Memphis Belle

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John 1:19-51


“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?  And he confessed, and denied not: but confessed, I am not the Christ [Messiah].  And they asked him, What then?  Art thou Elias?  And he saith, I am not.  Art thou that prophet?  And he answered, No.  Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us.  What sayest thou of thyself?  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.  And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.  And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias [Elijah], neither that prophet?  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.  These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.  The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.  This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.  And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.  And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost [Spirit].  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!  And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.  Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and he saith unto them, What seek ye?  They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master) where dwellest thou?  He saith unto them, Come and see.  They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first findeth his own brother, Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias [Messiah], which is, being interpreted, the Christ.  And he brought him to Jesus.  And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.  The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.  Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there be any good thing come out of Nazareth?  Philip saith unto him, Come and see.  Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!  Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me?  Jesus answered and said unto him, Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.  Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.  Jesus answered and saith unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?  Thou shalt see greater things than these.  And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”  (John 1:19-51.)


“This last Wednesday night we had the Safaris here with us.  So they were here and they ministered, and I’ll be honest with you, on the way home I was a little disappointed.  Kind of struggling with different questions and thoughts about the evening.  It was a lot of fun, that’s for sure, the guitar music and all that, surfer music, certainly a lot of fun.  But then, to me, it seemed at least at that time, and I talked to my wife, it seemed a little weak as far as on the ministry end.  A lot of instrumental music, but not a whole lot of talk about God and Jesus.  And then learning later that as a band they have all different types of sets, they even have sets of worship and things like that.  I said, man, I wish I’d talked to them a little bit more before, and used some of the old guitar instrumental stuff and then thrown in some worship, a little bit more worship.  To me it would have been a little bit better.  Clearly there was an opportunity to share the gospel, as there were people maybe we’ll never see in this building again, you know, that were invited by neighbors and family members and people listening through the radio.  And then I was, to be honest with you, I was disappointed, I tried to share at the end of the evening, man, I just couldn’t put my thoughts together.  I had a bad case of sea-brain.  I had gone deep-sea fishing earlier in the day, and truly the whole room was moving, I was dizzy.  I was still on that boat.  So I just could not put my thoughts together, and I tried to share the gospel, I don’t know what exactly came out, but it didn’t sound right to me.  So I was bumming, just a neat opportunity, I wasn’t ready in my mind for the spiritual battle too, as there is when you do evangelism, evangelistic outreach, there’s this battle.  And I walked away going, ‘Man, I wasn’t ready for that one.’  I wish I had been more ready.  But don’t you know, the following days, phone calls started to come in, the radio listeners, folks totally jazzed, man, ‘What an amazing night of ministry’,  people leaving messages on our voice-mail, ‘And I was so excited, we’re going to bless your church, because we just can’t believe, what a cool thing you guys did.’  And then hearing stories about how people even got saved, and on and on.  And isn’t it the way it works?  Sometimes I’m like ‘God, you know, what you do and the way you work.’  Of course on Wednesday night there was a gospel message, but it was also simple.  And I wondered maybe if it was a little weak.  But as I am once again reminded, and so often reminded, in ministry even the simplest outreach, even the simplest efforts, even what we might walk away going, ‘Man, I wish I could have done a little better job than that.’  ‘I kind of feel I blew the opportunity.  Man, that was jumbled, man that was confused.’  But you find out later that God even at times uses those in very powerful ways, and the Safaris are a great band.  We spent the day with them on Thursday, man they love Jesus Christ, pretty radical.  Maybe something the Lord was trying to do that night, and people maybe that normally wouldn’t listen to the radio, and maybe sat through the service, because they were really cautious and checking out what church is about and Jesus Christ is about.  And so it was a very gentle time of ministry, I guess you could say.  But when we’re faithful to getting the word out, simply pointing people to Jesus, even in the most meager way, we can see at times God even uses that in powerful ways, because it’s all about his power and his Work.  And I think we’re going to see this same type of thought as we go through John chapter 1, at least the simplicity of being a witness.  It’s really something that’s easy, and maybe we make it too difficult at times, and too complicated.  But to be a witness, an effective witness really is something that’s rather easy.  And there’s a basic guideline here for us as far as being an effective witness of Jesus Christ, and at least using the text that we have.  And basically it’s like this:  1), first point, Point only to Jesus.  2), second point, Speak about Jesus.  3), third point, Declare what you have seen, [or maybe what he has done in your life, ie miraculous changes, etc., your personal story.] 4), fourth point, Simply bring those around you to him, 5), and finally, Give the invitation.  And the invitation is what?  Come and see.  Come and see.  We’ll see that as we go through this text.  So to be an effective witness is not difficult, in fact, it’s simple.  And it’s amazing what God can do as we just seek to be faithful.  Let’s say a word of prayer and we’ll get started here in John chapter 1.  ‘Lord, we thank you for this opportunity to study your Word.  And here in this Gospel of John, a tremendous Gospel of evangelism, and here even in this beginning of this book, chapter 1, seeing a tremendous witnesses of Christ.  I pray, Lord, as a congregation, that you would teach us all the more what it means to be a witness.  And maybe some of us that are battling with fear or questions, ‘How are we going to be an effective witness?’  ‘How can I do such a thing?’  Well, very clearly, just seeing in our text, I’d pray you’d help us to understand how simple it is, and that we just need to share what you have shared with us.  We just need to pass on and give what you have given to us, and just point people to Jesus.  And it’s that easy.  So Holy Spirit I pray that you would open our eyes to the wonderful truths of your Word, and that you’d be upon all of us now, and upon me as I share your Word, in Jesus name, Amen.’


