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The Witness of John the Baptist
This text gives witness to the identity of Jesus:
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
A. John’s Witness to the Pharisees
There never was a man in all his life or in all the world who played a greater role
as witness for Christ than did John the Baptist. A delegation of the Pharisees and of the
Priests and Levites from Jerusalem came to examine John. They wanted to understand
his ministry because he was really gaining some popularity and notoriety. Anytime a
religious outbreak took place anywhere close to Jerusalem these special delegations (as
Brother Frank Culpepper calls them, "these possies") went out to see what was taking
1. The Trial Motif in the Gospel of John
They came to put John on trial so that here even in the very beginning of the
Gospel of John there is the first mentioning of a sort of a trial motif. This goes all the
way through the Gospel so that many will be on trial. Jesus himself will be on trial. At
the same time tho se who reject and do not believe will also be on trial. When anybody
comes close to the Son of God and is confronted with His light and His truth and His
power; when they're confronted with His Word and with a divine revelation of God's
Word; they are immediately put on trial because the Word tries us. The Spirit tries us.
We are examined by the Lord and no one can escape being on trial.
So this is one of the great motifs that runs all the way through this Gospel. Here
they are, like a trial, almost like a courtroom scene, drilling this man giving him the
third degree to find out what he is like. They question John even as they will later
question the Lord Himself.
2. John Confessed and Denied Not
The scripture says, "And he confessed, and denied not..." (John 1:20). That's what
it takes to be a real genuine witness for Jesus Christ in this world. One who is willing to
confess the Lord and never deny in any sense of the word. He confessed and denied not.
They began to question him point blank and ask him in particular who was he and
was he Elijah that was come. You see, among the prophets of the Old Testament, as
well as the teachings of the Rabbis, there was a great amount of to do about the end time
message. Great prophetic figures of the past would come on the scene and announce the
day of the Lord and the coming of the kingdom of God and the end time message and
set the whole world straight for the Jews once and for all. They looked forward to such
The only thing is they would always be disappointed and dissatisfied with the true
prophets of God such as John the Baptist, such as Jesus the Son of God and the apostles
and others who would appear and announce the very message that they looked forward
to being fulfilled. So they asked him, "Are you Elijah?" because the scripture has said,
"...I'll send my servant Elijah before the day of Lord." John said, "...No I'm not Elijah."
John is denying what Jesus will later confer upon him. Later Jesus will say,
"...Elijah has come already and they did what they wanted to with him, and he was
killed," referring to John and that great work of his forerunning and coming before
Jesus Christ and his coming in the Spirit of Elijah.
They said then, "Well, are you the Christ?" "No", he said. "I'm not the Messiah,
the anointed one, the Christ of God." "Well, what about that great prophet?" meaning
Moses. "No I'm not that prophet either." Then they said, "Who are you then?" John's
answer will leave them just as perplexed, or maybe more so, than before they came.
3. John Did Not Name Himself
John really did not answer them. He did not give himself a name or a title because
he had not come to receive titles. He had come to give titles. He had not come to publish
his own name, he had come to call somebody else's na me and magnify the name of Jesus
Christ the Son of God.
That's another requirement of a true witness. He does not go with any premature
great claims that have to do with himself. He's not so much interested in titles and
positions as he is in bearing the name and the message of him who has sent him.
Hallelujah! Oh how wonderful it is to know the authority of God is upon us and behind
us and we represent Him. His name is enough. There is something about that name of
Jesus. That name is enough, hallelujah.
4. John is a “Voice”
So all that John will say is, "I am a voice! I'm just a voice crying in the
wilderness. I'm not the living Word." We've already talked about the eternal living Word
in Jesus Christ. But he said, "I'm not the Word. I'm just a voice that brings the Word. I'm
not the anointed Christ. I'm just a messenger who points to Him."
Later on John will say, "He must increase, I must decrease." That's a requirement
of a witness, always to magnify the Lord and let the Lord grow in the hearts and minds
of people while at the same time we decrease and move out of the way so that people
can see the Christ. Oh how I wish we could see Him more fully. Would you say, Amen?
"I'm just a voice," John said. The Lord in these days needs voices. He needs
voices that will be trained to speak His name and glorify Him. He needs voices that will
carry the beautiful sound of the message of the good news, the musical sound of the
message in song. He needs voices that will open up and sound the alarm and give forth
the good news. The Lord needs voices.
