3 January 2013

John 1:29-34

"I came ... that he might be revealed to Israel." (v. 31)


In the preceding section of this chapter, John the Baptist was presented as one who had come, not just to baptize people in water, but also to prepare them for the coming of someone after him who would be greater than him. Here we learn in more detail what roles that greater person, Jesus, would fulfil.

Firstly, he would be "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (v. 29). In Jewish apocalyptic literature the image of a lamb was used for a triumphant messianic figure, and this may be how John the Baptist himself understood it, but the author probably also intended his readers to pick up an allusion to the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament (eg Exodus 12; Isaiah 53). The implication then would be that Jesus would deal with our sin by bearing it on the cross and thereby procuring our forgiveness. 

Secondly, he would be the one who 'baptizes with the Holy Spirit' (v. 33). Many Jews at that time were expecting the arrival of God's kingdom on earth, which would include the outpouring of God's Spirit on God's own people. People were being drenched with water in the river Jordan, but through Jesus, John says, they would be drenched with God's Spirit, giving them power to live holy lives, and be effective in service and witness to others - a prophecy which we now know was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and continues to be fulfilled today.

Thirdly, he would be "the Son of God" (v. 34). This phrase was used for many special figures in the Old Testament, including angels, the kings of Israel and the nation of Israel itself, but in Jesus' time it was commonly recognised as another messianic title, and this may have been John's meaning. In John's Gospel, however, the phrase takes on a deeper significance as one who stands in a uniquely deep and intimate relationship with the Father, such that he deserves the same honour as the Father himself (see John 5.22-24).

To Ponder

  • In what ways does this passage stretch your understanding of who Jesus was and what he came to do?
  • In what ways can you make Jesus known today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Ensor

Peter Ensor is a Methodist minister who teaches New Testament, biblical languages, and Early Church history at Cliff College, Derbyshire. He has also worked as a theological educator in Kenya, Cameroon and Ethiopia, and has served in three english circuits, latterly as superintendent of the Hazel Grove and Poynton Circuit in the Manchester District.