“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34).
We have thus far seen what John the Baptist testified regarding himself. But what did he testify to people regarding the Lord Jesus Christ?
John 1:29 says, ““The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The phrase “lamb of God” (ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, ho amnos tou theou) appears only twice in the New Testament, both occurring in the Gospel of John (John 1:29, 36). In each case, John the Baptist speaks the phrase when he sees Jesus coming toward him. The title, Lamb of God, refers to Jesus being the ultimate Passover Lamb (Exodus 12), the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, the “lamb” sacrificed daily in the temple (Leviticus 1:4; Exodus 29:38–46) and the fulfillment regarding the “lamb” Abraham offered in place of Isaac (Genesis 22).
While John the Baptist’s use of the word lamb as a sacrifice was very familiar to the Jews and could include all the previously mentioned meanings (see yesterday’s blog), John also used this expression as a reference to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to atone for the sins of the fallen world. This theme of sacrifice and substitutionary atonement the Apostle John carries throughout his writings (John 19:36; Revelation 5:1-6; 6:16; 7:9, 10, 14, 17; 12:11; 13:8; 14:1, 4; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7; 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3.) as do the other New Testament writers.
What else did John the Baptist say about Jesus in this context? After declaring that Jesus is the Lamb of God, John the Baptist continues by saying that Jesus is also the eternal Son of God.
First, John declares that Jesus existed before him. Humanly, we understand that John the Baptist, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, was conceived and presumably born six months before Jesus (Luke 1:11-33; vs. 26). However, John understands that the One to whom he has declared the Lamb of God ranks before him because He existed before him. The word “ranks” (γίνομαι; ginomai) means to exist or to be. John testifies to the eternal existence of Jesus Christ.
Second, John reveals that this One who existed before Him, God the Father would identify by a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It seems that John did not realize that his cousin Jesus Christ would indeed be the prophesied Lamb of God. However, God the Father revealed to John, and he therefore testified, that “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “God had previously communicated to John that this sign was to indicate the promised Messiah (v. 33), so when John witnessed this act, he was able to identify the Messiah as Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22).”
This would ultimately lead John to declare that not only was Jesus the Lamb of God but also that He was, and is, the eternal Son of God. Dr. MacArthur continues by explaining, “Although, in a limited sense, believers can be called “sons of God” (e.g., Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14), John uses this phrase with the full force as a title that points to the unique oneness and intimacy that Jesus sustains to the Father as “Son.” The term carries the idea of the deity of Jesus as Messiah (John 1:49; 5:16–30; cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; see notes on Heb. 1:1–9).”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “This is John’s way of reporting the heavenly voice that accompanied the heaven-sent Spirit. ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).’ While ‘Son of God’ was used variously by ancient Jews (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:1-7) and Gentiles (Mark 15:39), the Baptist’s witness, that of the last of the prophets of the old order (Matthew 11:11-14) is clear. Jesus is the Son of God, the ‘only begotten Son from the Father (vs. 14). The purpose of the fourth gospel is to draw readers to this conviction (20:31).”
Again, we must always acknowledge that the Bible openly declares that Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us. He is God in human form. He is to be worshiped, trusted, and honored as God. Are we testifying this truth to others? May we do so today!
Soli deo Gloria!