John the Baptist points people to Jesus Christ, not himself


Starting with verses 19-28 which is where we left off in John chapter 1 last week.  “Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him ‘Who are you?’  He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed ‘I am not the Christ.’  And they asked him, ‘What then?  Are you Elijah?’  He said ‘I am not.’  ‘Are you the prophet?’  He answered ‘No.’  And they said to him, ‘Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us?  What do you say about yourself?’  He said ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said.’  Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees, and they asked him saying, ‘Why then do you baptize if you’re not the Christ [Messiah], nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’  John answered them saying, ‘I baptize with water, but there stands one among you whom you do not know.  It is he who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loose.’  These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing.”    Well here we see this contingent that was sent from the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes, representatives, go to John the Baptist and they inquire of him ‘Who are you?  Who are you anyway?’  Certainly they’ve heard about him, they’ve probably heard a lot about him.  He’s got their attention because he’s been ministering near the Jordan in the wilderness area, Bethabara as we read there, and we’re told in other places there’s multitudes that have come out to him.  Some scholars have estimated that as many as 300,000 people went out to hear John the Baptist.  So that’s a lot of people in Israel [really Judea, the remaining southern Kingdom of Judah] going to hear this man speak.  Well because of that, and because of the things that he’s doing, the religious leaders, of course, want to be responsible for the people of Israel and they send this contingent to go see who he is and what he’s all about, and what he has to say about what he’s doing.  Now when they asked him the question, basically, ‘Who are you, anyway?’ he makes it clear to them, as you see in verse 20, that he’s not the Christ.  They ask him who he is, and he says ‘I’m not the Messiah, I’m not the Christ, I’m not him, that’s for sure.’  I mean, John the Baptist certainly has opportunity here, he’s got the mike for a moment, he a popular person at this time, and certainly he’s got opportunity to share a little bit about himself.  They’ve asked him ‘Who are you?  What are you about?’.  And he responds immediately, he doesn’t even tell them what he’s about, who he is, but he says “I am not the Christ.”  I mean, he says that much, referring to the Messiah, ‘I’m not him.’  I mean, he could have tooted his horn, he could have given some kind of impressive speech.  I mean, of course, he’s up front there, he’s got all these multitudes, hundreds of thousands coming to him.  But what does he do?  He points them to Jesus Christ, and you’ll see that consistently as we go through this chapter.


