“God’s Chosen One”

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Sunday school
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On Mondays I present abbreviated versions of the Sunday school lessons I teach at my home church. We are studying the Gospel of John, with the focus of seeing Jesus as the Apostle wishes: the holy Son of God; the Messiah prophesied by all of the Old Testament; the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. Once we see Him, we will have to believe, and thus be saved.  Scripture references are NIV unless otherwise noted.

John the Baptist, Day Two (1:29-34) – Continuing from the previous “day”, John the Baptist gives us a unique first-person account of Jesus’ baptism, revealing along the way his commission, the promise he receives from God, and its fulfillment.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I meant when I said, ‘A Man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.”

(v. 29-31) – This second “day” begins with John the Baptist, presumably out walking with his disciples, encountering Jesus. John immediately calls attention to Jesus with the startling description, “the Lamb of God, who takes away sin…”. Any reference to “lamb” and “sin” in the same breath to a Jewish audience would naturally invoke images of the Passover, the final plague against Pharaoh that caused him to release Moses and the Hebrews from slavery, and began the Exodus to the Promised Land.  However, it is important to note that, in Levitical law, lambs were a required element of two other significant types of sacrificial offerings: the peace offering, made as a sign of desiring restoration of communion with God; and the Standing, or Daily sin offerings, made in perpetual acknowledgement of the sins of the Covenant people. By identifying Jesus as the Lamb, the Baptist declares Jesus’ ultimate destiny: to die and shed His blood, both to permanently restore the broken communion between God and man, and to become the new Standing Atonement for the sins of all men, which then qualifies them for membership in the New Covenant.

John’s next clarifies something he has said previously, apparently more than once: a Man, the one about whom he is preaching, is going to come after him (John has already identified that he is coming before the Messiah, “making straight the way”); Though John has preceded in time, this Man Jesus is preeminent because He has preceded in eternity. This echoes the apostle’s words in verses 1-2, where he posits Jesus, as the Logos, to have existed “in the beginning”. The Baptist continues, stating that, while he had no previous knowledge of the identity of the Messiah, he did know that He was coming…making Him known is John’s entire purpose in his ministry of baptism.

 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. And I myself did not know Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The Man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

(v. 32-34) – John now recounts the actual baptism of Jesus, describing the same apparition reported in the Synoptic Gospels: the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove, resting and remaining upon Jesus. This is a crucial detail; many times in the OT we see the “Spirit of God” coming upon a person (usually a prophet) to empower and authenticate, but it is always a temporary state. The Spirit only remains (dwells among us) when He inhabits the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later the Holy of Holies within the Temple; but eventually the people become so turned away from God that His Spirit vacates the Temple.  This begins the period of waiting for the return of the Lord, still going on until the the birth of Jesus. During this wait, the Jews experienced a 400-year hiatus in direct revelation, the so-called Intertestamental Period, broken by John the Baptist, who is actually the last of the OT prophets. The image of the Spirit residing in Jesus complements His statements (seen later in John) referring to His body as the Temple. The Baptist also shares with us the promise given to him by God at the time of his commissioning: that he would see be allowed to see and know the Messiah when He came – He would be known by this Sign. Having heard this word from God, and then having seen this word fulfilled, John is absolutely confident in using the words of Isaiah 42:1 to point to Jesus:

“Here is My servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations.”

Next week we will continue in Chapter One, verses 35-42, and see Jesus calling His first disciples, the prelude to beginning His public ministry.

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