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Joy to the World the Lord has Come. John 1:19-37.
December 3, 2017

If you're the type of person who counts down the days until your local radio station starts playing nonstop Christmas music, you might want to brace yourself for some bad news. Apparently listening to Christmas music on loop could have some negative effects on your mental health, according to clinical psychologist Linda Blair. She also thinks Christmas songs can have a mentally draining effect on shoppers if they're played too early in the season. "Christmas music is likely to irritate people if it's played too loudly and too early," Blair added. "It might make us feel that we're trappedit's a reminder that we have to buy presents, cater for people, and organize celebrations. (

The whole issue about the arrival of Christmas music is related to the content or the music itself and character of the one listening to it. If the music is devoid of the mention of Christ and the person hearing it is hostile to Christ, then there will be resentment. Interestingly enough, the first arrival of Christ had the same effect. For those who were attentive to the prophesy of His coming and revered the messiah in their hearts, His coming was met with joyous celebration. For those who ignored the prophesy or saw Christ’s coming as an intrusion to their lives, His arrival was met with skepticism and hostility.


In John 1:19-37, the apostle John gives examples of John the Baptist’s witness, alluded to earlier (1:6–8, 15). The events recorded here took place at the peak of his ministry, subsequent to John’s baptism of Jesus. While the Lord was in the wilderness being tempted (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13), John the Baptist continued his ministry of preaching repentance and baptizing. On three successive days, to three different groups, he emphasized three truths about Jesus Christ.


In the account of Christ’s advent in John 1:19-37, we see a 1) Joyful Preparation (John 1:19-28), a 2) Joyful Arrival (John 1:29-34) and a resulting 3) Joyful Response (John 1:35-37). We will spend most of our time on the first, less on the second, and only briefly on the third.


In the account of Christ’s advent in John 1:19-37, we first see a

1)   Joyful Preparation (John 1:19-28)

John 1:19-28 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?20He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (ESV)


The opening phrase, this is the testimony of John, introduces all three accounts in verses 19–37. |The noun marturia (testimony) and the related verb martureō (“testify”) are favorite terms of John’s, appearing more than seventy-five times in his writings. John the Baptist was the first witness called by the apostle John to testify to the truth about Jesus Christ.

  • When someone asks you what your favorite Christmas carol is, what do you say? Is your response a general apathy or distain of carols, or do you have a specific one in mind? The best carols testify of Christ, and our answer to a favorite carol gives us a unique opportunity. Advent is a unique time of year to publicly answer questions that we may be asked with a testimony of Christ.


With John’s descriptions, the term Jews, while certainly appropriate for all the people of Israel, is in the majority of its uses in John’s gospel restricted especially to the religious authorities (particularly those in Jerusalem) who were hostile to Christ. In this verse the term Jews likely targets the Sanhedrin, the supreme governing body in Israel (under the ultimate authority of the Romans). John’s powerful preaching (including his scathing denunciation of the Jewish religious establishment; cf. Matt. 3:7–10) and widespread popularity prompted them to send a delegation to investigate him. That some were beginning to wonder if he might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15) further alarmed the Jewish authorities. They feared a popular uprising, which would have been brutally suppressed by the Romans (cf. John 11:47–50) and diminished their power. So this strange prophet not only unsettled the Jewish authorities religiously, but politically as well.

  • We live in an age where it is politically correct to water down public greetings like “Merry Christmaslest someone, somewhere be offended. We now have seasonal trees, with winter cards and holiday parties wishing each otherseasons greetings”.  When we wish someone a “Merry Christmas”, if they respond back with offense, ask why. It’s not a time to get hostile, but politely explain what that merriment, or joy of the coming of Christ is.


The delegation sent to investigate John was composed of priests and Levites, at least some of whom were Pharisees (cf. v. 24). The priests were the human intermediaries between God and the people, and officiated at the religious ceremonies (cf. Luke 1:8–9). They were also the theological authorities in Israel. When they were not serving in the temple for their two-week annual duty, they lived throughout the land as local experts on religion. The Levites assisted the priests in the temple rituals (cf. Num. 3:6–10; 18:2–4). Since the temple police force was made up of Levites (cf. 7:32; Luke 22:4; Acts 4:1; 5:24), they likely served as a security detachment to protect the priests in the delegation.


