The Expository Files


John's Testimony of Jesus

John 1:29-34

Several statements in the Old Testament prophesy that a forerunner would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. As we come to the New Testament, it is affirmed that these prophecies found their fulfillment in a man named John, who was born to a priest named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth about six months before Jesus was born. Because John was sent by God to baptize the people of Israel so that they might be ready for the coming of the Messiah, he is known as John the Baptizer or John the Baptist, and we need to consider his testimony of Jesus in John 1:29-34.

First, he identified Jesus as the Lamb of God in verse 29. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” Under the Old Covenant law, God required lambs and other animals to be sacrificed. However, these animal sacrifices themselves did not provide forgiveness, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin’ (Hebrews 10:4). Rather, the primary purpose of these offerings was to point forward to the fact that mankind would be redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Second, he said that Jesus was "Preferred before me" in verses 30-31. “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” When John said that Jesus was "Preferred before me," he meant that He "ranks higher than I." Jesus Himself later said of John, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). John was not the Messiah, and he humbly accepted his place in God’s scheme as the herald who would announce the Messiah.

Third, he saw the Spirit in verses 32-33. “And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”’” This event occurred at the baptism of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 3:13-17. God had apparently revealed to John that this would happen as a sign that would enable John to know exactly who the Christ would be and so to testify of Him.

Fourth, he called Jesus the Son of God in v. 34. “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” Based on the evidence presented to him, John identified Jesus as God’s Son. Others have done the same. Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:17). And God wants us to do so also. But how can we come to know this? We didn’t see the Spirit descend on Jesus as John did. We haven’t listened to Jesus in person as Peter did. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

What is the importance of John’s testimony? Well, consider these questions. Why do we believe that Alexander the Great lived 2,300 years ago, was king of Macedon, and conquered the known world? Why do we believe Julius Caesar lived 2000 years ago, first ruled Gaul, and then crossed back over to Rome? Why do we believe George Washington lived 230 years ago, led the colonial army against the British, and was the first President of this nation? None of us was there, but we accept credible historical evidence. And even though none of us was present when Christ lived on earth, we have credible historical evidence about Him—from many people including John the Baptist. If believe can believe the historians’ testimony about Alexander, Julius Caesar, and George Washington, why should we not accept John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus Christ?

By Wayne Walker
From Expository Files 17.6; May 2010