I know He needs people and all their abilities, but in these days when there is so
much clamor and noise and confusion, how wonderful it is to have a clear sounding
voice ringing out the message of hope and truth giving clear direction from God's Word
and His Spirit and power. Thank God we can be the anointed voices of Jesus Christ.
B. Purpose of John’s Baptism
1. Preparation for the Coming of the Kingdom
They said, "Why do you baptize then?" He said, "Well, yo u use water, sacrificial
water, to prepare sacrifices. I'm baptizing to prepare for the Lamb that's to come. You
use water in all your ritual and ceremony; but water to me, and especially baptism,
means the introduction of a new day, a new era, a new time, a new situation, the coming
of the new King." And so his baptism of repentance had great symbolic meaning as he
announced the coming of the kingdom of God.
2. Warning of the Coming of Judgment
How I would like to preach on about John and his message because John used
three figures of judgment: the fan, the fire, and the ax. He presented that side of God's
power and God's judgment and he said, "the fan is in his hand – the winnowing fork is
in his hand – and he will thoroughly purge his floor and he'll take the chaff and burn it
with unquenchable fire." He said, "...the axe is laid at the unfruitful tree – at the root of
the unfruitful tree – to chop it down and everything that does not bear fruit it will be
hued down and cast into the fire." It will be the fire of God's judgment.
3. The Beginning of the Gathering Into the Kingdom
But John also used some metaphors that have to do with the positive side of the
message. He will use the gathering power of the Lord to gather his wheat into the
garner. Oh, hallelujah. Thank God that he has the power that moving along with
judgment, moving along with the Word, there is power that gathers. While some are cast
aside yet others are brought in and gathered into the garner. Thank God for the
gathering power of the Lord that touched even our own lives.
4. The Announcement of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
He said, "I baptize also just outwardly, but the one that is coming after me, he
doesn't use water. He'll baptize with the Spirit and He has the baptism that will be
inwardly. I'm concerned with outward expression of turning to God, but He will be
concerned with touching men's lives completely with the Spirit and power and fire of
God that will purge them and cleanse them and equip them for His work in this world."
C. John’s Baptism of Christ
The next day John saw Him as He came. I've often tried to live with Him and with
others and the disciples and just simply walk with Jesus and think what it would be like
to walk with Him and see Him for the first time. Somehow our imagination just simply
falls apart and we can't comprehend what it would be like. But John saw Him coming
and there was something about Him that he recognized and understood. John had given
this negative witness to Jesus and said, "I'm not the Christ! I'm not a prophet! I am not
Him!" But now he gives a positive witness as to who Jesus is.
1. Jesus as the Lamb of God
The first thing he will say, he will call him the Lamb of God who takes away the
sin of the world. Then he will talk about Him as being the one who came before him and
was superior to him, before him in time and rank, far above him.
John is willing to step into the background and has the attitude of saying He must
come to the front because He is before me, He is above me. He's superior to me because
He comes walking out of the pages of the eternal past and He steps on the scene, the
stage of action. He is before me. He it is who is the Lamb of God that takes away the
sins of the world.
2. Jesus as the Baptizer
Then he will talk about Him as the baptizer, the one who baptizes in the Holy
Ghost and with fire and I just mentioned that in a sense. Then he also gives a positive
witness to the fact that He is the Son of God. You see, as John said, "I didn't know who
He was but the same one who sent me, oh hallelujah, the same one who told me to
baptize said that one day you'll baptize a man and you'll see the heavens open up and the
spirit coming down upon Him like a dove and that will be the Messiah, the Son of God.
3. Jesus as the One Baptized
When He came and Jesus was baptized and they went down into the water and
came up out of the water all of a sudden the heavens opened up because Jesus was being
obedient to the example that God wanted Him to fulfill. Jesus was identifying Himself
with John's message and the Word of the living God. Jesus was identifying Himself with
the coming of the kingdom of God. Jesus was humbling Himself and saying, "suffer it to
be so because it has to be in order for me to fulfill all righteousness."
When He, in complete obedience and humility, identified Himself with God's
work in the world and with God's prophet, the heaven's opened, hallelujah. Oh, anytime
you obey God, anytime you move with humility, anytime you fulfill all that God wants
you to do, anytime you say yes to God, the heaven's will open unto you and the Holy
Spirit will come down to your life.
