Between John the apostle and John the Baptizer, one can rapidly lose one’s way when referring to John in the Gospel of John! So today we’re talking about John the Baptizer in John 1.19-34 (got that? Proceed no further until you do!).
First, in an encounter with some priests and Levites, John tells them (and us) who he isn’t. John himself says that he is not Elijah [Ah, you say, but Jesus says that he was Elijah. An obvious mistake in the Bible…or by John…or by Jesus, right? No. Wrong, but that is a subject for another post, but thanks for bringing it up]. John also says that he is not the Christ, nor is he the Prophet (a reference back, we think, to Deut 18.15—The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen).
Then John tells us who he is, quoting directly from Isaiah: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” (Is. 40.3). John has a definite and clear understanding of his purpose in life: He will prepare the way for the Messiah.
The next day we get to see what that means for John. He introduces us to the Messiah himself and he says three things about the Messiah, so this is the Gospel according to John (the baptizer, not the one who actually wrote the Gospel of John, are you clear on that because I’d hate to confuse you).
- Thing One – Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And what a thing it is, that John tells us. All of the sudden, the whole system of sacrifices in the Old Testament is thrown into a new and different light. If Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, than all of that (all of that!) is pointing us forward to this. Oh how the writers of the New Testament were locked in to this fact about Christ (2 Cor 5.21; 1 Tim 2.6; 1 Pet 3.18; Heb 10.4).
- Thing Two – John (paraphrased): There is this guy who is coming after me that actually was before me and outranks me. Do you got that? [Actually, um…no, but I’m trying, John. I’m trying]. I think what John the Baptizer means here is that Christ was (i.e. existed) before him. Indeed, John (the Apostle not the Baptizer) uses the exact same word here as he does in 1.1: In the beginning was the word; and here he was before me. The connection is so obvious, that I, a former Marine noticed (so yeah….REALLY obvious!). So to sum up my convoluted explanation, John (the Baptizer) says that Christ existed before him, outranks him, and John’s great purpose is to reveal him to Israel.
- Thing Three – I saw the Spirit descend and remain on him. John says that the same being who sent him to baptize with water [an either super outlandish statement, or a true one] told him that the one whom he saw the spirit descend and remain on would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Voila! Jesus is that person.
Conclusion? Thankfully, John (the Baptizer) does not leave us in any suspense here. Based on Things One, Two, and Three, John says I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.
So simple. So clear. So direct. I think John the Baptizer would have made a good Marine. We can hardly miss his message, right? And that is his message. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God.