What questions do we ask when we read scripture? Often, we ask questions about ourselves when we read scripture: What does this scripture tell me to do? What does this scripture say God is doing for me?
The world tells us that we must “be true to ourselves” and “do what makes us happy.” We learn to ask the questions “Who am I?” and “What do I need?”
God created us, so he must care about these questions, too. But can we understand who we are without understanding who God is?
When we read scripture like this, we can become very confused. How does John 1:29-42 relate to us? How does it tell us who we are? If we are reading the Bible to learn about ourselves, we will skip over passages like this. But this passage teaches us so much if we read it and think about the right question: “What does this scripture teach me about God’s character?”
When John sees Jesus, he says, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” We know there is one God, but John’s words reveal that this one God is made of three persons. He cannot be reduced to any one of these persons. Scripture and church history both insist that God exists as a Trinity. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of these persons are one being, but they are not one person. Anytime we speak about God, we must describe him as a Trinity. If we do not, many scriptures and church teachings will not make sense.
Some may look at this scripture and say, “But Jesus is the lamb of God, so he cannot be God.” But remember what we learned last week: Jesus has two natures. He has a divine nature and a human nature. When the scripture calls Jesus “the lamb of God”, the scripture is referring to Jesus’ human nature. He is the sinless man and must borrow death because it is not proper to his nature. By taking the sin of the world and dying and rising again, Jesus recreates the human being and restores the image of God in the human creature marred by sin.
John also professes the divine nature of Jesus when he says, “I have seen the Holy Spirit descending from heaven and remaining on this one, this Jesus. I did not recognize him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said that the one on whom the Holy Spirit remains is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” In this part of the passage, we see all three persons of the Trinity. The Father sent John to Baptize with water. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to rest on the One. And the One sends the Holy Spirit to rest on human beings. But who is the One? John says that the One is the Son of God.
The most widespread heresy in the church today is the belief that Jesus is lower than God the Father. The second most widespread heresy is the belief that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a person. But in these very few sentences, we can already see that these beliefs are wrong. The Father says the Holy Spirit will descend on the One, the Son of God. Only God can send the Holy Spirit, and the Father and the Son are each shown to send him.
This is why the church has always believed that God exists as a Trinity whose members are equal.
Another popular heresy is the claim that Jesus is a created being. But John refutes this claim, too. In John 1:30 he said, “the one who came after me is greater than me because he came before me.” Jesus, himself, said, “Very truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) Although he is fully man, he is also fully God: he has always existed.
In John 1:29-42, Jesus meets three people: John, Andrew, and Simon (Peter). His interactions with these people teach us many things about the character of God.
Jesus travels to John and asks to be baptized. This raises a question: Why was John baptizing people to begin with? Was it to have people repent? This is true, but John says he was baptizing people so that the one (the Son of God) can be revealed to Israel. Remember, John says that God sent him to baptize with water because “the one on whom the Holy Spirit remains is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” In other words, John baptizes people because he knows God will reveal the Son of God to Israel through baptism.
John’s work and calling comes from the Trinity–yours does, too. Only God can call people. Only God can give purpose. Often, we become frustrated and say, “I wish I knew what my purpose was!” But our purpose in life is clear. John revealed God as Trinity to the people of Israel; we must reveal God as Trinity among the people where God has placed us.
Because John continues to talk about God as Trinity, Andrew comes to Jesus and asks where he is staying. The scripture says that Andrew remained with Christ all day. God created us to remain all day with him–in our physical bodies.
Greek philosophers believe that human beings were souls that had been forced into wretched bodies. They believed that the souls were pure and the bodies were evil. Death, they believed, was the release of the pure being from the broken one. Some Christians mistakenly believe this, too. But scripture tells us that God created human beings with a body. Human beings are not meant to be stripped away from their body. Scripture also tells us that both the body and the soul have fallen and need to be redeemed. The only pure part of us is Christ, and he must live within us to redeem us.
Andrew remains with Christ for a day. Then Andrew introduces his brother to Christ. Notice that the first person Andrew reaches out to is within his sphere of influence. The church has always worked this way. We do not go first to strangers, but to family and friends. God does call us to reach out to the widow and the orphan (those without a family), but we are expected to bring our own family to God first.
Although Jesus’ encounter with Peter is only one sentence long, this encounter brings us back to the question we asked in the beginning: “Who am I?” Jesus gives Peter a new name. Peter could have said, “Jesus! You do not know me at all! I am very fierce and bold, but I am also inconsistent and cowardly. I am not a rock!” But he did not. Perhaps this is because he realized what John said, “What we will be has not yet been revealed, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).
When Jesus looks at us, he sees something in us that is hidden from our own eyes. We think he can’t possibly be right. But the truest part of our own character is his own character shining through us.
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