we, ourselves.

A study on what we know about, see in, and testify about Jesus (ala. John 1.29–42)

intoduction

If someone was to introduce you to me, what would you hope they would say?

I’m sure you’d hope that they would say that they know you as a kind and gracious person. That they see you to be a good, Christian woman or man. And that when they talk about you with others, it is exactly what they would say to your face, not behind your back.

In the Gospel of John, even though he barely knew him, John introduced Jesus to his own disciples — what he knew, what he saw, and what he willingly testified. And later in the same chapter, Andrew would do the same to his brother, Simon Peter.

Thus, if we want to introduce people to Jesus, what does Scripture teach us about what we know about and see him to be?

he is the “lamb of God”.

Twice, John says to his disciples, “Here is the Lamb of God.”[1]

Some might say that such has Jesus symbolizing the communal sin offering on the Day of Atonement; however, in that case the animal was a goat — i.e. the proverbial “scapegoat”.[2] And though that’s appropriate, it seems more like what John had in mind was the conglomeration of the paschal lamb of Exodus and Isaiah’s “suffering servant”, which had developed for Jesus in early Christian thought.[3]

In the Exodus story, each family was to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorpost, so that they would be spared the “plague of the firstborn”. Consequently, the “suffering servant” was likened to such a lamb, silently (and willingly) led to its slaughter for the transgression of his people. Taken together, Jesus came to be seen as that servant who willing sacrificed himself upon the cross to redeem us from our sin, and for that of a world alienated from and even hostile to God.[4]

As Lamb of God, we know Jesus made the one sacrifice needed to forgive us our sin and put us right with God. When we put our trust in him as such, we admit both that we are sinners, sometimes at odds with and far from God’s plan for our lives. Yet that where we prove ourselves unwilling, Jesus proves himself faithful — to the grave and beyond.

he is God’s “special revelation”.

When John saw Jesus, he also told his disciples that he had come baptizing for this very reason: “that Jesus might be revealed to Israel.[5]

In Reformed theology there are two varying degrees of God’s revelation. First, there is that, which we refer to as “general revelation”. That is God’s revealing Godself through the world around us, proving both God’s existence and power. It provides general knowledge about God, the Creator.

The second, though, we refer to as “special revelation.” Consequently, it is the means by which our plight as sinners and God’s plan for salvation is revealed; moreover, it is where God shows Godself to be 
 “compassionate and gracious …, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”[6] And the means God uses for this “special revelation” is exclusively through God’s Word, especially that Word Made Flesh — i.e. Jesus.

As such, we know Jesus to be God’s way of knowing ourselves better, especially our brokenness and sinfulness, but also of us knowing just how much God loves us and how abundant God’s grace is given to us.

he baptizes with Holy Spirit.

Whereas John said that he had baptized with water, he told his disciples that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.[7] Note, what John saw in Jesus was that, which was anticipated by the Hebrew Prophets.[8]

Which, of course, anticipates Pentecost, when the disciples would be dramatically baptized by that promised Spirit and be born into a new age and a new body — the Church. However, for John the idea was seen in terms of Jesus initiating a covenant relationship — that by which we become daughters and sons of God.

Indeed, our own baptism encompasses both, as we affirm God’s adoption of us as beloved children but also our becoming members of that new age and body, the Church. Yet, it was not intended as a passive pact by which we receive some status, but as empowerment for us to live a life of Christian service. For when Jesus promised his disciples the gift of Holy Spirit, it was so that they might be “clothed with power from on high” for the commission by which he would send them.[9]

Jesus baptizing with Holy Spirit is meant to remind us both of our identity as children of God, members of the Church, but also servants of the new age — the Reign of Heaven.

he is the Son of God.

Earlier than in any other Gospel, Jesus is identified as such — here, by John.[10] This is to serve this particular Gospel’s dramatic urgency to prove Jesus as the only one able to save the world from its sin.

The title is drawn both from Hebrew tradition and the Roman world. In the Old Testament, the promised “Davidic king” was referred to by God as a son, of whom God would be a father.[11] Consequently, the Roman king / Caesar of the day was referred to as the “son of the divine”.

For Jesus, though, the title refers to his unique relationship with the Father that would later lead him to be worthy enough to claim oneness with God and the unique authority to forgive and to save. It serves to set him apart from humanity, so that he might do what no other human could possibly do for themselves, or for another.

As Son of God, we thus put Jesus in a unique position and authority in our lives, drawing from his grace and power to live out that, which we are unable to do apart from him — to bear fruit for him in the world he came to save.

he is the messiah.

Finally, it is Andrew who identifies Jesus as such to his brother, Simon Peter — again, earlier than any other Gospel.[12] Also unique to John is the author’s use of the Greek word “messiah”, which he transliterated from that Hebrew word, which is translated as “anointed one”. Elsewhere, the Greek word Christ is used.

Drawing from the anointing of kings and priests in the Old Testament, to set aside or consecrate for holy service, so as “one anointed” Jesus is set apart and consecrated for the holiest of service that none other could provide — that of saving humanity from sin and death, raising them to walk in newness of life.

Indeed, as Messiah, Jesus was all of the aforementioned identifiers, but it is through his saving work that he realized his saving purpose for which he was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

conclusion

So, let us flip our initial thought: if you were to go out and introduce Jesus to someone, what would you say?

That as Lamb of God, we know Jesus to have made the one sacrifice needed to forgive us our sin and put us right with God, while admitting that we are sinners yet saved by one willing to sacrifice on our behalf.

That being baptizing with Holy Spirit, we are reminded both of our identity as children of God, but also as members of the Church, and servants of the new age — the Reign of Heaven.

That as Son of God, we put Jesus in a unique position and authority in our lives, so that we might bear fruit for him in the world he came to save.

And that indeed, as Messiah, Jesus was all of the aforementioned, while through his saving work, he came to realize his purpose, for which he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the first place.

[1] John 1.29, 36 © 1989 NRSV.

[2] See Leviticus 16.

[3] Exodus 12; Isaiah 53.4–7, 10–12.

[4] See 1 Peter 1.10, where we read that we have been ransomed not by “perishable things” but “with the precious blood of [Jesus] Christ”.

[5] John 1.31.

[6] Exodus 34.6–8.

[7] John 1.33.

[8] See especially Joel 2.28: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”

[9] Luke 24.49.

[10] John 1.34.

[11] Psalm 2.7.

[12] John 1.41.

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