The first question posed to John, “Who are you?” reflects the Jewish leaders’ confusion regarding him (cf. their questions in vv. 21–22), since he did not fit into any of their messianic expectations. The question implied that John might consider himself the Messiah, as his emphatic (cf. his use of the emphatic pronoun egō) reply, “I am not the Christ”. While most consider “Christ” to be little more than a personal name for Jesus, but properly it is a title,the Christ,” means “the anointed” (as does “the Messiah”). Messiah had come, John insisted, but he disavowed any thought that he might be Him. (Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (p. 118). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)


In fact, the apostle John’s threefold declaration in verse 20 that he confessed and did not deny, but confessed emphasizes the vehemence of John the Baptist’s denial. Unlike some of his followers, he clearly understood his subordinate role as the forerunner of Christ (cf. 3:25–30). The forceful way this is presented is the Evangelist’s way of saying that even the Baptist’s denials that he was the Christ constituted part of his positive witness to (his confession of) the true Christ (Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 143). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)


If John were not the Messiah, was there a possibility that he might be another significant figure associated with the end times? Hence the delegation next asked him in verse 21, “Are you Elijah?” Based on the prophecy of Malachi (3:1 and 4:5), the Jews expected Elijah himself to return in bodily form just before Messiah returned to establish His earthly kingdom. Even today many Jewish people leave an empty seat at the table for Elijah when they celebrate their Passover Seder. John’s appearance was strikingly similar to Elijah’s; according to Mark 1:6,John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist,” while 2 Kings 1:8 describes Elijah as “a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.John’s call for repentance (Matt. 3:2) and warning of coming judgment (Matt. 3:10–12) would have further reminded his hearers of Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 18:18, 21; 21:17–24).


But to the question of whether he was Elijah John also replied, “I am not.” He was not Elijah, at least not in the literal sense that he knew his questioners meant; he was not Elijah returned to earth from heaven where he had gone in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). No man is what he is in his own eyes. He really is only as he is known to God. At a later time Jesus equated John the Baptist with the Elijah of Malachi’s prophecy (Matt. 17:10–13), but that does not carry with it the implication that John himself was aware of the true position.… Jesus confers on John his true significance. No man is what he himself thinks he is. He is only what Jesus knows him to be. (Leon Morris.The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979], 135–36)

  • Some will say that this time of year is a joyous one where people a free to celebrate it in their own fashion for their own reasons. But there is no Christmas without Christ, and the joy we can experience this Advent season only makes sense if the only true source of joy is the center of the celebrations.


The next query, in John 1:21: Are you the Prophet? came from the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15–18 about a prophet like him who would come and speak the word of God. There was no consensus in first-century Judaism about the precise identity of that Prophet (cf. John 6:14; 7:40). Some believed that he, like Elijah, would be a forerunner of the Messiah (possibly Jeremiah or one of the other prophets resurrected; cf. Matt. 16:14); others saw him as the Messiah Himself. The latter view is the correct one, since both Peter (Acts 3:22–23) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) applied Deuteronomy 18:15–18 to Jesus. Thus John denied being that prophet, answering simply, “No.”


Frustrated by John’s string of terse, negative replies and out of obvious options, the exasperated members of the delegation finally said to him, in verse 22, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us?” In light of John’s popularity (and thus his perceived threat to the authorities), they needed a positive answer from him to include in their report to those who sent them. Giving up trying to guess who he might be, they demanded, “What do you say about yourself?”


John’s reply in verse 23 was undoubtedly not what the delegation expected to hear. Rather than claiming to be someone important, he humbly referred to himself merely as a voice of one crying out in the wilderness. “The point of the quotation is that it gives no prominence to the preacher whatever. He is not an important person, like a prophet or the Messiah. He is no more than a voice (contrast the reference to Jesus as ‘the Word’). He is a voice, moreover, with but one thing to say.…Make straight the way of the Lord’ is a call to be ready, for the coming of the Messiah is near.” (Leon Morris. The Gospel According to John, 137) (cf. |Lk. 17:10, Eph. 3:8; cf. 1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:12–16).

  • As much as we are thinking of family gatherings or favorite things to do this time of year, Advent is to remind us that it’s ultimately not about us. When our efforts are to achieve our own personal joy, we will be met with disappointment. But when we seek to experience joy centered in Christ then He promises a joy that cannot be rivaled or removed.

