Letters to the Prison - Week 27

Hello!  We’re grateful for this chance to consider God’s word with you.  If you’ve been enjoying these letters, be sure to thank the people there who helped to make them available.  

We’re considering the Gospel of John.  Last week we began to discuss John the Baptist and what he had to say about who Jesus is.  We made the distinction between John the Baptist and John the Apostle  --the writer of the Gospel of John.  Interestingly, the Apostle John never names himself in his own Gospel.  Anytime we read the name “John” in John’s Gospel, he’s always referring to John the Baptist, not himself.

Anyway, John the Baptist has some profound things to say about who Jesus is:
•The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, 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 before me, because he was before me.’                          -John 1:29-30
•And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”    -John 1:34

According to John the Baptist, Jesus is the Lamb of God.  We could talk for weeks about the significance of this claim.  The short version is that the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” is God’s ultimate sacrifice to atone forever for all the sins ever committed by anyone ever... past, present, and future.  To read more about the significance of a sacrificial lamb and what it meant to the Jewish people, read Exodus 12; 2 Chronicles 30; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19; and Ezra 6:19-22.

Another thing John says is that Jesus “was before” him.  This means far more than Jesus ranking above John or being more important than John, even though both are true.  It also means way more than Jesus being somehow biologically older than John.  John was born about six months before Jesus, so John was older, biologically (Luke 1:1-45).  But what John means here is that Jesus existed eternally before John.  Before John even existed, Jesus was.  This is a really interesting thing for John to say.  We’ll see exactly how interesting later in our study.  But for now, it’s enough to see that in 1 John 1:34, John the Baptist makes his meaning clear.  He testifies that Jesus is the Son of God.  This makes Jesus equal to God in every way.  In other words, according to John the Baptist, Jesus is God.

Continuing on, let’s consider what someone else says about Jesus.  Look at John 1:40-41.  After John the Baptist publicly declares that Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29), he says it again (1 John 1:36) the next day.  This time, two of John’s disciples decide to follow Jesus and we see that one of them has something profound to say about who Jesus is:
•One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).

Again, we could spend weeks discussing the importance of the title “Messiah.”  The short version is that Andrew is telling his brother that he has found an extremely important man who was predicted by the Old Testament.  This man is known in Jewish culture as the Messiah or “Anointed One.”  There are many predictions about this man in the Old Testament.  And Jesus fulfills every one of them.  A few verses later, we see another testimony from another man:  Philip.  Look what he says:
•Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  -John 1:45

Philip is saying the same thing Andrew said, but in a different way:  Jesus is the man predicted by “Moses and the prophets.”  Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) While the “Prophets” wrote the rest.  So, this is another way of saying that Jesus is the Messiah; the “Anointed One” predicted by the Old Testament.

Philip finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus.  Nathanael seems doubtful at first (John 1:46), but look what he says a few verses later:
•Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”-John 1:49
“Son of God” matches the testimony of John the Baptist.  But Nathanael also calls Jesus “Rabbi” which means “Teacher” according to John 1:38.  Nathanael also has another interesting thing to say about who Jesus is.  According to Nathanael, Jesus is the “King of Israel.”  This is no small thing to say, considering that Israel was under the rule of Rome during this time.  So, Caesar was technically the ultimate “king of Israel.”  And Caesar did not share his crown with anyone.  Later in John, we’ll see how important this fact is.  For now, it’s enough to know that Nathanael was risking his (and Jesus’) very life by making these declarations about Jesus’ deity and kingship.

As if Nathanael’s words weren’t profound enough, watch what Jesus says in response:
•Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”-John 1:50-51
Jesus says the words “truly, truly” more than a few times in John’s Gospel and we’ll study most of them.  It’s enough for now to say that when you see those words from Jesus, it’s time to pay attention.  Why?  Because the man people claim to be God –the man who himself claims to be God-- is about to speak something that is a vital, absolute and undeniable truth.  We’ll look at what Jesus says about himself in this verse next week.

Meanwhile, continue to ask yourself:  Is Jesus who he says he is?  What about what others say about him?  Do you believe it?  If you have any doubts, ask believers you know why they believe.  They might have some amazing answers.  Or better yet, ask God to help.  He’s listening.  He will answer your prayer… probably in a way that will surprise you!
We love you.  Keep reading John chapters 1 and 2!

Dean A.

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