SCRIPTURE: John 1:29-42
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VERSES 19-51: THE CONTEXT
It seems unfortunate that this lesson ends at verse 42. The lectionary deals with verses 43-51 in Year B, but those verses include elements that appear to belong with verses 29-42. For instance, the last verses of this lesson tell of Andrew bringing his brother, Simon, to Jesus, while verses 43-46 tell of Philip bringing Nathanael to Jesus.
Also, verses 29-42 bestow a number of titles on Jesus, developing a strong Christology. John the Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God (vv. 29, 36); a man who was before me (v. 30); the one on whom the Holy Spirit remained (vs. 33); and the Son of God (v. 34). John's disciples call Jesus Rabbi (v. 38). Andrew calls him the Messiah (v. 41). Verses 43-51 continue to bestow titles. Nathanael calls Jesus Rabbi, Son of God, and King of Israel (v. 49). Jesus completes the Christology with his own declaration that he is the Son of Man (v. 51).
VERSES 29-34: BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD
29The next day, he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.' 31I didn't know him, but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel." 32John testified, saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him. 33I didn't recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water, he said to me, 'On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' 34I have seen, and have testified (Greek: memartureka –– from martureo) that this is the Son of God."
"The next day, he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him" (v. 29a). Once again we encounter the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. Even after John's death and Jesus' resurrection, John's reputation continues to draw disciples (Acts 18:25; 19:1-5). This Gospel goes to great lengths to establish and re-establish that Jesus is the greater and the Baptist is the lesser (see 1:8, 15, 20, 23, 26-27, 30-31, 34-37).
"Behold, the Lamb of God (ide ho amnos tou theou –– "Behold the Lamb of God") who takes away the sin of the world" (v. 29b). The phrase, Lamb of God, brings to mind the Paschal (Passover) lamb, whose blood saved Israelites from death and paved the way for their deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 12) –– and the lamb provided by God to Abraham for sacrifice in place of Isaac (Genesis 22:8-13) –– and the lamb from the Suffering Servant songs of Isaiah, which portrayed one who, by his sacrifice, will redeem his people (Isaiah 53:7). It is not necessary to choose one of these meanings. They merge in John's "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
"This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me'" (v. 30). John the Baptist is several months older than Jesus (Luke 1:36), but Jesus ranks ahead of him because he was before him. This is a veiled reference to Jesus' pre-existence, which the evangelist addresses in the Prologue (1:1-5).
"I didn't know him" (v.31a). John and Jesus are related (Luke 1:36) and have been acquainted from childhood, but only now does John recognize Jesus for who he really is.
"but for this reason I came baptizing in water: that he would be revealed to Israel" (v. 31b). John's role is to reveal to others what has been revealed to him. He began his ministry with an incomplete understanding of Jesus, and will be prevented by death from seeing the full scope of Jesus' ministry. Nevertheless, his ministry is crucial as he reveals Christ to Israel.
"John testified, saying, 'I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him'" (v. 32). This Gospel does not recount the details of Jesus' baptism, but tells only of John's seeing "the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven" (vs. 32).
"I didn't recognize him, but he who sent me to baptize in water, he said to me, 'On whomever you will see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizes in the Holy Spirit'" (v. 33). Seeing the Spirit and hearing the voice enable John to understand, finally, who Jesus is. This verse contrasts John, who baptizes only with water, with Jesus, who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
"I have seen, and have testified (memartureka –– from martureo, which means "testify" or "witness") that this is the Son of God" (v. 34). To serve as a true witness, one must have seen or experienced that of which he or she testifies. John can serve as a true witness, because he has seen the Spirit and has heard the voice.
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VERSES 35-42: WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAH
35Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), "where are you staying (Greek: meneis –– from meno)?" 39He said to them, "Come, and see." They came and saw where he was staying (Greek: menei –– from meno), and they stayed (Greek: emeinan –– from meno) with him that day. It was about the tenth hour. 40One of the two who heard John, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah!" (which is, being interpreted, Christ). 42He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is by interpretation, Peter).
"Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God'" (vv. 35-36). John continues his witness to Jesus. In this case, he witnesses to two of his own disciples, who respond by leaving John and following Jesus.
In the Synoptics, Jesus calls the disciples away from their fishing boats to follow him (Matt 4:18-22). In the Fourth Gospel, they come to Jesus as the result of John's witness rather than in response to Jesus' call. Instead of leaving their boats, they leave John.
"What are you looking for?" (v. 38). When Jesus asks this question, the two disciples respond by asking where he is staying. A rabbi would have a place used for teaching disciples, and their question could indicate a desire to go to that place for instruction. However, the word translated "staying" is the same meno that we encountered earlier (vs. 32) –– a word used often in this Gospel to describe relationships. Their question may be less about Jesus' lodging arrangements than with the substance of his being –– Who are you? –– Where do you stand? –– What are you about?
"Come and see" (v. 39a). This is their call to discipleship –– and Jesus' first words in this Gospel.
"It was about the tenth hour" (v. 39b). Literally, it was about the tenth hour. Measured from the beginning of the Jewish day at sunrise (approx. six a.m.), this would be four o'clock in the afternoon.
Andrew "first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah!' (which is, being interpreted, Christ). He brought him to Jesus" (vv. 41-42). Andrew has no grand vision. There is no record of him establishing a mission in a foreign land or preaching in synagogues. He goes only to his brother, but that outreach will have profound consequences.
"We have found the Messiah! (which is, being interpreted, Christ)" (v. 41). Note that, in the original, we find both Messias and Christos. "Messiah and Christ are the same word. Messiah is Hebrew and Christ is Greek; both mean anointed. In the ancient world..., kings were anointed" (Barclay, 72).
"Jesus looked at him, and said, 'You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas' (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (v. 42). This kind of name change has precedents in the Old Testament (see Genesis 17:5; 32:28).
Cephas is the Aramaic word for rock and Peter is the Greek word for rock. Jesus sees rock-like possibilities in Peter that will not be realized for quite some time.
"With the transfer of these disciples to the new teacher Jesus thus achieved, John the Baptist slips away" (Sloyan, 24). He has succeeded in his witness to Jesus. He will re-appear briefly in chapter 3 only to re-affirm that he must decrease while Jesus must increase (3:30).
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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