John 1:19–51 begins the multi-faceted book of signs (John 1:19–12:50). In the first chapter, we find the testimony of John (v. 19) and wide variety of titles that are assigned to Jesus. These titles give us a panorama of who Jesus is and help us to know the Son of God who is presented in John’s Gospel. Here are ten things from verses 19–34 to better understand who this Jesus is.
1. John 1:19–51 is organized around four days.
John uses four days to arrange four “pictures” of Jesus. More exactly, he lays out John’s testimony in four days, with each day the glory of John fading and the glory of Jesus’s rising. Which is to say, John 1:19–28 focus on John and his greatness; John 1:29–34 records John’s own understanding of Jesus’s greatness; John 1:35–42 show how John “gives” his disciples to Jesus; and John 1:43–51 concludes with no trace of John. Like a fading shadow John decreases across these four pictures, but only so that Jesus might increase (John 3:30).
In order we can see how each picture develops along similar lines:
Picture #1: John 1:19–28
WHAT: What John is not!
WHEN: The first day . . . (cp. vv. 29, 35, 43; 2:1)
WHO: Jewish Leaders, Priests and Levites, Pharisees, and John the Baptist
John the Baptist
- is not the Christ
- is not Elijah
- is not the Prophet
- is the one who prepares the way for the LORD
- Jesus is the LORD
- The Messiah: All the Law and the Prophets (v. 45)
- Elijah: Malachi 4:5 (vv. 21, 25)
- Prophet: Deuteronomy 18:15–18 (vv. 21, 25)
- The Voice: Isaiah 40:3 (v. 23)
Summary: Jesus is the Lord . . . the One greater than John, whose greatness led the Jewish leaders to inquire.
Picture #2: John 1:29–34
WHAT: What John thinks.
WHEN: The next day . . . (v. 29)
WHO: John the Baptist . . . by himself
- is the Lamb of God (v. 29)
- is the One for which John baptizes (v. 30)
- is the One who has received the Holy Spirit (v. 31)
- is the Son of God (v. 34)
Old Testament (many choices for the Lamb of God)
- The Lamb God Provides: Genesis 22:13–14
- The Passover Lamb: Exodus 12
- Isaiah’s Lamb: Isaiah 40:9–11; 52:13–53:12
- Warrior Lamb: Revelation 5:6, 8, 12–13; 6:1, 16; etc.
Summary: Jesus is the Greater One who received the Spirit, which makes him the Messiah, the Son of God, who is God’s Lamb.
Picture #3: John 1:35–42
WHAT: What John says!
WHEN: The next day . . . (v. 35)
WHO: John, his disciples, and Jesus
- is the Lamb of God (v. 36)
- is the one whom John points his disciples
- is greater than John
- speaks his first words – “What are you seeking? . . . Come and see.” (vv. 38–39).
- is a Rabbi (v. 38)
- is the long-expected Messiah (v. 41)
- has the authority to change Peter’s name (v. 42)
- is causing a chain reaction of discipleship
Summary: Jesus is the Lamb of God, who is greater than John, teaches his followers as a Rabbi, and is Israel’s Messiah.
Picture #4: John 1:43–51
WHAT: What John does – He gets out of out of the way!
WHEN: The next day . . . (v. 43)
WHO: Jesus and his disciples . . . John is absent
- calls disciples to follow him (v. 43)
- fulfills the entire Old Testament (v. 45)
- persuades Nathanael he is Son of God, King of Israel (v. 48)
- is the true Bethel– the place God meets his people (v. 51)
- is the Son of Man, who will make a way into God’s throne room by his own death and resurrection
- The Law and Prophets (all the Old Testament) spoke of Jesus of Nazareth (v. 45)
- Fig Tree: 1 Kings 4:25; Zechariah 3:10
- Friends Inviting Friends: Zechariah 3:8–10
- Bethel: Genesis 28:12
- Son of Man: Daniel 7:13–14
Summary: Jesus fulfills all the Law and the Prophets, proving that he is the Son of God, the King of Israel, and the Son of Man
2. John 1:18–34 contain two chiasms.
In addition to organizing John’s testimony around four days, the Evangelist also organizes the first two pictures into two chiasms. You can see them here.
