Following John’s rich theological prologue to his Gospel, in the remainder of chapter 1 and in chapter 2, John the Apostle describes the first couple weeks of Jesus’ public ministry. Here is what happened the day before Jesus appears on the scene, and the first two days thereafter.
In verses 19-28, a delegation of religious leaders descend the eight-hour hike from Jerusalem down to the Jordan River with two questions for John: Who are you? And why are you baptizing?
John doesn’t really answer their questions. In short, he says, “Me? No, I’m not the Christ. I’m nobody. I’m just a voice. Just a voice in the middle of nowhere… calling out to prepare the way for the Lord.” And, “Pay no mind to me. I’m just baptizing with water… but there is someone coming after me who should get your attention.”
But the religious leaders don’t pick up on John’s hints about the Messiah, and are in a hurry to report back to Jerusalem. They were just on an errand for someone else, and not really personally seeking truth.
John’s message to them was: The Christ is near! But you don’t know him!
In verse 29, Christ shows up, returning from his temptation in the desert, and John recalls how (just over 40 days prior) the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism. [The actual event of Christ’s baptism is recorded in the other three Gospels. In John, what is recorded is the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus and his baptism.]
The religious authorities who came to ask John if he was the Christ have missed the Christ by a day. The people present are Jews, contrite over their sin. John has been “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin” (Mark 1:4). The baptism of John was similar to a ritual normally practiced by Gentiles wishing to be inducted into Judaism. Small wonder then, that the religious authorities took issue with John baptizing Jews; were temple sacrifices not cutting it?
“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)
To the broken and contrite from Jerusalem, Judea and the region of the Jordan, John proclaims: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” And “I myself have seen and testify that this is the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
The day before, the prideful from Jerusalem inquired after John’s identity and his authority to baptize with water, but got no answer. This day, John preaches to the broken and contrite the identity of Jesus and his authority to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
John’s message those broken over their sin is: The Christ is here! Look to him!
The next day (v. 35), John is with two of his disciples, and Christ again appears, walking by. John repeats to them what he had shouted to the crowd the day before: “Behold the Lamb of God!” They get the hint. In effect, they graduate from John’s school of discipleship. They leave John, and follow after Jesus. Class dismissed.
John’s message to his disciples was: There’s the Christ! Go follow him!
How about you? Are you one of these three kinds of persons?
- Are you religious, but but not truly seeking the truth? Have you so far missed Jesus Christ and the salvation that is only found in Him?
- Are you broken over your sin, and looking for your salvation?
- Or have you become a disciple, and believed the testimony of John the Baptist: “This is the Christ the Son of God!”
John the Baptist’s message would be the same:
- The Christ is near. But you don’t know Him!
- The Christ is here. Look to Him!
- There is Christ. Follow Him!
Finally, John the Apostle’s purpose in writing his Gospel is evangelistic. “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
If you’re a Christian, when was the last time you evangelized someone?
If you’re not sure where to start, why not read together with someone John 1:1-37 and borrow this outline from John the Baptist:
- The Christ is near, but you don’t know him!
- Here is the Christ, look to him!
- There he is, follow Christ!
Sunday, February 15, I preached this message in Portuguese at Igreja Cristã Evangélica—Setor Oeste in Goiânia. [53 minutes]