4. The Example of Ezekiel
I think of that great prophet Ezekiel yonder in Babylonian captivity far away
from temple and priest and homeland. But the Bible says that the Word of the Lord came
to him there, even there; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there, even there; and
the heavens were opened up to him there, even there in Babylon. He saw visions of God
and the splendor of the glory of God.
You hear me saints of God! It does not matter where you are nor what stress or
trouble you may be in - if you're obedient to the Lord and humble before Him the
heavens will open, the Spirit will descend and the glory of God will come to you. The
power of the Almighty will touch your life. You'll see visions of God and have His hand
upon you, THERE. Hallelujah! The heavens are opened to any person or any church who
D. The Symbolism of the Lamb
1. The Lamb as a Sacrifice
John said, "...Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."
In this Word, there are so many titles – in this first chapter of John some ten titles are
given to Jesus and I've only touched on three or four of them tonight. But this word, this
title, "Lamb", has deep roots in the theology and the religion of the Jews.
The lamb was the primary sacrifice in the daily burnt offering. The lamb was the
victim that bore the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. The lamb, that Passover
lamb, was the one that was slain whose blood was sprinkled over the doorposts and
whose flesh was roasted and eaten with bitter herbs. That Passover lamb was symbolic of
redemption and deliverance and the great redemptive acts of God when He brings His
people out of Egyptian bondage. Now, as Paul says, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for
us" (I Cor. 5:7).
2. The Lamb as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah
The Lamb is a symbol of the suffering servant of Isaiah who is silent as a sheep
or a lamb is silent before his shearers and he does not open his mouth. So the lamb is
also symbolic of that Suffering Servant who will walk through this world. He will serve
and He will suffer and not be the great king at that point that they want him to be. But
He will come and be the suffering servant of Isaiah and He will say, "the Son of man has
come not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many."
3. The Lamb as the Conqueror
And finally, the lamb is symbolic of that future apocalyptic prophetic lamb in
Revelation chapter five when, "...they sing a new song," and that song is a song of praise
that says, "... worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor and glory." It is
because, "...you were slain and you have redeemed us to God out of every nation,
kindred, and tongue and people and we shall reign on the earth." And then it goes on to
sing that beautiful song and give a seven- fold praise of worthiness to the Lamb. So here
Johns says is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. And He can offer a
sacrifice for you day by day.
Conclusion - The Lamb of God in Our Lives Today
Whatever you need from the throne, you can get it through Him, as the Lamb of
God, day by day. It does not matter how much you may have been loaded with sin, you
can come and wash away all those sins in the blood of the Lamb because He bore the
sins of the whole wide world. On the cross when He prayed, "Father forgive them for
they know not what they do," he was not only just praying for Roman soldiers or for
hypocritical Jewish leaders. He was praying for all people of the whole world whose sins
were driving Him to that cross.
Jesus came and he walked roughshod over the religious pretense and hypocrisy
of His day. He laughed at the petty legalisms that held Judaism bound and put people in
straight jackets. He walked roughshod over their hypocrisies and He opened the door to
the house of David so that all men could come through His blood and have access to the
throne. Oh, glory be to Jesus Christ.
When He prayed, "Father, forgive them," he is saying that "through my death
and through my blood there is forgiveness for every man." So bring on any sin, bring on
all sin, bring on the sins of Pilate who will try to push Him aside and get Him out of his
way and try to wash off his hands and be innocent with water. Bring on the sins of a
hypocritical priesthood and religious leaders of His day. Bring on the sins of a thousand
people fallen into the depths of degradation and He will forgive, He will forgive.
Because you see Jesus walked right past the proud hypocritical Pharisees and He
forgave the ones who were unforgivable and He touched the ones who were the
untouchables. Jesus broke down walls and reached through and touched you and me and
thank God as the Lamb He redeemed us and bought us unto Himself. My heart rejoices
and magnifies His name this very day because of it. He is the Lamb of God that takes
away the sins of the world.
I love that song that says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was
bruised for our iniquities; surely He bore our sorrows, and by His stripes we are healed."
This text gives witness to the identity of Jesus: The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Denomination: Church of God
Thompson's Chain Reference: 707 (Christ - Son Of God)
Author(s): F.J. May, D.Min.
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