Chiasm #1: John is the Voice of Isaiah 40:3 who prepares the way for the Lord.
A John’s Testimony WHEN the priests came asking (v. 19)
B John’s Confession: I am not the One (v. 20)
C The Collage of Messianic Options: Christ, Elijah, Prophet (v. 21)
D the Priests Confusion: Who are you? (v. 22)
E John’s Identity: I am the Voice of Isaiah 40:3 (v. 23)
D’ the Priests Connection: the Pharisees (v. 24)
C’ The Collage of Messianic Options: Christ, Elijah, Prophet (v. 25)
B’ John’s Confession: Among you is One Greater (v. 26–27)
A’ John’s Baptism WHERE the priests of Israel stood before (v. 28)
Chiasm #2: Jesus is the Spirit-Anointed Messiah who will baptize with the Spirit
A Seeing Jesus (in the Flesh) (v. 29)
B John’s Testimony: This is the Lamb of God, who is greater than I (v. 29b–30)
C John’s Knowledge – I was sent to baptize (v. 31)
D God’s Revelation: This One is the Messiah (v. 32)
C’ John’s Knowledge – The one who sent me to baptize said . . . (v. 33a)
B’ God’s Testimony: This One will baptize with the Holy Spirit (v. 33b)
A’ Seeing Jesus (in the Spirit) . . . as the Son of God (v. 34)
The significance of this literary organization relates to these two points.
- From John 1:19–28, John is the voice in the wilderness who prepares the way of the Lord. And the One he will announce is none other than the Lord Incarnate.
- From John 1:29–34, John’s testimony is that the One whom he baptized in water, on whom the Spirit remains, is the Messiah—the Spirit anointed One.
While we can ascertain these truths independent of the literary structures, the literary structures make it plain what we are supposed to see. John is communicating to us who Jesus is and how God made it clear to him that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.
3. John’s testimony is the first of more than a dozen witnesses in John’s Gospel.
John 1:19 introduces John the Baptist with these words, “And this is the testimony of John, . . .” As the preceding outline observes, his witness prepares the way for Christ. And in John’s Gospel, he serves as the first of many witnesses to the glory of Christ. Here are some of the other witnesses, which might might classify as eye witnesses, historical witnesses, divine witnesses, and supernatural witnesses:
- John (John 20:31)
- Thomas (John 20:28)
- Blind Man (John 9:25, 30–31)
- Lazarus (John 11)
- Abraham (John 8:56)
- Moses (John 5:46)
- Isaiah (John 12:41)
- Father (John 5:37–38)
- Jesus (John 8:58; 10:30; cf. 6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:5)
- Holy Spirit (John 15:26; 16:13–15)
- Works (John 5:36)
- The Scriptures (John 1:45; 5:39)
Placed in the context of John’s Gospel, we can see more clearly how John serves as one of a chorus of witnesses extolling the glories of Christ.
4. John’s baptism in Bethany plays an important literary and geographic role.
There has been great confusion associated with John 1:28 and the location of Bethany on the other side of the Jordan. Here are three things to consider about this baptismal site.
First, the placement of this verse in John’s Gospel identifies the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, and it corresponds to the last location of Jesus’s ministry in John 11–12. Bringing these texts together, we find John preparing the way for Jesus at Bethany in John 1:28. Then, in John 12:1 we are brought back to Bethany, this time near Jerusalem (11:18), the place where Lazarus resided (11:1). This literary reference places Bethany at the beginning and end of the book of signs.
Second, John stresses the difference between Bethany (across the Jordan) and Bethany (near Jerusalem). He clearly intends to distinguish these cities. Could he also be indicating a movement from outside the land in John 1:28 to Jerusalem in John 11–12? And from Jesus’s baptism in water to his own death resurrection (i.e., his baptism, Mark 10:38)? Certainly, the connection with Lazarus, Jesus’s final sign, is suggestive. The connection between four days in John 1:19–51 and four days associated with Lazarus’s death may also be worth observing.
