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Gospel according to John 1: 29-42 (NIV)
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning round, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
John the Baptiser’s public ministry, in the tradition of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, excited the Jewish people. He summoned people, baptised with water, demanded repentance.
Consider what John proclaimed about Jesus at the time of his baptism:
- “Look, the Lamb of God.”
- “(He) takes away the sin of the world!”
- “(He) has surpassed me because he was before me.”
- “The reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
- “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.”
- “(YHWH told me) ’The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’”
- “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
- (and, again,) “Look, the Lamb of God!”
Every sentence is significant! In using the term “Lamb of God” for example, and in the next breath stating “who takes away the sin of the world” (verse 29), John could only have referenced the sacrificial Lamb. Could John have realised the import of what he said – that “God’s Chosen One” would himself become God’s sacrifice for the world’s sin? Or was John given these words to speak without the means of their fulfilment having been revealed to him?
By this time John had a huge following. Despite that, he directed the attention of everyone he encountered, even of his disciples, away from himself and towards Jesus.* He knew his own status must decrease. His mission was to “make straight the way for the Lord” (verse 23).
We, like John, must decrease. Our mission also is to direct people to Jesus!
* Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115: 1)