Please turn to Isaiah 40 (p.599)


John’s response was more than a humble confession; it was an Old Testament prophecy. That text speaks of the coming glory of the kingdom of God and the necessary preparation for it. Understandably, since he is the herald of the king and His kingdom, all four gospels quote Isaiah 40:3 in connection with John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4). Only in John 1:23, however, does he actually quote the verse himself.

Isaiah 40:1-5 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (ESV)

  • With that quote John both answered the delegation’s question as to his identity and shifted the focus away from himself and onto Christ. His (and Isaiah’s) message, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” was a challenge both to the nation and to his questioners to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. The analogous imagery is of all barriers being leveled and impediments smoothed out in preparation for the visit of an ancient Eastern king. John and Isaiah likened the hearts of Messiah’s people to a desolate wilderness, through which a smooth, level road needed to be prepared for His coming. The task of witnessing to Jesus today is similar: clearing away obstacles that may keep people from coming to Jesus, the most glaring being their sin and need of repentance (Köstenberger, A. J. (2004). John (pp. 62–63). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)
  • Once again, John emphasized his humility and subordinate role. He was merely a laborer, preparing the road in advance of the King.
  • Advent is about preparation. Not so much of decorations and a to-do list, but of our hearts to receive Christ. Because so much activity and worry can crowd him out, we must intentionally prepare to make Him room.


At this point in verse 24, the apostle John said, Now they had been sent from the Pharisees, which further clarifies the specific intention of the phrase “the Jews” (v. 19). The Sadducees controlled the temple at this time and were the majority party in the Sanhedrin. But here we learn that the Pharisees had sent this delegation. Because the high priest and the chief priests were Sadducees, they would have been concerned about John, since he was from a priestly family. This statement, then, may indicate that the Pharisees prompted the confrontation and were included in the delegation. Not content to let the matter drop, they further questioned John about his authority to baptize—something Pharisees would have been far more concerned about than the more religiously liberal Sadducees.


The Pharisees’ question in verse 25, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?was a further challenge. Since by his own admission John was not one of those figures, what authority did he have to baptize? John insisted that personal and individual repentance and faith were necessary (Mt. 3:1–10; Mk. 1:2–5; Lk. 3:3–14) (Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 146). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.).

  • Some might challenge our ideas of Advent with:what right do you have to determine how we celebrate this season? The right is not in ourselves, but if we bear the name “Christians”, followers of Christ, then it means that Christ, by definition, is the one who defines this Christmas season.


John answered them in verse 26, by again directing their attention away from himself and onto Christ. Instead of defending his baptizing ministry, he merely acknowledged its limitations by saying, “I baptize in water.” His baptism is not an end in itself. Its purpose is to point people to Christ(v. 31) (Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (p. 124). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)


That is why he then shifted the discussion back to the One to whom he bore witness, declaring, “but among you stands One who you do not know.” The Old Testament spoke of spiritual cleansing in connection with Messiah’s coming (Ezek. 36:25, 33; 37:23; Zech. 13:1). The Jews therefore baptized proselytes, converts to Judaism, but John was baptizing Jews. That shocked the religious leaders, who viewed the Jews as already God’s kingdom people and not in need of baptism. But those who submitted to John’s baptism thereby acknowledged that their sin had placed them outside God’s saving covenant, and they were no better than Gentiles. John then baptized them as a public expression of their repentance (Matt. 3:6, 11), in preparation for Messiah’s coming. His baptizing was another feature of his witness to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who was already among the people, though they did not know Him and never would (1:10).


In verse 27, John the Baptist repeated the words attributed to him by the apostle John in the prologue. He identified the Messiah whom they did not recognize as He who comes after me because John the Baptist was born and began his ministry before Jesus. Then, in a stunning expression of humility, John reaffirmed the truth that Jesus had a higher rank than he did (1:15). John did not even consider himself worthy to perform that most menial and degrading taskone that Jewish teachers were forbidden to demand of their students. For untying the strap/thong of his master’s sandal was the task of the lowliest slave.

  • One of the most wonderful opportunities to celebrate during Advent is to invite someone who would not normally celebrate it, with you. When we celebrate Advent with the orphan, the homeless, or the destitute, we draw in those who may feel unworthy of celebration to realize that we are all unworthy. The only one worthy is Christ and we come at His invitation.