Third, the most challenging aspect of John’s baptism is its geographical location. Bethany’s exact location has puzzled commentators since the early church. Such uncertainty has led some to see Bethany as an alternative spelling for Batanea, a city in the Northern part of Israel (see D. A. Carson, John, 146–47). However, more recent archaeological work has discovered a location in Southern Israel with all the signs of being “Bethany beyond the Jordan.” As Colin Kruse, citing Scott Brown, “Bethany Beyond the Jordan,” observes
Jordanian archaeologists ‘have discovered Bethany beyond the Jordan at the head of the Wadi Kharrar (Tell el-Kharrar), a site opposite (and just over 1 km south of ) Jericho, 7.3 km north of the Dead Sea and 1.5 km east of the river. It is between the two fords across from Jericho, a little closer to the Makhadat Hajla ford. The ongoing excavation of the site has “uncovered a 1st Century AD settlement with plastered pools and water systems that were used almost certainly for baptism, and a 5th—6th Century AD late Byzantine settlement with churches, a monastery, and other structures probably catering to religious pilgrims”’. (Kruse, John, 79n7)
This archaeological evidence helps clarify the mystery of John’s “Bethany beyond the Jordan” and relieves the pressure of positing a name change to Bethany or placing John’s baptism in a northern locale. Such an archaeological finding reminds us how archaeology is often behind the biblical text. Many are the instances where premature denials of biblical places, people, or events are overturned by new archaeological evidence.
Moreover, by establishing this cite of baptism near Jericho, John reinforces the point that Jesus’s baptism is associated with his new exodus mission of establishing a new people of God. Just as the Levitical priests stood in the water of the Jordan near Jericho, in order to prepare the way for Joshua and Israel, to enter in the land, so John, a Levitical priest himself, prepares the way for Jesus to enter the land with his disciples. The symbolism here is important and the location of the baptism helps solidify the connection.
5. John 1 gives (at least) seven titles to Jesus.
The entire section of John 1:19–51 is filled with references to Jesus. Some have even suggested that there are seven titles assigned to Jesus. Here is a list of the seven:
- Lamb of God (1:29, 36)
- Son of God (1:34, 49)
- Rabbi (1:38)
- Messiah (1:41)
- Jesus of Nazareth (1:45)
- King of Israel (1:49)
- Son of Man (1:51)
These titles would fit with the seven signs and seven I am statements in John’s Gospel. Yet, John 1:19–51 actually implies a number of titles greater than seven. To the titles already, we can also include
- The One whom Moses foretold as the coming Prophet (1:21, 25; cf. 6:14)
- The One whom John prepared the way, i.e., the LORD (1:23)
- The One greater than John (1:25)
- The One who receives the Spirit (1:31)
- The One whom Israel is seeking (1:38; cf. 1:19, 23–24)
- The One who fulfills all Scripture (1:45)
- The One who is the way to God, i.e., a new Bethel (1:51)
In other words, John 1:19–51 cannot be reduced to seven titles. The four days of testimony here present Jesus is a wide variety of ways. Most importantly, John the Apostle, through John the Baptist’s testimony, shows us how Jesus fulfills all the messianic hopes (1:45) and is none other than Yahweh incarnate.
This reminds us that knowing the Old Testament and its promises of a king like David, a prophet like Moses, and a royal priestly son of God as messiah is necessary for understanding John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Thus, to rightly discern John’s first chapter requires regular consultation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
6. “The LORD” is the first identity marker of Jesus Christ.
In the list of seven titles above, one is remarkably absent—namely, the title LORD. True, John nowhere assigns the name Yahweh/Kurios to Jesus, but it is an unmistakable conclusion from John 1:19–28. Let’s consider.
When the priests and Levites show up to interrogate John the Baptist, they run through their eschatological expectations—Are you the Christ? Elijah? The Prophet? John denies each, leaving the Jerusalem delegation scratching their heads, saying, “Who are you?”
