Saturday, November 14, 2009

11/14 John points to Jesus

Daily devotional from the Gospels using Calvin on the 500th anniversary year of his birht.

11/14- John 1:29-34

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 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God's Chosen One."

Calvin abridged; There can be no doubt that John had already talked about the coming of the Messiah, but now he quickly makes known his announcement about Christ. John’s ministry was coming to an end as when the sun rises the dawn disappears. The principal office and chief blessing of Christ is known here- “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” By the word “Lamb” he alludes to the ancient sacrifices affiliated with the Law. Those listening to him were accustomed to sacrifices, so they learned quickly using this allusion for the atonement. John was probably here referring to the lamb of Passover. Baptism is a way that we symbolize forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ- by the washing away of our pollutions. The lambs of the Old Testament were outward shadows and pointed to the real, spiritual lamb of Christ. “The sin of the world”- “Sin” is singular- indicating Christ absolves every kind of unrighteousness that alienates us from God. Our duty is make sure that nothing hinders us from obtaining the reconciliation of Christ. People used to anxiously labor to procure forgiveness. John tells us that He alone takes away sin. So there is no other refuge from sin- and we need to flee to Christ. “Take away” may be seen in two ways- 1) That Christ took upon himself the load that weighed us down (I Peter 2:24, Isa. 53:5), or he blots out our sins. But both are right- by bearing our sins, he takes them away. Chrysostom notes that this taking away is a continual act- for Christ’s sacrifice is always in full vigor. So we are reconciled to the Father by the Lamb and our guilt is removed. 30- “This is he of whom I said”- John says that Christ is to be preferred to him as he is only a herald to the Messiah. 31- “I did not know him”- This testimony should not be suspected to be from friendship or as a favor. He obtained this knowledge of Christ as Messiah by inspiration of God. 32- “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove”- This is not a literal but a figurative expression, for what eyes can see the Spirit? In a similar manner Christ is present in the sacraments spiritually, but not physically. The dove appears here rather than the tongues of fire (Acts 2:3) as symbols of the Spirit because the mildness of Christ is emphasized here (Isa. 42:3). “II have seen and I testify”- There is no doubt about this testimony. John is affirming God’s testimony- as God testified by sending the Spirit upon Christ.

Thoughts: John the disciple knew the teachings of John the Baptist well, and passed it on. So in Revelation Jesus is often (thirty times) described as the Lamb. The nation of Israel was really formed at Passover when the blood of the lamb was placed over their doors as a protection from the angel of death (Ex. 12). So the blood of Christ protects us from eternal death. Our baptism is a visible way that we show Christ’s blood is over us and has washed away our sins. How appropriate that the Baptist who speaks of repentance and getting rid of sins so much- points to the One who finally may abolish and cover sins. Isaiah 53 uses this imagery- we are like sheep that have gone astray (53:6), he is like the lamb sacrificed quietly to the wolf so the rest of the flock can escape (53:7). Pilate before Jesus' crucifixion said, "Behold the man" (Jn. 19:5)- unknowingly echoing the Baptist's statement. John’s words still invite us to behold him- to not only look at but understand and follow this Lamb. The next day John said it again and some of his disciples left John to follow Jesus (1:35, 37). John is amazing in his humility and willingness to stay in his role. He sets a wonderful example for us- that we should seek not our own glory, but Christ’s glory. In our day when people tend to almost worship those who are celebrities, musicians, politicians- anyone well known- we should remember our true role is not to elevate ourselves, but God.

Prayer: May we see and understand who you are, O Christ. May we understand our role in pointing others to you. May we seek to honor and glorify you this day.

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