Have you ever wondered about yourself in history? Where would you have been in the village life of the Middle Ages, a noblewoman in a castle, a knight fighting for the duke, maybe the duke himself? It is difficult to think with too much ambition about women in history. I am no Joan of Arc. My ideal women in history go a bit further back to Deborah in the Book of Judges, or Huldah in 2 Kings 22. Go ahead and read about them.
Let us take an imaginary trip and place us around the shores of Galilee at the time when everybody talked about a man able to heal miraculously, arguing with the Pharisees and Scribes and reaching out to the poor. Can you imagine the talk around the squares and wells of the villages in rural Judea? Maybe you could have been a hard working businessman in the fish industry, preserving Galilee’s riches in salt; maybe an importer of delicacies from the rest of the vast Roman Empire supplying the Roman contingent in Caesarea or Herod’s palace in Jerusalem.
This past Easter I sat in church listening to a sermon on the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. When I looked at the beautiful picture they had on the screen, I looked at the crowds around Jesus and suddenly wondered where I would have been. I have to admit I have a vivid imagination, but I have had many instances where the Holy Spirit showed me faith pictures in my mind, where I could not have come up with anything remotely so wonderful. One of my most powerful experiences of being healed of a nagging fear, was experiencing the Holy Spirit taking control of my imagination to show me how God is providing for me.
While staring at the picture on the screen in church, I was at once heartbroken. I did not see myself at the forefront, waiving the palm branches and shouting Hosanna. Succumbing to my naturally suspicious and cautious nature, I saw myself at the edges of the crowd, staying close, as I imagined myself very much fascinated by this man, but reserving judgment for later. In prayer I almost wanted to apologize to the Lord about this. I admired Mary Magdalene and John who followed the trial and so courageously found them at the foot of the cross in spite of extreme personal danger, being seen as a friend of the “criminal”.
In that moment the Holy Spirit convicted me to the complete opposite of what I was thinking. He said I would have been exactly where I was now. I was made aware of the miracle of faith, the miracle of salvation and the miracle of spiritual insight into the deep mysteries of God and His Word. Coming to Jesus is a cold rational decision, followed by a miraculous personal rebirth, experiencing the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the deepest inner being of a person. I was overjoyed by this realization that Jesus was revealed to every person who asked God for spiritual insight into His life on earth. It happened then as it happens now.
For me, it was a moment of great rejoicing. I felt my spirit leap up and shout Hosanna. I know deep in my heart just how much I love Jesus and how I treasure God’s word above everything in this world. Throughout the sermon I was enjoying my own triumphant entry into Jerusalem right there by Jesus’ side.
How then did the people know this is the Messiah? In the first chapter of John, exactly this matter is the theme. He states the case for Jesus like a heavenly advocate in a court of law, calling the witnesses to testify to the authenticity of Jesus’ Messianic title.
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.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
The baptism of Jesus removed all doubt in John the Baptist’s mind that Jesus was the Son of God. There by the waters of the Jordan God reveals himself as the Trinity, speaking from heaven and letting the Holy Spirit descend in the symbol of the dove. It was something, which only the eye of the mind and soul could see.
The baptism (Greek=baptizein – to dip or to submerge) of Jesus was a decisive event.
In Palestine the dove was a sacred bird. It was not hunted and it was not eaten. The picture of the dove was one, which the Jews knew and loved. The dove brought the olive branch, the symbol of provision to Noah in the Ark. (Matthew 3:16)
It was at his baptism that the Spirit came down upon Jesus with power in a way that was convincing to John the Baptist.
The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach and it means wind. The Spirit of God brings us three things:
- Power: in Acts 2 it is described as a mighty rushing wind.
- Life: the very existence of man is by the breath of God.
- God: it is the way by which we live beyond mere human achievement.
The Spirit controlled the prophets. (Micah 3:8,Isaiah 59:21,Isaiah 61:1, Ezekiel 36:26-7)
The Spirit: brings the truth of God, gives men the power to recognize that truth when they saw it and gives them the ability and the courage to preach that truth to men. The Jews knew the Spirit and knew it was God coming into a man’s life.
John goes out of his way to point out that the Spirit remained on Jesus. It is not just a temporary inspiration; it is a permanent abiding. John states the descending of the dove as a Holy Spirit baptism, which implies that He was saturated and flooded with the Spirit of God.
In a Holy Spirit life we are illuminated to understand the Word, strengthened to do the Word and purified by the baptism of fire, burning away the worldly baggage. Spirit prayer is a cry of the heart with no thought of theology and liturgy.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2)
That was the Messianic promise from the mouth of Isaiah. It stands as the promise to us who invites the Holy Spirit to saturate our inner beings.
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?”
They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”
39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).
John the Baptist points to Jesus as the greater teacher, full knowing that his own disciples will leave him and follow Jesus. He had no jealousy towards Jesus. He was looking for the vision to be fulfilled.
The character of the true disciple determines that his eye remains on the vision.
What is your God-inspired vision for your life?
Take a moment to write it down. Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken your mind to see God’s heart for you with no attachment to your fellow men or this world. (Habakkuk 2:15)
Jesus turned to speak to the disciples who followed Him. He is always willing to meet us halfway, making things easier for us to get to Him. He is a door opener. (Isaiah 45:1, Revelation 3:8)
Jesus turning to talk to the disciples is symbolic of the divine initiative. God always takes the first step. The human mind seeks and the heart longs. God meets you on the way just like the beautiful image of the father in the story of the prodigal son, waiting for the first signs of his son and running out to meet him. That is a good heart picture to treasure whenever we think of our heavenly father.
We seek God when He has already found us – Augustine.
The fundamental question is: What are you looking for? Your desire needs to be expressed. They could have been legalists looking for an argument. They could have followed Him to enlarge their influence with the leadership. They could have been nationalists looking for political shortcuts. Or were they humble men looking for their Messiah? They could have been puzzled, bewildered and sinful, looking for light and not even sure how deep the need in their inner being might be. This is the perfect approach – dark lives looking for the Light of the World to change them forever.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Are you looking for safety and security, wealth and superficial satisfaction for your needs? It is not wrong to look for these things; it is only a very low aim. There is no security in the changes and chances of life. Some people are searching for personal ambition, having their own goals already shaped, believing God is the instrument to get there. Beware of the detour called life!
Here in John 1 the disciples answered with a question: Where is Jesus staying?
They called Him rabbi, which literally means: my great One. It was a title of respect given by students of wise men. John writes to the Greeks and uses the word for teacher.
What does their question mean?
They didn’t want a short answer. They wanted to sit down, share a meal, talk much. They were not satisfying a curiosity or a superficial need. They wanted to truly know Him.
Jesus answers: Come and see. Those words were a well-known answer to any question of a student of a Jewish rabbi. Jesus’ words imply: we’ll think about this together. If you are in for the long haul, I am more than willing.
John was probably one of these disciples. He notes the time. Almost like in a diary. He is thinking back many years and experiencing that moment, more or less 4pm one afternoon in Galilee that his own life changed forever.