In response, John cites Isaiah 40:3 to identity himself, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (v. 23). In this response, which stands at the center of the first picture, the Baptist makes his main point, which is the Evangelists main point too—the One to whom he points is the Lord!
What follows in John 1:29–51 only proceeds to give clarification—this messianic figure, on whom the Spirit has come to remain, this one who is greater than John, this Jesus of Nazareth, this one is the Lord. Again, John the Baptist and his disciples will address Jesus by all other titles, but the point cannot be missed. This Jesus, who is the Christ, is none other than the LORD himself.
John’s Prologue set us up to see this point, and now in the first part of John’s testimony, he makes the point again—Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who has come to take away this sins of the world. And lest we mistake Jesus for a really good man, John’s first word from Isaiah 40:3 makes it clear that Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate.
7. Identifying the meaning of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” is more complex than we might first imagine.
Because John 1:29 is typically read through the lens of Christ’s cross, we usually employ the verse to speak of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. However, when we put this verse in the Baptist’s mouth, it becomes more difficult. Remember, John himself did not have a full comprehension of the messiah’s suffering (see Matt. 11). So we should ask: What did John the Baptist mean when he spoke these words? And what did John the Apostle mean when he cited the Baptist?
On this question—What did the Baptist mean by “the lamb of God”—here are a few reflections from D. A. Carson,
The standard options are listed in the commentaries (e.g. Morris, pp. 144-147): Jesus is the ‘gentle lamb’ of Jeremiah 11:19 (though Jeremiah makes no mention of taking away the sins of the world); Jesus is the lamb of the daily sacrifice (though there is no evidence that the daily sacrifice was ever called ‘God’s lamb’ or ‘lamb of God’); Jesus is the scapegoat (Lv. 16), which was banished to the desert, symbolically bearing away the sins of the people (though that animal was a goat, while Jn. 1:29 speaks of a lamb); Jesus is the lamb of Genesis 22, which proved to be the substitute for Isaac (though in the context of Genesis there is no mention of bearing sin away); Jesus is the guilt offering (Lv. 14; Nu. 6), which was certainly understood as a sacrifice that dealt with sin (though it appears bulls and goats were commonly sacrificed, rather than lambs), Jesus is the servant of the Lord of Isaiah 53, since the Aramaic word talya probably spoken by the Baptist can mean either ‘servant’ or ‘lamb’ (though this presupposes that whoever put this Aramaic expression into Greek somehow avoided a perfectly common and obvious expression, ‘the servant of the Lord’, in order to produce a new and rather strange expression, ‘the lamb of God’); Jesus is the apocalyptic, triumphant lamb of Revelation 7:17; 17:14 (though the expression is found in but few other Jewish texts, and uses arnion tor ‘lamb’, rather than amnos, found here — though John does use arnion in 21:15); Jesus is the Passover lamb, certainly a theme alluded to elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel (though even here there is no evidence that the Passover lamb was a sin offering); Jesus is the lamb led to the slaughter (Is. 53:7), whose death effectively deals with transgression (though it must be admitted that the lamb in the Isaiah passage is no more than a simile). (John, 149)
Such a broad range of interpretations is more than a little confusing. So, how should we proceed? Again, Carson is helpful. Admitting the historical statement of the Baptist, he reasons,
When the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, he probably had in mind the apocalyptic lamb, the warrior lamb, found in some Jewish texts (1 Enoch 90:9-12; Testament of Joseph 9:8; Testament of Benjamin 3:8 — the latter passages probably, but not only, pre-Christian) and picked up in the Apocalypse (Rev. 5:6, 12; 7; 13:8; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:22-23; 22:1-3). If ‘Lamb of God’ was not a well-recognized, technical expression, the fact that our text uses amnos instead of arnion offers no great difficulty. Whether we assume the category lay readily to hand for the Baptist to use, or that he was one of the first to think it up, the impression gleaned from the Synoptics is that he thought of the Messiah as one who would come in terrible judgment and clean up the sin in Israel. In this light, what John the Baptist meant by ‘who takes away the sin of the world’ may have had more to do with judgment and destruction than expository sacrifice. (John, 150)
If this is the case, that John the Baptist had a warrior-lamb in view, it does not rule out an expiatory interpretation, i.e., that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. It simply means we must think more carefully about what John 1:29 means. Clearly, the rest of the Gospel will present Jesus as a sacrificial lamb, and any second reading of John’s Gospel must read John 1:29 as a verse that prepares the way for Christ’s sacrifice. In this way, John the Apostle may be citing the Baptist in a way where he spoke greater than he knew.