John identifies in verse 28, Bethany across/beyond the Jordan, as the location of this dialogue to solidify its historicity. Unfortunately, the exact geographical location of this region is unknown to us now. Since there was a village named Bethany on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem (Mark 11:1), some scribes mistakenly assumed that the text gives the wrong location for the place where John was baptizing. Therefore some manuscripts incorrectly substitute Bethabara for Bethany. To avoid any confusion, however, the apostle John added the designation across/beyond the Jordan to distinguish for the people who knew of both the Bethany where John was ministering from the one near Jerusalem. That there would be two cities of the same name in the same region is not unusual. It is perhaps best to assume that it probably was not a populated area and its location has thus not been preserved in the designations of any villages or sites known today (Borchert, G. L. (1996). John 1–11 (Vol. 25A, p. 133). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).


In verses 19-28, John’s joyful preparation for the Messiah was simple, yet urgent. He did what he did so people would prepare their hearts, because the Messiah is here. The prophecy of Isaiah six hundred years earlier that the way was to be prepared for Messiah’s coming was being fulfilled. And it would not be economic, military, or political. Our Advent preparation must not be social, economic or apathetic. We must all joyfully prepare our hearts for Christ.


Illustration:One evening the great conductor Arturo Toscanini conducted Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It was a brilliant performance, at the end of which the audience went absolutely wild! They clapped, whistled, and stamped their feet, absolutely caught up in the greatness of that performance. As Toscanini stood there, he bowed and bowed and bowed, then acknowledged his orchestra. When the ovation finally began to subside, Toscanini turned and looked intently at his musicians. He was almost out of control as he whispered, “Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” The orchestra leaned forward to listen. In a fiercely enunciated whisper Toscanini said,Gentlemen, I am nothing.” That was an extraordinary admission since Toscanini was blessed with an enormous ego. He added, “Gentlemen, you are nothing.” They had heard that same message before the rehearsal. “But Beethoven,” said Toscanini in a tone of adoration, “is everything, everything, everything!” This is the attitude we need toward ourselves and toward the Lord Jesus Christ. I am nothing, you are nothing, but he is everything! That was John’s attitude, and it is the attitude of every authentic messenger of Christ (Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe (pp. 44–45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.).


In the account of Christ’s advent in John 1:19-37, we see a

2)      Joyful Arrival(John 1:29-34)

John 1:29-3429 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 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.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (ESV)


The phrase the next day introduces a sequence of days, which continues in verses 35, 43, and 2:1. Apparently, the events from John’s interview with the delegation from Jerusalem (vv. 19–28) to the miracle at Cana (2:1–11) spanned one week. On the day after he spoke to the delegation, John saw Jesus coming toward him. Faithful to his duty as a herald, and defining a momentous redemptive moment, John immediately called the crowd’s attention to Him, exclaiming “Behold, the Lamb of God.” That title, used only in John’s writings (cf. v. 36; Rev. 5:6; 6:9; 7:10, 17; 14:4, 10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:9; 21:22–23; 22:1, 3), is the first in a string of titles given to Jesus in the remaining verses of this chapter; the rest include Rabbi (vv. 38, 49), Messiah (v. 41), Son of God (vv. 34, 49), King of Israel (v. 49), Son of Man (v. 51), and “Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wroteJesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (v. 45). That was not a guess on John’s part, but was revelation from God that was absolutely true, as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus proved.


Please turn to Isaiah 53 (p.613)


The concept of a sacrificial Lamb was a familiar one to the Jewish people. All through Israel’s history God had revealed clearly that sin and separation from Him could be removed only by blood sacrifices (cf. Lev. 17:11). No forgiveness of sin could be granted by God apart from an acceptable substitute dying as a sacrifice. They knew of Abraham’s confidence that God would provide a lamb to offer in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:7–8). A lamb was sacrificed at Passover (Ex. 12:1–36; Mark 14:12), in the daily sacrifices in the tabernacle and later in the temple (Ex. 29:38–42), and as a sin offering by individuals (Lev. 5:5–7). God also made it clear that none of those sacrifices were sufficient to take away sin (cf. Isa. 1:11). The core significance of this is the idea that Jesus is the sinless, self-sacrificing sin-bearer. Lambs are the quintessence of unblemished innocence and therefore the perfect symbol for substitutionary atonement.( Keddie, G. J. (2001). A Study Commentary on John: John 1–12 (Vol. 1, p. 77). Darlington, England; Auburn, MA: Evangelical Press.)


