11: Behold (John 1:29)
“Behold” says the Baptiser. “Hey, look at this” would be an apt modern translation. It is an exclamation of enthusiastic excitement.
“Look what I’ve found”.
It is a moment of joyful revelation. Someone had switched the light on for him.
This must have occurred after Jesus’ baptism. Before that, John had known something of who Jesus was, but not as much as he knows now. He had known something about Jesus even when John was in the womb. He had jumped for joy as a pre-born baby when Mary came in pregnant to visit her “kinswoman” Elizabeth (John’s mother) with the baby Messiah.
“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.’” (Luke 1:41-44)
He had probably been told stories of all the miracles that surrounded both his and Jesus’ birth.
His own mother, Elizabeth, thought of Jesus as “my Lord” (Luke 1:43).
Despite all of that, John’s own testimony was that he did not really know who Jesus was before he baptized Him.
“I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water, that One said to me ‘On whomever you see the Spirit coming down and abiding on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1: 33)
Then one normal ministry day as John preaches repentance and baptizes those who want to respond, he sees Jesus approaching. He knows that Jesus is special. John has almost certainly been told that Jesus really is the One by his own mother, but he is not yet certain. It wouldn’t have been his first, or his last bout of doubt. Either way, he was obviously not sure and is honest enough to publicly admit it: “I did not know Him”. This from the man who Jesus acknowledged as “the greatest” born of women (Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28).
Whoever he thought Jesus was, he knew enough to acknowledge that he really shouldn’t be the one to baptize Him, if anything it should be the other way around. Matthew records that John tried to stop Him from being baptized.
“John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” (Matthew 3:14).
Literally John tried to “utterly prohibit” or “forbid” Jesus from being baptized (literal translations). So John knew how out of order it was for him to be baptizing Jesus. He knew even then that Jesus was greater than him.
Jesus encourages John to “allow it for now, for it is becoming to us this way to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
Notice that Jesus uses “us”. Jesus sees His baptism as something the Father and Spirit were equally in agreement with and a part of, as witnessed by the Father’s audible blessing and the Spirit’s visible presence.
But here He is. Jesus the perfect, spotless one who “knew no sin” (2Corinthians 5:21). Lined up with all the rest of us, alongside the bullying soldiers, thieving tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. No special treatment. He is “fulfilling all righteousness”. He is identifying with our humanity. Majestic in humility.
Jesus puts Himself into the hands of a man, not for the first time, or the last and is baptized in the Jordan River. As He immediately rises from the water the heavens are torn open (Mark 1: 10), in the same way and by the same Hands that open the curtain of the temple three years later (Mark 15: 38) and a dove descends.
“And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (Mark 1:10).
“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:38)
Not only does the dove come down to Jesus, but He “rests” on Him. He stays, He remains.
“And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.’” (John 1:32)
With the dove comes a voice addressed to John and the crowd in Matthew: “This is My Son, the beloved, in whom I have found delight” (Matthew 3:17).
In Mark and Luke, the voice of the Father addresses Jesus personally: “You are My Son, the beloved; in You I am delighted” (Luke 3: 22).
As the heavens are opened, so are John’s eyes and ears and now he knows for sure. Jesus is the Son. The One. The Beloved of the Father. He has got it and now he wants the world to see.
As a side note, John the Baptist was a clear Trinitarian. He believed that God was One God but in three persons. Here He clearly talks about the Holy Spirit and the Son of God, which implies that there is also a Father who he calls “He who sent me to baptise in water”. The Holy Spirit wants us to understand this right from the beginning of the gospel. Once we have understood it here in John 1, the rest of the book makes sense.
“Behold!” the Baptist cries out.
He has been crying out about the darkness.
“Repent! You soldiers be content with your pay. You tax collectors give back what you stole. You Pharisees, you vipers, who told you to flee from the coming wrath!”
He has been doing a lot of shouting. Shouting to wake people up. Wake them up to see their own darkness before it is too late. All he has seen before him is a long stream of people walking in darkness, their judgements clouded by their own. sinfulness and the god of this world. One after another. But now he sees Someone totally different. Wonderfully different. I would imagine the tone of his shouting changed and the volume was even louder.
“Hey everyone, stop what you’re doing and come and look at this!”
“All of you come and see this – it’s amazing!”
Whatever phrase he would have used in today’s world, his excitement was palpable and contagious. After his second declaration in John 1:36, two of his disciples were so enthused by his zeal that they left his amazing ministry to be with Jesus. John wouldn’t have minded, that is why he came. The friend of the bridegroom. Happy to see the bride with the groom and to know that he had helped it happen.
“He must increase and I must decrease.” (John3:30)
What was John so excited about? He already knew enough about Jesus to get excited. However, now He understands that he has just held The Beloved in his hands. He had just plunged Him into the Jordan River. That is a life transforming revelation.
John the apostle understood. He had touched Jesus too.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” (1John 1:1)
And once you have truly touched Him, you can’t be quiet about Him.
“the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you,” (1John 1:2-3a)
“Behold” says John the Baptist. “I did not know Him, I had heard of Him, I was told of Him. I sort of knew Him growing up. But now my eyes have been open. I had my hands on Him. I put Him into the water, just like everyone else. But when I brought Him back up from the water, even as I was bringing Him to his feet again, the heavens were torn open above me and I saw a dove, the promised Holy Spirit, coming down from heaven. It flew from beyond the skies down until it came to rest upon Him. I knew in that instant in my heart what I had heard with my ears and sort of understood with my mind, that the One who is standing so close to me now is the Anointed One from heaven, the promised Messiah. The Great King. The Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the whole world. He will take away my sin, yes even I John the Baptist am a sinner who needs a savior. And here He is, the Light of the World, standing with me, standing by me, so close that I can reach out and touch Him even now. I will never be the same.”
John’s cry echoes into our world still, from every saint and church filled with the same Spirit.
“Behold, the Lamb of God.”
Maybe, you are not quite so bold as John (few of us are). Maybe it’s a long time since you pointed someone to Jesus.
Can I ask, when was the last time that you were so close to Him that it felt like you touched Him and He touched you? It is a life changing experience, even for a seasoned Christian.
Ask the Holy Spirit, “Lord, how can I become excited again about Jesus?”
Then do what He tells you.Posted on: May 22, 2018Peter Todd