John 1:29-41

 "John the Baptist pointing to Lamb with halo." 
Reprinted from Icon: Visual Images for Every Sunday, copywrite© 2000 Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.


The Gospel of John, written later than the Synoptics, assumes knowledge of Jesus' baptism. But John gives us testimony of the Baptist not found elsewhere. John 1:1-18 is called the prologue. 1:19-28 describes either one or two delegations from Jerusalem. (If one, verses 19-28, if two, verses 19-23 and verses 24-28) In any case, verses 24-28 describe one day. Verses 29-34 the second day. And verses 35-42, the third day. Our text describes the second and third days.

Furthermore, the Gospel of John does not mention the temptation of Jesus, fully described by Matthew and Luke and merely mentioned by Mark. At John 1:29 the baptism and temptation of Jesus had already taken place.

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

In verse 29 Jesus is approaching the Baptist. Evidently there were other people there because he says "behold" "look there."

Ylvisaker: The article 'the' characterizes this lamb as the true Paschal Lamb, the antitype of the lamb in the Old Covenant. 'The Lamb of God' is the Lamb given of God, consecrated and set apart for our salvation. It points to passages in Isaiah 53 and Leviticus 16:8-9.
Kretzmann: He was proved by God, sent out by God, He came with God's full consent and will.
Bengel: One who renders active and passive obedience, 1 Peter 1:19 . . . The Lamb of God first took the load of sin off the world on Himself, then rolled it off from Himself. There was the one plague, which seized on all; He bore the whole; He did not so bear one part, as not to bear the other. The same singular number is interposed between plurals, Isaiah 53:6,8,12. . . . Sin and the world are equally widely extended.
Luther: It is extremely important that we know where our sins have been disposed of. The Law deposits them on our conscience and shoves them into our bosom. But God takes them from us and places them on the shoulders of the Lamb. If sin rested on me and on the world, we would be lost; for it is too strong and burdensome. God says: 'I know that your sins is unbearable for you; therefore behold, I will lay it upon My Lamb and relieve you of it. Believe this! If you do, you are delivered of sin.' There are only two abodes for sin: it either resides with you, weighting you down; or it lies on Christ, the Lamb of God. If it is loaded on your back, you are lost; but if it rests on Christ, you are free and saved.

John 1:30 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'

This is obviously testimony to the people. This verse goes back to the same testimony given in verses 15 and 27. Look at Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16. The Baptist had testified to Jesus even before Jesus' baptism. Here in John 1:30 he says that he had already said.

Christ is called a true man. But He was before the Baptist because He is the eternal God. John knew that Christ was the God-man.

John 1:31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."

"And yet I myself did not know Him." This is repeated in verse 33 where we shall discuss it.

"Revealed" first appears here in the Gospel of John, and will appear nine times. It means "to make plain." Here: "in order that Christ be made plain to Israel." The Baptist's preaching and baptism was for Israel only. And how did he make Christ plain? By baptizing with water. Did his baptism forgive Israel's sins? Of course it did.

John 1:32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.

Perhaps John is now speaking to a different group of people. We can't be sure. But it must have been on the same day.

"Testimony" occurs once in Matthew, once in Luke, nowhere in Mark, but thirty-one times in John! It means "to tell the truth." This testimony concerns what happened when Jesus was baptized. It was treated in last week's text at Matthew 3:16. We make only two additional remarks here. The dove was seen and then left. It remained long enough to make an impression on John. The Spirit rested on Jesus permanently.

John 1:33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'

This verse contains some remarkable material: "And yet I myself did not know Him, but, on the contrary, the One Who sent me to be baptizing with water, that One said to me, etc."

In verse 31 and 33 we have forms of a word that means "to know without being told." Commentators argue about whether John and Jesus knew each other personally before this time. That is beside the point here. The point here is that God Himself, by some private revelation, told the Baptist that he would receive an unmistakable sign as to the identity of the Messiah.

"Who will baptize" is probably a poor translation. It should be "who is baptizing." Clearly the Baptist means that in his water-baptism Christ is baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Nothing else makes sense. In John 3:1-13, where Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, Jesus says: "Verily, verily I say to you, unless anyone is begotten of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." Unmistakably Jesus is speaking of the Baptist's baptism. There is only one baptism. Ephesians 4:4. And in Acts 19:4 Paul says: "John baptized a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe in the One Who was coming after him." John's baptism was Christian.

John's baptism differed from that of Matthew 28:19 in only two respects:

  1. It was for Israel only;

  2. It was under the Old Covenant whereas that of Matthew 28:19 took place after all had been fulfilled.

Some commentators call it "preparatory" but that does not mean that it was not a true means of grace. Furthermore, read John 3:26 and 4:1-2. Jesus' disciples baptized Israel, before Pentecost, too. All instances of baptism, whether of the Baptist, of Jesus' disciples, or of the general commission in Matthew 28:19, were truly a means of grace. Sin is forgiven.

John 1:34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."