They were also aware that Isaiah’s prophecy likened Messiah

Isaiah 53:1-7Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (ESV)(Isa. 53:7; cf. Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19).

  • In this powerful summary of why Jesus came, we see the summary of His life and the reason why we needed Him. Though Israel sought a Messiah who would be a prophet, king, and conqueror, God had to send them a Lamb. And He did.


The title Lamb of God foreshadows Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the sin of the world. With this brief statement, the prophet John made it clear that the Messiah had come to deal with sin. The Old Testament is filled with the reality that the problem is sin and it is at the very heart of every person (Jer. 17:9).  Everyone, even those who received the revelation of God in Scripture (the Jews), are sinful and incapable of changing the future or the present, or of repaying God for the sins of the past (Rom. 3:11-12). This is the situation of everyone in the world. The reference here to world (kosmos) refers to humanity in general, to all people without distinction, transcending all national, racial, and ethnic boundaries. The use of the singular term sin with the collective noun world reveals that as sin is worldwide, so Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all people without distinction (cf. 1 John 2:2). But though His sacrificial death is sufficient for the sins of everyone (cf. 3:16; 4:42; 6:51; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 4:14), it is efficacious or efficientonly for those who savingly believe in Him (3:15–16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:40; 11:25–26; 20:31; Luke 8:12; Acts 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Rom. 1:16; 3:21–24; 4:3–5; 10:9–10; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:6–9, 22; Eph. 1:13; 1 John 5:1; 10–13). This verse does not teach universalism, the false doctrine that everyone will be saved. That such is not the case is obvious, since the Bible teaches that most people will suffer eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 14:9–11; 20:11–15; cf. Ezek. 18:4, 20; Matt. 7:13–14; Luke 13:23–24; John 8:24), and only a few will be saved (Matt. 7:13–14).


John for the third time, now in verse 30 (cf. vv. 15, 27) stresses his subordinate role to Jesus, the eternal Word who had become a Man, acknowledging, “This is He of whom/on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who ranks before me/has as a higher rank than I, because He was/existed before me.’ ” John was created. Jesus’ higher rank was infinite. He was the One who created everything (John 1:1–3), including John. Though John was actually born before Jesus, Jesus was/existed before John.

  • Whenever we are tempted to feel indispensable, remember John the Baptist. The fact that God uses us to do his work is no excuse for pride. God does not need us or have to keep us around. So we should make the most of the time we have. John demonstrated true humility, the basis for greatness in preaching, teaching, or any other work we do for Christ. Accepting what God wants us to do and giving Jesus Christ the honor for it most effectively enables God to work freely through us.(Barton, B. B. (1993). John (p. 19). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.).


Though John was a relative of Jesus’ (probably His cousin), since their mothers were related (Luke 1:36), according to verse 31, he still did not know/recognize Him as the Messiah until he baptized Him, so that He might be revealed/manifested to Israel. For that most significant of all John’s baptisms, he declared, “I came baptizing in water,” though he was reluctant to baptize Jesus (Matt. 3:14), because the purpose of John’s baptism was twofold: (1) to prepare the people; and (2) to reveal the Messiah (Utley, R. J. (1999). The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John (Vol. Volume 4, p. 18). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.).


It was at Jesus’ baptism that God, who sent John to baptize in water, fully revealed Jesus as the Messiah through a prearranged sign. We see in verse 32, that John bore witness/testified saying, “I saw/have seen the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it/He remained on Him” being Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). Why a dove? The dove was one of the clean animals that you could sacrifice if you were too poor to afford a lamb (Leviticus 5:7). So it stood for purity and lowliness or humility. …The Holy Spirit is holy! The Holy Spirit is pure. And the Holy Spirit, we will see in a few minutes, is the most self-effacing (that is, lowly or humble) person of the Trinity. ( Piper, J. (2014). Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.)


