We have started to look at John’s Gospel. Our overall theme is “Living Life in Christ, through the Holy Spirit”. Last week Ross introduced us to this book. John 1:1-18 is what is often called the “Prologue” to the gospel of John. In it John sets a majestic scene for us of exactly who Jesus is. He is the eternal Word, co-equal with God, the creator of the universe, the life giver, the true light that was rejected by the world.
John has a particular idea in mind for his mostly Jewish readers scattered widely. He wants them to know that Jesus, is truly the Son of God, and it is only through him that we can become sons of God and be part of God’s family, and the only one in whom we must believe to have life, eternal life.
He is the only Son from the Father, dwelling among us, full of grace and truth. It is Jesus who has made God known to us, to mankind.
John 20:31 says that “these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Ross introduced us to the idea of life, eternal life, life in Christ. Our overall theme is to discover something about “Living Life in Christ, through the Holy Spirit”. Today we are going to explore that theme a little further. I have titled this message, “Learning to trust and follow the true source of eternal life”. John the writer of this gospel is wanting his readers to be sure that they really have good reason to believe the Jesus is the Messiah, the true source of life. We will read now about John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus and what he said about Jesus, and then we will explore how and why some of Jesus first disciples started following him. As we go along in this series in John, there is one question to ask yourself: What kind of life are you living? From today’s message we need to ask ourselves: who do you follow and why? Who do you proclaim? Which Jesus do you follow?
Where do you primarily get your news from?
Internet? TV? Newspaper? Gossip? “I don’t do news!”
OK, now how many people have a favourite person or expert that they follow or listen to reasonably frequently say once a week or more often. Here are the categories: Craft. Politics. Music. Trades. Theologians.
So, here is another question. How do you know what to believe from what you read, or hear? What happens when you are presented with “alternative facts”? How do you evaluate conflicting reports? Those of you will have been keeping up with the US presidential election will know that there was a bit of a storm in a teacup where there was argument as to whether there was a bigger crowd at Obama’s inauguration or at Trump’s inauguration. The media sided with Obama, and President Trump presented “alternative facts”. So which facts are true?
We evaluate truth by lots of different scenarios. Does it make sense? Can it be corroborated? Was there an eye witness? Is the witness reliable? Now the stranger the story, the more witnesses you need. You need more ways to verify the story.
Okay, so let’s step back into time about 2000 years. No internet, no TV, no radio, no newspaper. News travels differently. You hear it from someone, or you go to see it/hear it in person. You might just get to read in in time. People in that day also had their favourite teachers. John the Baptist is in the desert and he has become known as a prophet. He has some very devoted followers and he is getting pretty popular. He is baptising people. He lives at a time and a place where the Jewish people in Israel are desperately looking for and longing for the promised one, the Messiah who is going to help them get rid of the Romans forever. Some people wondered if John the Baptist was the one. Some of leaders in Jerusalem sent some enquirers.
The answer from John is very emphatic and straightforward and is quite different from what you might expect. No, he is definitely not the Messiah, no Elijah nor some famous prophet from long ago. So who is he?
Firstly he is a voice sent to prepare the way of the Lord.
He came to identify and then point to and then proclaim the Messiah
In fact he is a witness, an incredibly important witness. He is a godly reliable man.
He admits he baptises with water. He admits he has his followers, but he says that he says that even now there is one who stand among you that you do not know (v 26). He says that he is not even worthy to undo the strap of his sandals.
John is so remarkable. He has no interest at all in self-aggrandisement, he had no need to point to himself. He knew that his job was to point to the Christ, the Messiah, and to prepare people to receive him. Jesus would later say of John that there was none greater that John the Baptist, but he also said the smallest person in the kingdom was greater than him. We have a lot to learn from his example of humility and his absolute devotion to proclaiming Jesus as pre-eminent.
Let’s move on to V 29 and John the Baptist’s stunning statement about Jesus. He says, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.
He could have said many other things about Jesus. But he chose this statement. He was pointing to the primary reason for Jesus’ coming into the world. He is the Lamb of God. He is God’s provision of sacrifice! This echoes the Old Testament themes of sacrifice for sin.