In John’s Gospel, we find multiple individuals who spoke in ways greater than they would know. For instance, consider how John cites Caiaphas in John 11:51–52.
51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Similarly, Pilate identified Jesus as the king of the Jews in John 19:19–22.
19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
In both instances, the Gospel employs the testimony of “unbelievers” to speak better than they intended. How much more might John, who knew Jesus to be the messiah, speak better than he knew. In John’s Gospel, speech that goes beyond the knowledge of the speaker is commonplace, and John 1:29 is likely a passage that should be read in this way.
8. The Lamb of God may also relate to Isaiah 40:9–11.
There is another consideration for John’s statement in John 1:29 (“Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”), as well. And this brings together John’s statement from Isaiah 40:3, found John 1:23, with another statement from Isaiah 40:9–11, that may serve as the background to John 1:29.
Consider these words from Isaiah 40:9–11,
9 Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
In this passage, we find multiple connections to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry.
- Isaiah 40:9 speaks of the “good news” which is being heralded. John the Baptist preached the gospel and prepared the way for Christ to do the same. Hence, the setting of the gospel message in Isaiah 40:9 fits the handoff of gospel ministry from John to Jesus.
- Isaiah 40:10 addresses the people of God with “Behold” and calls them to see the the Lord who is coming to save. Incidentally, the use of “arm” in verse 10 will later be the way Isaiah speaks of the servant of the Lord (52:10; 53:1). In this verse, the reward is one of salvation, promised to a people who are awaiting a return from exile. This is the very condition of John’s ministry in the wilderness. He baptizes people as a sin of repentance for sin, so that (presumably) they might return to the land of blessing.
- Isaiah 40:11 focuses on the the Lord coming to shepherd his flock. Isaiah does not call the Lord a lamb, but in calling the Lord a shepherd, he invites us to consider how the Lord will save his sheep. In Isaiah, it will come through the servant laying down his life as a sacrifice in their place. See Isaiah 53:4–6. In this way, it is not inappropriate to see John connecting some dots between the shepherd and his sacrifice as a lamb.
With these brief considerations in mind, it is worth pondering if Isaiah 40:9–11 stands behind John 1:29. I have not seen any commentary make this connection, but that does not mean it is not there, or that someone has made this point already. It is just not one I’ve yet found.
Adding weight to this intra-biblical connection is the fact that Isaiah 40:3 is quoted by John the Baptist in John 1:23. This clearly means that Isaiah 40 was a passage that the Baptist saw himself fulfilling. And if John, in seeing Jesus as the Lord he was preparing the way for, saw this too, it would make sense to see his words (“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”) as an allusion to Isaiah 40:9–11.
9. John’s rationale for calling Jesus the Lamb of God comes from his baptism . . . and the title “beloved Son” as found in Genesis 22.
There is yet one more layer to John’s testimony in John 1:29–34, and it relates to what God revealed to him in baptizing Jesus. Let’s look first at John’s Gospel and then compare it with the baptism accounts in the other Gospels.
In John’s Gospel we find these words,
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
Interestingly, this section only includes John’s words and the Lord’s. He is not speaking to anyone else; he is speaking to himself and recalling what God said to him. In this way, I take it that these verses give us something of how John figured out that Jesus was the lamb of God, which is what John tells his disciples in verse 36.
Notice how his train of thought unfolds.
- In his ministry of baptism, God had said he would reveal the messiah. This is implied from the text, but verse 31 makes it apparent: John’s purpose of baptism (in John’s Gospel) was for revealing the Son.
