The following day, [John the Baptist] sees Jesus is coming toward him and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God the One who takes up and takes away the sin of the world. This is concerning the One I spoke of,
“‘After me is coming a man who has come before me, who is preeminent before me, (first in eternity).’
“Even I had not perceived him, but rather so that he would be made apparent to Israel through this [picture John gesturing around him, and then to the Jordan], I myself came baptizing in water.”John 1:29-31
Apparently, his contretemps with the Jerusalem delegation had hardly registered, for John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing, just like usual, the very next day. But something, call it the Holy Spirit, drew his attention up and out, and there he was, Jesus, the Lamb of God, walking right towards him.
Remember how John had answered the delegation’s fifth question? The baptizing John was doing was part of God’s plan to reveal Messiah.
And John testified, saying that he had carefully and deliberately observed the Spirit coming down just like a dove out of heaven and remain on [Jesus].
“Even I had not perceived him, but rather the One who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘on whomever you see the Spirit coming down and remaining upon, that is him who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’”John 1:32-33
We know from the other gospels this event had actually taken place about six weeks before. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, Jesus had gone into the desert for a forty-day ordeal of testing.
John the Baptist -had- known Jesus as a person. The Baptist was Jesus’ cousin of some ilk since Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Elizabeth, John’s mother, were kinswomen. When Mary first went to visit Elizabeth, thirty years previously, Luke wrote that John, already filled with the Holy Spirit, leaped inside Elizabeth because of Jesus being carried inside Mary. In fact, John, the writer of this gospel, may also have been Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s cousin since tradition has it that his mother Salome was Mary’s sister.
So they were all family.
But look back to John 1:11 “He came to those who were personally His own (as in his kinspeople, those of his culture and people group), and those personally His own did not receive him.” Even Jesus’ own brothers did not know who He was as they grew up with Him
Early in his life, it seems, John had gone to live in the wilderness, and only reappeared a little while before Jesus’ ministry was to begin. They had both grown up during that time and become men.
When Jesus came up to John the Baptist to be baptized in the river Jordan, the gospels record John protesting, saying Jesus was really the one who should baptize him. Even before God revealed to the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus had from infancy grown every day in wisdom and he had the grace of God upon him. In fact, Jesus grew in everybody’s esteem and good opinion. He found favor with God and with people. John the Baptist had never known Jesus to ever do a wrong thing, growing up together. That is why he told Jesus, no you should be baptizing me, because I know I am a sinner, but I have never known you to sin.
What the Baptist was about to find out, as he reluctantly lowered Jesus into the Jordan’s flowing, living water, then lifted Jesus back up anew, was that Jesus was not only perfect, but
Even I perceived and I have testified that this is the Son of God.John 1:34
When he baptized Jesus and saw the Holy Spirit come down and rest above Jesus and heard the Father say, “This is My Son in Whom I am well pleased,” that was the sign God had given to the Baptist. But he could not announce Jesus to the world until after Jesus had returned from the desert—this moment recorded in John 1:29-34
Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world and baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
John declared Who Jesus is in two ways:
- Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away sin.
This relates back to Adam and Eve when God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or they would die. Adam and Eve did eat the fruit of that tree, introducing sin and death into the world, something all people have had to live with up to today.
But God, in mercy, had already prepared a way out. God provided a way for people to experience and understand the Lord’s forgiveness. People would not be able to earn it. Forgiveness could only—and would only—come through God’s own love and mercy.
The way God provided would illustrate the awfulness of sin. In that ancient story of Adam and Eve, God slaughtered a creature and used its hide to cover the naked man and woman.
Later, the story continued, Adam and Eve would make animal sacrifices before God, and the ancient reader understood this was as it had to be, for it explained why Israel was given the book of Leviticus, explaining in exquisite, if also repugnant, detail all the many sins that would need cleansing by blood, and how that blood was to be shed.
Time and again, down through the thousands of years that existed between that first dreadful killing, and the killing that came again, and again, and again, by the hundred thousand, by the million, sin’s horror was put on display.
The wrenching stench of death; the cacophony of terrified bleating from the heretofore well-cared for and trusting sheep or goat, or even fatted calf; the utter wastefulness of it, the stomach-churning disgust of it, all peeled back the skin of ugly sin, its corruption and abhorrence.
And the innocence of the creature, its perfection without any blemish or flaw, the sweetness of its innocence, all pointed to the Lord Who would one day absorb and neutralize both the totality of human sin and all its pollution.
- John also said Jesus was the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
The word baptism comes from the Greek word “baptizo,” a word rich with meaning.
- Wash ceremonially for the purpose of purification.
- Plunge, or immerse.
- Soak, for example in wine.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an immersion in the Spirit, a total saturation in God Who washes away all that is impure and a soaking that changes from mortal to immortal. A new life is created within by the Holy Spirit, and that new life is eternal.
Being baptized with water is a visible way of illustrating this profound and powerful spiritual thing that has happened, God creating new life within.
[Lamb of God | Francisco de Zurbarán / Public domain]