We are to point people to Jesus Christ


That is our first point we want to make as we get started.  The first point for effective evangelism.  It’s very simple, point people to Jesus.  [In this so-called modern age where many if not most people have been brought up having been taught Darwin’s theory of evolution, they don’t even believe in God.  In this instance, pre-evangelism is necessary, where positive proofs of God’s existence and proof that evolution is false may be necessary.  There is a whole section on pre-evangelism on this site to assist believers in understanding this principle and the facts that prove God’s existence beyond a doubt.  See  The theory of evolution is a very clever false teaching that has been effectively put into the minds of most people, which basically blocks out effective real evangelism from ever having any effect on those that believe evolution.]  You can debate this or that, you can try to argue this or that….and at times it’s fine to work through some of these issues with people you’re sharing with, but more than anything, just keep it simple and point them to Jesus.  Just point them to Jesus.  So, that’s what John does.  So they ask him further ‘Who then are you?  Are you Elijah?’.  This of course they wondered, because as the Old Testament, their book ends, the closing words of their book, Malachi chapter 4, verses 5 and 6, Malachi says “Behold I’ll send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”  That’s how it (Malachi) ends, so there was this expectation in the nation of Israel that Elijah was going to come back.  So they asked, ‘Are you Elijah then?  If you’re not the Messiah, are you Elijah?’  He says ‘No, I’m not’, which is interesting because later Jesus will say in a sense this man is the Elijah, which is interesting.  So, representing that sort of ministry, but not the complete fulfillment of that.  That evidently is going to happen later, as we see in the book of Revelation.  [Comment:  Elijah was the prophet of God that restored the true worship of God in the land of Israel when king Ahab and Jezebel were ruling over Israel.  So Elijah’s ministry is one of restoration, restoring a nation to worship the true God.]  But they ask, ‘Are you the Elijah?’  He says, ‘No.’  Maybe he could have then gone with a speech about his ability or his effectiveness.  They say ‘Are you the prophet?’  This they wondered because of Deuteronomy chapter 18, verse 18.  There God had promised that there would be a Prophet who would come who would explain the Word of God to them.  So they say ‘Are you Elijah?  Are you the Prophet?’  And he says to them, ‘No’.  ‘So then, John the Baptist, who are you anyway?  Tell us, you’ve got to give us some kind of description, we’ve got to go back to these religious leaders, they’re not the nicest people, and we need to give them an answer, so what do you say about yourself?’  Now when somebody’s asked that question, when a man or a woman is asked that question, the way they respond will tell you a lot about their heart.  ‘And what do you say about yourself?’  With some people you need the next sixty minutes, the next half day to sit down and hear all they have to say about themselves.  But again, this attitude, this heart of John the Baptist and his response is certainly an example to us.  He responds in verse 23 and he takes them back to the prophecy of Isaiah, he says, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.”  ‘I am this voice.  I am this voice who is to prepare the way of the Lord.  A bold voice that God has ordained to prepare the way of the Messiah, for the Christ.’  And that’s what he says, ‘I am the voice, that’s what I am.  I’m a voice, pointing to Jesus Christ.’