- Twice John says he did not know who the messiah was (vv. 31, 33). Clearly, as a relative of Jesus’s (consider the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth), John knew Jesus personally. Verse 29 indicates that John recognized Jesus when he came to the water. What John did not know was that Jesus was the Christ.
- It was in the baptism of Jesus that God revealed to John that this is “my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (see Matt. 3:17). As John 1:32 says, John saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and remain on him.” This was to John the sign that Jesus is the Christ—the Spirit-anointed man.
- From here, the connections go like this: John had been told that one greater than him was coming (v. 30); the Spirit would indicate who this greater one was; the Spirit remaining on Jesus signified that he was this figure (v. 33); with the Spirit, John could say “Jesus is the Christ”—the anointed one (mesiach); and because the Christ was also the Son of God, he could make the statement that Jesus is the Son of God (v. 34).
Now, when we add to this line of thought the testimony of the other Gospels, we find one missing piece—namely, that Jesus is identified as “God’s beloved Son.” This testimony fills in the gap of verse 34. John calls Jesus “the son of God” because this is the voice he heard when he baptized Jesus (see Matt. 3:17). And importantly, the background to this language of “beloved Son” is Genesis 22—the passage where Isaac is spoken of as the beloved Son of Abraham.
John does not supply us the language of “beloved son” to connect Jesus to Isaac. However, the use of monogenēs in John 1:14, 18 does make something of a connection. Isaac is the one-and-only (monogenēs) son of Abraham (Hebrews 11:17), in a way that is analogous to the way the beloved Son of God is uniquely the Father’s Son. (We will save discussion for “only begotten” for another time). By way of this baptismal connection to Isaac and the way that John 1 begins with a direct connection to Genesis 1:1–3, we can see how it makes sense for John 1:29 to have a reference to Isaac.
Moreover, because John 1:12–13 is going to speak of children born of God’s will, we find another similarity and connection with the birth of Isaac, who was born according to God’s promise. Additionally, Jacob will come into view in John 1:51, as Jesus makes an explicit connection to his dream at Bethel (Gen. 28:12). All in all, there are many reasons for seeing the way John is writing his gospel with Genesis in the background.
Thus, if we identify Jesus’s as God’s Son in a fashion that is similar to Isaac, we have reason to see in John’s words (“Behold, the lamb of God”) the narrative of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. There, God provided a lamb to substitute for the beloved son. Here the reverse has occurred: God has provided the beloved Son to die in the place of his sheep. Jesus is the son of God, who is the lamb of God, who will atone for the sins of God’s people, so that the sheep—a theme that runs throughout John’s Gospel—will come from all over the world and find salvation in God the Son.
Admittedly, this is quite an involved interpretation. But it hangs together by the event of Jesus’s baptism and the way that John is writing his Gospel. John writes with incredible skill, constantly identifying Jesus through his fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (John 1:45). With that in mind, I offer this interpretation of John 1:29 in relationship to Genesis 22, and suggest that Jesus is both the beloved Son and the lamb that God provides.
10. Saving faith comes from knowing who Jesus is . . . according to the Scriptures.
Finally, as we come to understand John 1:29 and the rest of these verses, we must remember that we cannot know who Jesus is apart from the Old Testament. As Jesus will go on to say, all of the Scriptures bear witness about me (5:39). This is a key verse for rightly reading John’s Gospel and all the Old Testament.
The way we know who Jesus is, is by placing him in the storyline of the Bible. As Francis Schaeffer once observed, “Increasingly over the past few years the word ‘Jesus,’ separated from the content of the Scriptures, has been the enemy of the Jesus of history, the Jesus who died and rose and is coming again and who is the eternal Son of God” (Escape from Reason, 78–79). If that was true when Schaeffer spoke more than generation ago, it is more true today.
Jesus’s name is regularly thrown around without biblical content. In truth, the name of Jesus only has power when it is understood in the fullness of the Scriptures. This is what John the Baptist teaches us to see, and we should continue to read his words, seeking to understand what it means that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, and the King of Israel.
This is who Jesus is. May we give ourselves to the Word to know him more.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds