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John 1:29-34, NIV
29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
32Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
September 30, 2010
The synoptic Gospels--Matthew, Mark and Luke--repeatedly tell us that people were amazed as they listened to Jesus speak and when they witnessed one of his jaw-dropping miracles. From the birth stories and throughout his ministry, people watched in astonishment.
The Gospel writer John sets a different tone. He wants us to be in awe and behold Jesus with the utmost reverence and honor that belongs only to God! Even before we meet the man Jesus in John's Gospel, Jesus is the Word who was always with God and always was God, the Life-Light of all creation, the Word that became flesh. This mystery is so profound that mere human words cannot grasp this new reality. So John used other images that will lead us into the truth.
The Lamb of God concept is based on the Old Testament ritual of using animal sacrifices as sin offerings. Tradition taught that life was in the blood and the shedding of blood gained forgiveness which restored the offender. The sacrifice of Jesus' blood on the cross parallels the ancient atonement traditions.
Throughout the synoptic Gospels, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man. John the Baptist cut straight to the heart of the matter and said he is the Son of God. The one who had sent John to baptize, revealed all this. His journey from not knowing to knowing was not an intellectual process, but a sudden spiritual insight, the interaction of revelation and faith. His eyes were opened when he saw the dove!
More journal entries
September 8, 2010
In keeping with the manner in which the Baptist spoke, I will add that the Lamb of God was also the True Shepherd of Israel!
The Lamb of God. The Son of God. This is the beginning of John's Gospel. Not the ending. And already we read these extraordinary pronouncements. The task of the Gospel writer is to explain the unexplainable.
September 10, 2010
The problem with the world according to the Baptist was sin. The solution was Jesus, the Lamb of God, who would take the sin away, literally wipe it out and clean us up. The Lamb of God image must sound very odd to anyone not familiar with the ancient Hebrew scriptures. Sin meant death, but Moses taught that life is in the blood. Hence the need for a sacrificial animal, one without spot or blemish.
March 20, 1982
"The next day . . . ." God's blessings need to be spaced out so we can handle them.
Jesus was coming toward John, who knew and was certain--Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away sin. Was this a reference to Jesus' death and the inevitability of his mission? How did John know this? Jesus, the sacrifice, taking upon himself the sin of us all, because he loved God and wanted us to love God too.
I have not known him, yet I came to make him known! Maybe John meant there was so much he didn't know which is a sign he knew more than most people. Did John question, " Who am I to say I 'know' the Messiah?
John baptized in order to make Christ known, yet at the time John was baptizing, Jesus was still obscure. How could his listeners understand this? Which reminds me that the spiritual journey of one person often doesn't make sense to another.
Sometimes things can not be understood because they are so simple, or because they seem contrary to one's previously held beliefs. Belief usually comes first, then understanding. Just like we decide to love someone and then we get to know them.
On the other hand, much of what John said was very clear and anyone wanting to understand could have. That's true in anyone's experience who wants to share their faith--some things are generally clear and understandable while other things remain clear only to those who already know what you are talking about. So if someone doesn't understand it is because they have no background experience or foundation to put it on. In that case a person needs to find common ground on which to communicate. It's good being human is so common!
September 9, 2010
1:31 "I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel"
Did John baptize because the whole milieu surrounding his ministry created a revival atmosphere which prepared people to believe and accept the Word sent from God? In that sense, baptism was a call to prayer and worship which opened minds and hearts, and above all, inspired a desire to change, to turn away from all that distracted and face toward their loving heavenly Father.
Or did John baptize to create a platform onto which Jesus would step and John could point to him and say, "This is the one!"? Is identifying someone the same as revealing them? The person doing the revealing must be well-known and highly respected. Otherwise no one would believe them.
The Baptist had studied the ancient Scriptures and believed that God had not forgotten his people, but was still working to bring about a new order where evil would be subdued and goodness prevail. He believed his own individual purpose in life was to identify and reveal the one who was coming to save the world.
