“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” John 1:19-37
In this passage, John is asked “Who are you?” and “Why do you baptize?” But as the witness of Jesus, John redirects the attention to Jesus. Who are you, Jesus? “The Lamb of God.” What do you do, Jesus? “I take away the sins of the world.” As he does this, John fulfills his role as a witness of Jesus and also gives us an example to follow in our own witnessing.
Who Are You? (vs. 19-22)
The Jewish leaders send a delegation of priests and Levites on a recon mission to John, “Who are you?” John gives testimony of who he is not. “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ’” (vs. 20). This becomes one of the questions that shape the rest of the book, “Are you the Christ?” is the right question, but directed at the wrong person. And so begins the speed version of 20 questions, “What then? Are you Elijah?” “No, try again.” “Are you the Prophet?” “Wrong again.” The delegation is not simply picking random biblical gurus from the Old Testament, “So, are you Nebuchadnezzar?” But they’re probing for information about the Christ (Duet. 18:18, Malachi 4:5). Since they get nowhere with their questions, they hand over the mic to John, “Who do you say you are?”
A Voice of Preparing for Yahweh (vs. 23-28)
John responds by quoting Isaiah 40:3, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the LORD.’” John answers, not with a who, but with a what––a voice. He is preparing the way for the LORD. In the Isaiah passage, “Lord” has all capital letters which signifies that this is the proper name of Yahweh. John emphasizes that the one he is preparing the way for is Yahweh, the covenant God of the Old Testament. Now John is about to use his voice in the wilderness and witness about Yahweh.
Behold, The Lamb of God (vs. 29-31)
The story picks up the next day when John sees Jesus coming toward him and he lifts up his voice, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The associations we have with the word “lamb” are different than what a Jew in the first century would have. Lambs in the Knight home are something soft and snuggly and part of the animal collection you sleep with at night. But for these people, lambs are used for meat or for sacrifice. They’re not meant for snuggling but for the slaughter.
Sin always leads to death. This has how it’s been since Adam and Eve were created––“For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But God in his mercy established a substitute system of death to remove sin. Instead of the sinner dying, an animal, like a lamb, could stand in his place (Lev. 4:32, 35). God accepts the lamb’s death as a substitute for the sinner’s death. But the blood of animals could not really take away sin, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin” (Heb. 10:4). at whole system was pointing forward to what would happen someday in a final sacrifice for sin. And now John points at a man and says, “Behold the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This Lamb is without spot or blemish (1 Pet. 1:18-19). How could Jesus be without sin? Every person born in the ordinary way inherited Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12). And sinners can’t take away the sins of sinners. This is why John states that Jesus is no ordinary man. “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me’” (vs. 30). The one who takes away the sins of the world must be more than man––the Son of God who became a man. And now John tells us why the Word became flesh, “to take away the sins of the world.”
The Sacrifice of God is the Son of God (vs. 32-34)
In verses 32-34, John relates to us how he came to know Jesus as the Son of God. “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him” (vs. 32). John points to the well known baptism of Jesus. After John baptizes Jesus, the heavens open up and Spirit comes like a dove and a voice thunders, “ is is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” John says that his testimony is not his own decision or discovery. is is what God the Father said. is is what God the Spirit did. “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” (vs. 33-34).
We should remember the glorious truth that we too can become children of God (vs. 12). And now John has told us how we can become children of God. Sinners become children of God because the Son of God became the the Lamb of God. is is the witness of John.