We are to be voices for Jesus Christ


And again, that brings us now to my second point, and that should be true of you and I.  We are to be voices for Jesus Christ.  [Comment:  In these end times just before Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming, we that are true believers in Jesus Christ, both Christians and Messianic Jewish believers in Yeshua haMeshiach, are a direct type of John the Baptist, and are to be a John the Baptist work collectively and individually, pointing to Jesus Christ, as well as announcing his 2nd coming and soon coming Kingdom on earth.  Just as Elijah was used to restore a people to true worship of God, and John the Baptist to prepare a people for Jesus Christ’s 1st coming, so are we for his 2nd coming.  We are to cry out in the religious confusion of this modern world with a message of hope and salvation in, by and through Jesus Christ.]  We’re to point to him and to speak about him.  To be a voice for Christ as Paul shares in Romans chapter 10, “How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  How shall they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of Peace, who bring glad tidings of good things.”  Paul says in Romans ‘How is anybody going to know unless they hear?’  And of course they’re not going to hear unless somebody speaks.  So, a witness.  A witness is somebody who points to Jesus, and a witness is somebody who does that verbally.  A basic rule for evangelism, for effective evangelism as Christians, that we want to be in this community is ‘Speak about Jesus, talk about him.’  Just very casually, very comfortably.  Talk about Jesus in your workplace, talk to your family, your friends in your neighborhood.  You don’t have to preach, you don’t have to get all theological, but just talk about him and what he’s doing in your life.  How he’s working in your family, the things that he’s teaching, talk about Jesus.  That’s being an effective witness.  For if you and I don’t say anything, how are people going to know?  That’s the question that Paul poses in the book of Romans.  And that’s a good question I think in New England, because you meet a lot of people that look at their faith as a very personal thing, ‘and it’s so holy and personal I can’t talk about it, it’s personal, I keep it to myself.’  Well, then you have to wonder about their faith.  Because the Bible says that we’re to be a witness.  And to be a witness is to point people to Jesus.  That’s also to talk about Jesus, to share about him.  We need the same attitude as the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 1, he says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God, to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  He says ‘I am not ashamed in any way, because I know what it’s all about, and I know the power of this message, I’ve seen God and I have the perspective.’  [And Paul had seen Jesus in all his brilliance on the road to Damascus.]  Well, John the Baptist refers to Isaiah chapter 40, verse 3, that he is the fulfillment of this prophecy, this one that was to come before to prepare the way for the Messiah.  In Isaiah there it continues, referring to this voice, saying every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill brought low, and crooked places shall be made straight, and Isaiah goes on to say ‘and the rough ways made smooth.’  This voice is to come and prepare the way, and in a pictorial sense, he’s like one who is to come out and prepare the road, he’s to make it as smooth as possible for the entrance of the Messiah.  That’s the picture that Isaiah gives.  And what does that mean?  Well that means that he is to come with his voice and his message, and he is to prepare the way for the Messiah in the sense of hearts prepared, the people of Israel, teaching certain truths.  I mean, he was pretty bold as you remember maybe from the other Gospels, he didn’t hold back any punches, he just said it like it was.  Dealing with the issue at heart, the pride in hearts, and the attitude of hearts.  But he has to come and help prepare the hearts of the people of Israel so that they were humble and broken and ready for the entrance of their Lord, the Word of God.  You may remember if you’ve studied Isaiah, Isaiah 39, the chapter right before this prophecy, as God shares, this is going to happen.  Right before, if you remember king Hezekiah, God says through Isaiah to him, that God was going to severely judge the people of Israel.  He was going to judge them severely.  In fact, that was fulfilled as the Babylonians came in and took the people of Israel [really, the people of Judah, the southern kingdom of Judah.  Israel, the ten northern tribes, were taken captive and deported by the Assyrian Empire in 721BC.  Only Judah was left in the south.], the people of Judah and exiled them to Babylon, or killed the other people.  And then in chapter 40, it comes from this prophecy that God is going to take the people off and judge them severely, very severely, and the next thing is God says about this voice, about this time of grace following, where now hearts are humbled and prepared.  There’s going to be this one who’s going to come on the scene, and he’s going to prepare the way for the Messiah.  The exile to Babylon happened hundreds of years before, and in the nation of Israel [Judah, really] it’s been quiet for centuries.  [For a glimpse into the history that led up to this time, and how another facet of the preparation for the Messiah had to be prepared for, log onto .]  They’ve come back [from Babylon into the land of Israel], but there haven’t been any prophets [since the minor prophets and Malachi, and the building of the second temple], voices like that from God, but now suddenly this man John the Baptist comes, and he’s stirred up the nation of Israel, hundreds of thousands are coming to listen to him.  But he’s this prophet, there’s something unusual, and the time has come for Jesus, the Son of God, to come to the earth, this Messiah, this tremendous work of the grace and love of God.  [Comment: The southern “kingdom of Judah” is sort of called “the nation of Israel” by default, because the nation of Judah, the southern kingdom, is the only tribal group left after the Assyrian deportation of the ten-tribed Kingdom of Israel.  i.e. Judah is technically a part of the whole 12 tribes of Israel, and as such, as a sole remnant, has sort of historically “inherited” the name “Israel.”  Other 2nd coming prophecies show the whole 12 tribes of Israel will be re-gathered to the land of Israel at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. For now, both at the time of Jesus, and now, the Jews have taken to themselves the name of Israel.] 


