29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.
They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John — but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).
We might be tempted to read this as a quick shift of gears from the Prologue, the high, cosmic pronouncement giving way to the more earthy accounts, but we should resist that temptation and read today’s passage in continuity with what we have read for the past two days. The temptation comes from our experiences with Mark, Matthew, and Luke, but John the Evangelist presents John the Baptist to us in a very different way than the other three Gospels. Instead of describing the action of Jesus’ baptism, the Evangelist gives us all this information in the form of a testimony from the Baptist. We should read this together with the opening pronouncement of John’s Gospel because the Baptist’s declaration comes in that same mode. It carries the same cosmic weight as the prologue.
The Evangelist does this to put the humanity of Jesus on the same footing as the divinity of Jesus. Note the use of the present tense in v. 29 – Jesus is not the Lamb who will take away the sin of the world some time in the future. He is already taking away the sin of the world by virtue of his Incarnation. God has taken on flesh, has brought human life into the divine life. The Baptist declares both the humanity of Jesus and his divinity (v. 30: “he existed long before me”). Jesus is not just the Lamb of God, he is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.
This indicates that God’s plan for taking away the sin of the world was Jesus from the very beginning – from even before the Fall. The dispensationalist notion that God went through several trial redemption plans before settling on one that worked is proven false on these grounds – the plan was Jesus all along. This also confirms the move John made in yesterday’s reading in separating between Law on one side and grace and truth on the other side. Jesus was the plan long before the Law existed. Jesus didn’t take the place of the Law because the Law never displaced Jesus to begin with. Ordering our lives around the Law denies both the divinity of Jesus and his resurrection. This was the Ebionite heresy John was responding to and is disturbingly similar to the Calvinist preoccupation with law that persists in our own day. Jesus’ invitation is for us to come and see him – note the singularity and totality of these commands. Where do we come? To Jesus alone. What do we come to see? Jesus alone. Twice the Baptist tells us to “Look!” – to set aside all distractions (especially religious and religious-rule-based distractions) and focus on Jesus. I hope this is something we can do.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.