That sign was supernatural proof of Jesus’ messiahship, because God had told John as he admits in verse 33 “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.”Like Peter (Matt. 16:17), John understood who Jesus truly was only through divine revelation. That Jesus is far greater than John is reinforced in that Jesus baptizes with/in the Holy Spirit. That Jesus would baptize his people in the Holy Spirit is therefore simultaneously an attestation of who he is, and an announcement that the promised age is dawning (Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 152). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.).


In verse 34, for the sixth time in his gospel (cf. 1:7, 8, 15, 19, 32), John the apostle refers to John the Baptist’s witness to Christ, recording his affirmation, “I have seen, and have born witness/testified that this is the Son of God.” These are both PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE which implies past action brought to completion and then continuing(Utley, R. J. (1999). The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John (Vol. Volume 4, p. 18). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.). Witness, or testifying, is thematic in this gospel. John’s testimony in verse 34 is a fitting conclusion to this section, as the narrative makes the transition from him to Jesus. Although believers are in a limited sense, children of God (Matt. 5:9; Rom. 8:14, 19; Gal. 3:26; cf. John 1:12; 11:52; Rom. 8:16, 21; 9:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 John 3:1–2, 10), Jesus is uniquely the Son of God in that He alone shares the same nature as the Father (1:1; 5:16–30; 10:30–33; 14:9; 17:11; 1 John 5:20).

  • What great purpose for us to remember this Advent season as we worship and celebrate the coming of Christ to witness/testify to His majesty. |Our universal problem of sin necessitated the Father sending the lamb of God. The forgiveness of sin through faith in His Son is the true joy of the season and the eternal joy that will never fail.


Illustration:There is no sin too heinous, no wickedness too terrible, no habitual failure too often repeated, that it cannot be ‘taken away’ by Christ, our heavenly Lamb. As Isaac Watts said it:Not all the blood of beasts On Jewish altars slain, Could give the guilty conscience peace Or wash away its stain. But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, Takes all our sins away; A sacrifice of nobler Name, And richer blood, than they. Believing, we rejoice To see the curse remove; We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice, And sing His wondrous love”. (Isaac Watts, as recorded in Milne, B. (1993). The message of John: here is your king!: with study guide (p. 54). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)


Finally, and only briefly, in the account of Christ’s advent in John 1:19-37, we see a resulting:

3) Joyful Response (John 1:35-37).

John 1:35–3735 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (ESV)

The phrase the next day continues the sequence of days in connection with verse 29. This is now the third day in the sequence, the second one after John’s encounter with the investigative delegation from Jerusalem. This third group is the smallest one, consisting only of two of John’s disciples (Andrew [v. 40], and John [who never names himself in his gospel]).


John looked at Jesus as He walked nearby in verse 36 and repeated to his disciples what he had proclaimed to the crowds on the previous day, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”


Finally, having heard their teacher speak again those powerful words, the two disciples followed Jesus in verse 37. John’s willingness to unhesitatingly hand them over to Him is further evidence of his self-effacing humility and complete acceptance of his subordinate role. That the two disciples followed Jesus does not imply that they became His permanent disciples at this time. It is true that akoloutheō (followed) is used in John’s gospel to mean “to follow as a disciple” (e.g., 8:12; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19; cf. Matt. 4:20, 22; 9:9). But it can also be used in a general sense (e.g., 6:2; 11:31; 18:15; 20:6; 21:20). Andrew and John here received their first exposure to Jesus. Later, they became His permanent disciples (Matt. 4:18–22). John’s third emphasis follows logically from his first two. Since the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, is here, the only proper response is to follow Him.

  • Not everyone who celebrates Advent and everything involved with Christmas, celebrates Christ. Advent is not only a time to follow Christ ourselves but also a time of prayer and preparation that others would follow Him as well.


Please turn to John 3 (p.888)


Having served his purpose as a witness to the true identity of Jesus, John the Baptist now faded from the scene(apart from a brief mention in 3:23ff.). The rest of the gospel focuses on the ministry of Jesus, something the Baptist himself would have approved of. As John the Baptist said to some of his disciples who were jealous for his reputation:

John 3:27–3027 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” (ESV)

  • Our purpose is to not get people to follow us, but, like John, have them follow Christ.
  • Our joy is tied to that following. May this season of Advent be one of anticipation and joy in the realization of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.


(Format note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 48–58). Chicago: Moody Press.)


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