for salvation.
John is careful with details. He tells the story of the first week in the public life of Jesus step by step.
[Scripture for this is as follows: first day – John 1:19-28; second day – John 1:29-34; third day – John 1:35-39, fourth day – John 1:40-42, fifth day – John 1:43-51. The sixth day is left a blank and the seventh day – John 2:1-11.]
Throughout his Gospel John writes the testimony of Jesus with three witnesses to Jesus’ life: John the Baptist, the disciples and the miracles. John the Baptist states his own position in the greater scheme of things in John 1:19-28.
One of the important role players in this Gospel is the Jews. They are always in opposition, always cross-examining John. They are mentioned more than 70 times. He tells of their rejection of Jesus. God offers salvation and they refuse, Jesus invites and they reject. It is as if the Gospel tells of love, but warns against rejection of that love.
John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias, a priest (Luke 1:5). Priesthood was inherited by descent of the tribe of Levi, originally through Aaron. A Levi was born into the priesthood whether you like it or not.
The Pharisees, who were scholars of the Law in strict observance of it, also watched Jesus. Their name means separated. Apart from the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin also watched Jesus closely. They were functioning as a council of society leaders in every city in Judea, Their name means sitting together and part of their function was to judge doctrine and warn against false prophets. They were very suspicious of anything new. John the Baptist did not fit the picture of a priest.
The Jews as a nation and their leaders lived in expectation of the Messiah. They were awaiting a reign of peace; a great national champion from the tribe of Judah, who would lead the Jews as rulers of the whole earth; a prince from the line of David. Many people over the centuries claimed to be the Messiah and caused rebellions. They all believed Elijah would come and announce the Messiah. Elijah would establish the rights and wrongs so that the Messiah could reign (Malachi 4:5). Some thought John could be the return of a great prophet like Isaiah of Jeremiah. John denied it.
John was a true preacher and pastor. He was continually pointing the way to the true king. The preacher himself must be forgotten and the people should be directed to focus on Jesus.
Why did John baptize?
Baptism was not for Israelites, only for foreigners becoming Jews. Jews did not need baptism as they already belonged to God. John was leveling the field. He was treating Jews as Gentiles and the people of both these groups and all walks of life flocked to him to be baptized in the hope of a renewal of faith and in expectation of something more. When interrogated he answered indirectly by saying: “I am baptizing only with water; but there is One among you–you don’t recognize him–and I am not worthy to untie the straps of his shoes. (John 1:26,27)
The Baptist could not have mentioned a more menial task. It was the work of a slave. The Rabbis said a disciple could do anything for his teacher except tie his shoes. It was too menial. John said that he could not even be Jesus’ slave. By saying that he announced the King of Israel.
John was only preparing the way as we should and any preacher should. We have the same great calling as John the Baptist: pointing to Christ. People should forget us, as we should forget ourselves so that the image of Jesus be exalted and taught.
It is the test of true Word ministry. How clear are Jesus and His words in the teaching of the church of Jesus Christ today? The same John wrote the “test” for salvation and true loyalty in his Epistle.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)
Where is the devil most active? Right here in our churches and amongst the children of God. He would like to spread doubt with false teaching. We know the Truth – Jesus. PRAY the gift of discernment over prejudice, preconceived ideas and secular culture. Not one of these vices can be present in our teaching of the Word. We need to rise up above ourselves, and preach the Gospel as it is presented by John the Baptist:
Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
In this one statement we can see four pictures:
- The Passover lamb, when they smeared the blood on the doorposts in Exodus 12:11-13. Paul confirms it in 1 Corinthians 5:7.
- The sacrifice at the Temple when the lambs are slaughtered and the blood sprinkled on the foundations. It was to the shepherds who were watching over these lambs, that the angels brought the message of Jesus’ birth. The lambs were specially bred to sell to the tradesmen of the Temple who were part of the scene of moneychangers in the forecourt of the Temple in Jerusalem.
- The Prophets called out the title of Jesus: But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter… (Jeremiah 11:19) and He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent… (Isaiah 53:7).
- The Maccabees struggle of 163BC was fresh in the memory of the Jews at the time. The horned lamb was the symbol of the great conqueror as a champion of God. He mastered over sin in a single contest.
John used this title of Christ 29 times when he wrote the Revelation.
It becomes one of the most precious titles of Christ. In one word it sums up the love, the sacrifice, the suffering and the triumph of Christ.
Could anybody be afraid of a lamb? Could anybody reject a lamb?
Christ comes as a human baby, the most helpless newborn in all of creation. He does not come to condemn or condescend. He comes to save. It is a picture of profound contrast. How can a lamb be anything than a helpless creature to be cared for? Christ as the Lamb of God is the conquering Saviour of the World.
It is a picture that draws attention because of the stark contrast, the inherent discord. It calls for a second look.
It is the greatest confrontation of thought ever.