John 1:29-51 (NRSV)
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John: The fourth gospel.
Why are there four gospels? The ancient Christian writer Origen (185-254 a.d.) gave a good answer: there are not four gospels, but one four-fold gospel. Each gospel presents a different perspective on the life of Jesus, and we need all four to get the full picture.
John was probably the last gospel written, and written in view of what the previous three had already said. This is one reason why John is so different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
There are significant events in the ministry of Jesus that Matthew, Mark, and Luke include that John leaves out, including Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation in the wilderness, the Last Supper, the agony in Gethsemane, the Ascension, demonic confrontations, and parables.
The first three gospels center on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. John centers his gospel on what Jesus said and did in Jerusalem.
And each of the gospels emphasizes a different origin of Jesus.
Matthew shows Jesus came from Abraham through David, and demonstrates that He is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament (Matthew 1:1-17).
Mark shows Jesus came from Nazareth, demonstrating that Jesus is a Servant (Mark 1:9).
Luke shows Jesus came from Adam, demonstrating that Jesus is the Perfect Man (Luke 3:23-38).
John shows Jesus came from heaven, demonstrating that Jesus is God.
However, it is wrong to think that the Gospel of John completes the story of Jesus. John makes it clear that the story of Jesus can never be completed (John 21:25).
The Lamb of God
29The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I 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.’ 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
“Behold the Lamb of God” from Handel’s Messiah. Here by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus.
The First Disciples of Jesus
35The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
Andrew came to Jesus because of John’s proclamation about the Lamb of God. Then Peter came to Jesus because of his brother’s witness. In the next verses, Philip will come to Jesus as a result of a direct invitation from Christ, and Nathanael will come to Jesus when Jesus showed himself so great in relation to Nathanael’s small question. Our dear Lord will meet us wherever we are and draw us to himself with gentleness and graciousness. May we be eager to follow Jesus!
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Just in chapter 1, Jesus is given a number of different titles:
- In the Prologue (v. 1-18), Jesus is identified in a cluster of metaphors that are cosmic and foundational in nature: the Word, the life, the light.
- The second group of title assigned to Jesus identify him in terms of God; they are relational terns: (only-begotten) Son of the Father, the Son of God.
- The third group of title are functional terms that identify some aspect of Jesus’ role, especially involving certain expectations in Israel: Messiah; Anointed; the King of Israel; and Rabbi.
- Finally, Jesus is referred to with certain prophetic or apocalyptic terms: the Lamb of God, the Son of Man.
What were these different titles trying to convey about Jesus? Which ones are most familiar and comfortable to you? Which ones might you want to explore further, so as to learn more about Jesus?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.