I have to digress briefly. Where in the Bible is the first ever sacrifice for sin? – someone under 25 yrs old, please.
The garden of Eden. Skins were made for Adam and Eve after they sinned. How? There must have been some sort of animal sacrifice.
Abraham and Isaac: Gen 22. We have God’s provision of a replacement sacrifice instead of Isaac.
The Passover: Later still in Exod 12 we have the first Passover. A lamb was killed and its blood put on the door posts of the house so that all the firstborn in the house could be spared God’s judgement. If you don’t know these stories, I would encourage you to look them up and discuss them with a mature believer.
We have here at the start of this gospel a clear reminder that any fellowship, any relationship with God is impossible because of our sin. All of these OT stories and situations were pointing forward in vague ways to the reality that only came with Jesus Christ. It is God himself who provides the mechanism by which our sin can be taken away and we can have peace with God. It is Jesus who is the ultimate sacrifice for sin and the only way by which we can have peace with God and be welcomed into his family.
Jesus came to die, to be the sacrifice for sins. Paul would later say, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. Notice Jesus came to take away the sins of the world. Everybody. Not just the Jews. Not the elite. This includes men, women, children. It includes John the Baptist himself. It includes Joseph and Mary, Jesus’ earthly parents. It includes you and me.
John has more to say. Jesus was younger than John the Baptist by about 3 months. But Jesus was greater than him. He existed before him. His importance goes way beyond anyone else. John acknowledges that he baptises people with water, but his purpose was to reveal Jesus to Israel, to the Jews, the promised people. But, he says Jesus is going to do far more than baptise with water, he is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist reports that he was shown this directly from God at Jesus’ own baptism. It was the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism that convinced John of the significance of Jesus. Jesus came to give the real thing! You see water is just a symbol of following. People who really follow Jesus, who believe and trust in him are given NEW LIFE. They are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This is no second experience type of phenomenon. It is simply what Jesus does for every believer. He is the source of eternal life. So, he gives us new life by baptizing us with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist goes on to say that “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. So John himself, that great prophet of the time, was absolutely convinced in his own mind that Jesus was the Messiah, he was the Son of God, he was the true life giver. No one else even comes close.
So, the question immediately arises. Is this the Jesus you believe in. Is this the Jesus you follow and trust for your life. Do you have this eternal life? This is the starting point. There are countries that call themselves Christian. Is this what they have in mind? They are following the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World. Do they have in mind that they are sinful and that they need Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God to take away their sin. Or how about the Christian Democrat party or any other so called Christian party – Is this what they believe in and follow? I can think of many people who would be insulted to be called anything other than Christian – but would also be mortified to talk of their own sinfulness and need of a savior.
The question immediately arises of course, is what about me? Do I manufacture some sort of easy to follow Jesus of my own imagination, somebody nice and peaceful, perhaps someone who thinks of others, or perhaps a good role model – or do I realise that his main mission is to be the Lamb of God, to take away my sin, to give me life, new life, life in the Spirit, life that allows me to be connected to God and to be part of his family.
Let’s read on. John has some more people who ended up following Jesus. There are two things that stand out about these very first disciples of Jesus.
Firstly, there is the fact that they followed Jesus at all. Why did they follow Jesus? One of the main reasons is that their very own teacher – John the Baptist – proclaimed Jesus as the one to follow. He was exactly who they were looking for the longing for. He was the Messiah. John encouraged them to do so and later in John 3, he speaks with joy as he recognizes that Jesus is truly here.
Secondly it is the amazing names and titles of respect that are so rapidly given to him. These early disciples realised that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the first two disciples to follow Jesus was Andrew. He went and found his own brother and said, “We have found the Messiah”. The next day Jesus calls another man called Phillip to follow him. Phillip goes and finds his friend Nathanael. Nathanael was initially a skeptic. But he comes to see Jesus in a new light when he realises that Jesus knows about him, his upbringing, and had seen him sitting under the fig tree before he had even met him. Nathanael recognises that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the King of Israel.