We could debate whether John did in fact "know" Jesus, and whether he means in this text that he did not know the full extent of who Jesus was and what role Jesus would fulfill until he baptized him. Luke 1:36-56 tells us the mothers of Jesus and John were related, were pregnant with sons at the same time, and Mary visited Elizabeth for three months before Elizabeth gave birth to John.
March 23, 1982
On one hand John declares a lack of knowledge concerning Jesus. On the other hand, he boldly proclaims Jesus to be the Lamb of God. His "not knowing" was remedied by the sign of the dove. Did John mean he saw the Spirit descend in the form and shape of a dove, or did he mean he saw the Spirit descend like a dove from heaven, moving like a dove without actually being a bird? John recognized the Spirit and that's what is important. For me the evidence that the Spirit is present is what happens to the people involved. But I don't know how to clarify that statement. I haven't had that many experiences with the Spirit yet.
March 24, 1982John recognized God's voice. In this instance, very strongly, very confidently. John knew about the baptism of the Holy Spirit even though he only baptized with water. Baptism by water is something the clergy can give. Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift given at God's discretion.
Father, baptize me today with as much of your Spirit as you see fit. One of the beautiful things about sensing your presence is knowing that you know I am alive, you love and care for me, and want me to live my life loving you.
October 29, 2010There are stories behind our thoughts and actions. Everyone's life is full of stories. So is the question, "Who are you!!!" We are different things to different people.
To his questioners, John had answered, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness . . . ." He could also have replied, I am the one who baptizes with water while I await the One who will baptize me with the Holy Spirit.
The stories of John the Baptist are told in the Gospels beginning in thelst chapter of Luke, where we are told his mother was filled with the Holy Spirit during her pregnancy. The Spirit caused her to speak loudly with words of faith and blessing. At the same time his father was literally dumbfounded until the day John passed from the womb into the enabling hands of the midwife. Then Zechariah had plenty to say, mostly about the Lord's hand being upon this new baby.
John's parents were ancient, way past the years of child-bearing. So I wonder whether the wilderness became his father and mother. From Matthew and Mark we learn that John lived off the land, eating locusts and wild honey, and that he sewed his own clothing from animal skins. He wouldhave had to be quick, patient and accurate to do those things.
As it turned out, Elizabeth and Zechariah were right. God did have big plans for John. Whether he accepted his noble mission in life from his childhood, or got the call while nestled in the harsh beauty of nature during his young adult years, we do not know. But before he was 30 years old, he had established a wildly popular preaching ministry way out in the countryside that required people to walk many miles to get a glimpse of him.
His message was clear: Repent! Turn; give God your face not your back! God is coming; prepare a way for him to travel. When questioned, John was equally clear--he was not the long-awaited Messiah. But John knew who was and pointed to Jesus and the signs of the dove descending and the baptism of God's Holy Spirit.Scripture never tells us that Jesus baptized John with the Holy Spirit. Which could have been one of his greatest disappointments in life. John spent his final days/months/years in Herod's prison for speaking a truth which Herod
didn't want to hear. Prison life did not sustain him like the wilderness had, and so in his last days he became disillusioned and began to wonder whether he had been correct about Jesus.
John's imprisonment probably involved physical suffering, and he reacted as I do. Full and happy in the Lord when physically capable of performing the role God has for him. Empty and plagued by doubts when restricted by pain and confinement.
I picture John as a great man who wanted to believe, but when life took a detour through the valley of senseless brutality, he was no longer so confident as he used to be. Had he lived his life in vain? Or could his misery and loss of life be redeemed?
Faith is believing in the dark what you experienced in the light. We can hope John learned in the dark days of his imprisonment to believe in the validity of what he had experienced in that bright hour along the Jordan River when he had seen Jesus walking toward him.
All four Gospel writers agree. John the Baptist was the greatest. His life story was a beautiful gift to mankind. John, the voice in the wilderness, the fiery preacher who recognized Jesus as the One sent from God to save us all from the perils of sin.