The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 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.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:29-34)
Here, now at last, is John’s formal testimony. He gathers up his preparatory remarks from earlier in the chapter and focusses them all upon Jesus of Nazareth. His concluding remark, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” is framed in the perfect tense. This infers that John’s statement, made at a singular point in time, has enduring effect. His words echo down through time, even in the pages of this gospel, for the benefit of those who will hear. John declares that Jesus is God’s Son.
I know that in the NIV cited above John says, “…God’s Chosen One” but the best Greek text that we have actually has John saying, “this is the Son of God.” The usually very good NIV translation is perhaps trying to give the reader some kind of interpretive help but it robs us of the introduction of one of this gospel’s great themes (culminating in John 20:30-31). John’s testimony– both the baptiser and the gospel author– is that Jesus is ‘the Son of God.’ When John spoke these words, ‘Son of God’ did not necessarily mean “Divine second person of the Trinity”. Instead, this phrase meant something like, ‘a king in the line of David.’ The true kings of Israel were referred to as God’s sons (see D.A. Carson, The Son of God, Crossway, 2012). It was a messianic term. And yet, it is only as John’s gospel unfolds do we come to understand the greater reality that Jesus the Son of God is also truly divine, the second member of the Godhead.
In addition to the Baptist’s personal testimony, John also reports the action of the Holy Spirit. His dwelling with Jesus (an enduring reality) not only commissions him for his ministry, but also shows God’s recognition and approval. Jesus is truly God’s agent, acting with his authority and power, affirmed by the Spirit.
Once again, I am prompted to consider my response to this further revelation of Jesus. John’s ministry had a twin purpose– (i) to prepare Israel for their Messiah by calling people to repentance, and (ii) to testify to Israel as to the identity of their Messiah. “Turn back to God because here He is in our midst!” I wonder if our response to ‘God in our midst’ is true repentance?
How might this reality prompt you to prayer now?