"And I myself have seen and therefore I have testified that this One is the Son of God." God Himself gave the Baptist the unmistakable proof which led to the unmistakable testimony that Jesus is, in very truth, the eternal Son of God. Note that both verbs are in the perfect tense. John's testimony lives to this day. This reminds us of John 20:31. The whole Gospel of John was written for this testimony.

John 1:35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.

Scholars have determined that verses 19-28 took place on a Thursday, verses 29-34 on a Friday, and verses 35-42 on a Saturday.

Note "again he was standing." In keeping with his testimony, the Baptist was fascinated with the person of Christ. We know for certain that Andrew was one of the two disciples, verse 40. Commentators agree that the other must have been John, the Evangelist.

John 1:36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

"He looked intently at." This time Jesus was not coming toward the Baptist.

Hendriksen: Today Jesus is evidently walking away from the Baptist, toward the place where he was staying for the time being.

The Baptist repeats, in abbreviated form, what he had said of Jesus the day before.

John 1:37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

Fahling: But now that they heard it again, they immediately left John and followed Jesus. A loss for John, it is true; but it was in accordance with his mission -- to prepare the way for Christ.
Lenski: Here is an example of the Word rightly heard.
Ylvisaker: When the disciples followed Jesus, it was a result of the persuasion of the Father through the Spirit.

God worked through the Word of the Baptist to cause his own disciples to follow Jesus. Look at John 3:31. What a selfless servant of the Lord!

John 1:38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

This seems to indicate that Jesus was walking away from, not toward, the three men. Jesus forces Himself on no one. Look at Luke 24:48. But He was not disinterested. The words here denote more than mere seeing or looking. He was interested in them. He does not say: "Are you looking for me?" He says: "What are you seeking?" This clearly indicates His sinlessness. Ordinary sinner would have been flattered and would have said: "Did you want to see me?"

They called him Rabbi which means Teacher.

Hendriksen: Their interest has been fully aroused by the testimony of the Baptist, who, accordingly, proved that he was a true herald and way-preparer.
Ylvisaker: They express thereby a desire to speak privately, to know Him better, to hear Him explain the Scriptures.

John 1:39 "Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

"Come and see." A beautiful command and promise.

Fahling: Where did Jesus stay? Most likely it was at a modest and temporary dwelling-place in the neighborhood of where John was preaching and baptizing, probably some sort of tent or booth, which served as the only shelter to the hundreds who had come to the baptism of John.
Lenski: He opens the door to them on the instant just as if he had been waiting for them. . . . Nothing is easier than to get an audience from the King of kings at once.

In verse 38 Jesus' question implies that they want to see Him. Their question implies that they wish to speak to Him. His command and promise clearly imply that their wish will be granted. It is a very courteous scene. They stayed with Him that day. John gives the exact time, the tenth hour. If by Jewish reckoning of time, 4pm. If by Roman reckoning, 10am. These notes suggest the latter. The crucial passage is John 19:14.

John 1:40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.

This is a subparagraph to the story. The reason should be obvious. Andrew is mentioned first. See verse 44. Likely he was older than Peter. But later Peter became superior in the circle of the disciples.

John 1:41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).

"The first thing he did" or "he first finds etc." The second implies that the other, John the disciple, did the same. Either way, this is a wonderful instance of mission activity.

Bengel: A wonderful find, expected by the world for about forty centuries.
Hendriksen: The expectation of the coming of the Messiah, the testimony of the Baptist with reference to Jesus, and especially the day-long visit with the latter at this temporary abode near the Jordan river, had paved the way for this joyful exclamation.

Jesus must have opened the Scriptures for them as He did for the Emmaus disciples in Luke 24:13-27.

Lenski: Their highest hopes were coming to fulfillment: they have found the Messiah himself. The Baptist had called him 'the Son of God,' and most emphatically 'the Lamb of God.' This Andrew now restates in his own way just as Philip does a little later.
Kretzmann: Andrew and John were convinced that Jesus was the Christ. That conviction was the result of their conversation with Jesus.
Stoeckhardt: To this day in the Gospel Jesus calls sinners to Himself. He says: 'Follow Me, come to Me, I will give you life.' And through that call He takes hold of the heart and will of people, and draws their souls to Himself so that they believe, hear and serve Him.
Ylvisaker: Andrew makes the direct assertion that they had found the Messiah. Out of the Old Testament he gathers the truth that if Jesus is the Lamb of God and God's Son, then He must be the Messiah.

One final note about verse 29. It has been called "the masterpiece of the Holy Spirit." It is quoted at least five time in the Book of Concord,especially concerning the universal atonement. It is the basis for a chorus and an alto Aria in Bach's Mass in B Minor. It is found in the Catechism and in the Communion Order of Service just before distribution. And the Handbook to The Lutheran Hymnal lists six hymns based on this verse: 142,146,147,165,328 and 652. This passage teaches universal atonement for sin.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1980, pp. 22-25. Used with permission.

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