“Why are you baptizing people?”


Verse 25, these folks that have come don’t understand the words of Isaiah, so they question him further.  If they understood, they would have made the connection.  But they don’t understand, so they say then ‘Why are you baptizing people if you’re not the Messiah or Elijah the prophet?  You’re not only saying things, but you’ve got these multitudes that you’re baptizing.  Why are you doing that?  That’s peculiar.’  Now to baptize as a Jew is radical, and that’s what he was doing, he was baptizing multitudes of Jews in the Jordan.  Basically in that time, a Gentile might be baptized, a Gentile that was converting to Judaism would be baptized, indicating that they were turning from their old pagan ways and turning to Jehovah.  But a Jew was not to be baptized.  But here he’s baptizing Jews, and it’s pretty radical.  And there’s a statement that God [through John the Baptist] is making to the people of Israel.  Of course it was part of his ministry in preparing for the arrival of the Messiah.  And we’re told that as he did this, he preached to the people that they needed to repent of their sins and turn from their sins.  So, in doing that, there was this sense that Israel, the people of Israel had gone far away from God, ‘You need to change your ways.  In a sense, you’re no different from the pagans, you’re no different in standing before God.  You need to repent.  Just like the people came out of Egypt and went through the Red Sea, you need to go through coming out of the world, and being baptized and recommitting your heart to God.’  So that was his reason for baptism.  But of course, baptism would point to the Messiah.  Everything John did pointed to the Messiah.  But baptism, showing the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So it was preparing the heart of the people in that way that the Messiah was coming.  We need a heart change, we’ve gone far from God, but also there was this message, of Jesus, and the work that he was going to do.  Of course, baptism, can in of itself be a tremendous witness.  I know just a couple weeks ago we went to the State Forest, I know a lot of you came, a lot of you didn’t.  Some of you came and you couldn’t get in.  But it was one of those days, when God does his work, and we just need to trust him.  But I remember going to the State Forest there and getting there, and we planned this thing, we got people being baptized, we’ve got the word out, and you pull up and the people of the State Forest, the rangers are saying ‘You can’t come in, the parking lot is full.’   So my wife and I are saying, ‘What are we going to do?’  Generally, I am the one who baptizes the people.  So then we went to the next parking lot further removed, and it was full, so then we just parked along the road in little places like other people were doing and we walked back in, and the place was jamming with people, and I wondered ‘Man, we planned a baptism, how is this going to work?’.  But the reason we do it at the State Forest is for that very reason.  We could do it here, we could put a baptismal in, but we don’t want to, because we want that baptism which declares to the world, I’m a Christian [or Messianic believer], I’m a follower of Jesus Christ [Yeshua haMeshiach], he died, he was buried, he was raised to life, I have identified with that, it’s happened in my heart.  Now I’m showing you symbolically on the outside what has happened on the inside of my life.  It’s very powerful.  So anyway, as you might have been there, you might remember, it was hard to even figure out how to do the baptism.  So many people there at the State Forest, the water got all goofy, and the rangers wouldn’t let us go in the water because it had bacteria or something going on, ‘what does this all mean?’  Well eventually, finally, hours later, some of the people left, small baptism.  But I tell you, it was probably one of the more effective witnesses we were doing in this community, because there were a lot of people from the community watching.  And there were scoffers, there were hecklers, that’s for sure.  But there were people watching, in fact, as we continued to do it, then people around, swimming, started to clap, and join in and just rejoice as we were baptizing people, just watching.  Because it was powerful, the message.  ‘This person has gone through a change of life, this person is different.  They’ve encountered God, and they’re saying that to me right now in their baptism.  And maybe not even understanding what it’s about, it’s declaring to them very silently, ‘It’s all about Jesus Christ, his death, his burial, his resurrection.’  So John came baptizing, showing the people they need to change their ways, but also in the baptism he was declaring the gospel, ‘This is what it’s all about, you guys need to die with Jesus, you need to raise to a new life in Christ [Messiah], you have no other hope, no other way, it’s through Jesus Christ.’  So, he came sharing this through baptism, but also this message of repentance.  Repentance means a change of our way, a change of our mind, a change in direction in the way that we live.  It’s not just being sorry, it’s not just going ‘Oh I wish I hadn’t done that.’  It’s not just having an emotional depression because of what we’ve done.  Repentance is saying “I have done the wrong thing, and now I’m going to go the other way.”  [Repentance is a change of actions and lifestyle, not just in works, but actions]  And that’s what he was telling the people of Israel, repent, change your ways, and turn to Jesus Christ.  Maybe you’re here and you’ve been struggling in all sorts of things and you’ve been telling God ‘I repent’.  But do you really repent, are you showing it in your way of life?  Do you mean business?  Or are you sharing just some kind of word, are you just coming to God because you are sorry because of what you’ve done, but are you really repenting?  But repentance means ‘God I’m going to go in the other direction, because of what I’ve done.  I see it as sin, and I know we reap what we sow, you’re a holy God, and therefore I don’t want to hurt you, I want to glorify you in my life, so therefore I want to honor you and I’m going to repent of my sin, I mean it Lord, I’m going the other way.’  That is repentance, and that’s what John was doing here in preparing the way for the Lord.  But he pointed to Jesus, he spoke about Jesus, and then we’ll see more about his heart here as we go here in these verses.   


