John 1:29 — 34

[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is 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 ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

29 Τῇ ἐπαύριον βλέπει τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ λέγει· Ἴδε ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ αἴρων τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. 30 οὗτός ἐστιν ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον· Ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεται ἀνὴρ ὃς ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν· 31 κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ’ ἵνα φανερωθῇ τῷ Ἰσραὴλ διὰ τοῦτο ἦλθον ἐγὼ ἐν ὕδατι βαπτίζων. 32 καὶ ἐμαρτύρησεν Ἰωάννης λέγων ὅτι Τεθέαμαι τὸ πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον ὡς περιστερὰν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ ἔμεινεν ἐπ’ αὐτόν· 33 κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν, ἀλλ’ ὁ πέμψας με βαπτίζειν ἐν ὕδατι ἐκεῖνός μοι εἶπεν· Ἐφ’ ὃν ἂν ἴδῃς τὸ πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον καὶ μένον ἐπ’ αὐτόν, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ· 34 κἀγὼ ἑώρακα, καὶ μεμαρτύρηκα ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.

Lamb Karate Chops

We could take six months on this passage, but we won’t. Let’s get to the point of verse 29 and please understand I’m doing a quick summary of a lot of deep thinking on this one verse alone!

First, John uses a term some Old Testament prophets used to identify a new thing God was doing: “Look!” — translated here, “Here is…” or in The Message, “Here he is!” This is the One!

And who is he? The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (lat. Agnus Dei).

John, recording the words of John the Baptist, was likely referring here to three ways Lamb of God was understood by his audience. First, the Lamb of God as the Jewish apocalyptic Lamb. Jewish literature of this era gives evidence to a belief in a conquering Lamb of God who will destroy the world’s evil. This fits what we know about the fiery message of John the Baptist predicting a coming Messiah: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Mat. 3:7-8). Jesus, Lamb of God, is the One who will destroy evil! (See also Rev. 5:5-14).

Next, consistent with John’s overall message, Lamb of God likely refers to the Songs of the Servant in Isaiah noted earlier. John the Baptist has already quoted from this book within the Book of Isaiah (Jn. 1:23). See now Isaiah 53, especially verse 7: this Servant suffers like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.

Lastly, Passover plays a more important role in John’s Gospel than in the other three. It seems clear, in the context of the whole Gospel, that Jesus is the Lamb of God whose blood takes away the sin of the world, who causes the Angel of Death to passover your house. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:13).

This eternal Word in the flesh, Jesus the Christ, is Lamb of God, fierce Destroyer of evil, and also, one who empties himself of power and privilege, freely giving up his life in love, spilling his blood to save the world!

Last week, I noted the difficulty of speaking truth while being humble. Here is a similar paradox: we are tough on evil, but gentle servants of God, surrendering to the Spirit, to do the Lord’s will. We stand firm against the devil’s wiles, and walk humbling with our God and one another. It sounds crazy contradictory…but somehow, makes a lot of sense!

O, to live it, though!

Cover photo: A picture of the altar of the Little Chapel Capella Pinardi by an unknown artist. Late 19th century.