There is one standing among you, whose shoe latchet I’m not worthy to unloose


Now, verses 26-27, John said to them ‘I baptize with water.  But there is someone much greater than I who’s coming after me, this I do, but there’s something greater that I’m pointing to, there’s someone greater coming after me.’  In fact, he says, ‘he’s already standing here among you, but you do not recognize him. So this is one preferred, this one’s greater, that’s coming after me, my job is to prepare for him.’  “John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;  he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”  And then he says in verse 27, that he is so great, he’s so far above me and before me, I don’t in any way compare to this man who is coming after me, in no way do I compare, I’m so unworthy, he says, ‘I’m even unworthy to untie his sandals.’  That’s how he viewed Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  And that’s how he viewed himself.  Now it’s interesting, in his day a master in those days had two levels of helpers.  One helper would be a disciple, the people he was discipling and ministered to.  A master would have these guys helping him, and they would do all sorts of things for him, but they would not do the menial things, they certainly wouldn’t untie his slippers or his shoes, or wash his feet.  But then he had another level of helpers, and that was servants, the slaves.  And these slaves would do anything, that was their job.  In fact, they would wash his feet, they would undo his sandals.  Today in our culture it’s sort of like some of our dogs, we’d tell our dogs ‘Go and get our slippers’, we’d train them.  That was these slaves, that was their basic value and state in life.  John comes back and says ‘I’m so unworthy, he is so awesome who comes after me, that I’m unworthy to even lose, untie his shoes.’  I mean, think about that.  And certainly, that attitude made the difference in his life.  And that attitude also makes a difference in our lives.  When we understand in the same way the greatness of the One that we serve, the awesomeness of the God we serve, just the wonder of Jesus Christ [who in his pre-existence was Yahweh], the more I do, the more I see myself with the same attitude, ‘Man, I’m not even worthy, not even worthy to untie his sandals.’  Isaiah 40, the same chapter that John the Baptist quotes from here, a little later Isaiah says further, he says “Why do you say O Jacob and speak O Israel ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over from my God.’”---Oh, life is hard---“Have you not known, have you not heard, the Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might he increases strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  A little bit later in that same chapter Isaiah says ‘You know, you’re discouraged, you’re wondering then ‘God doesn’t even pay attention to me, and what can God do anyway.’  And Isaiah says ‘Have you not even understood?  Have you not known?  Do you not see how awesome and how great God is?  He doesn’t get tired for a moment, there’s nothing out of his reach that he cannot do.  Certainly he can work in any situation in your life.  Don’t you understand that?’  That’s essentially what Isaiah says.  And his understanding is unsearchable.  And the truth is, he works radically in your life.  That’s what Isaiah says.  He even gives power to those who are weak in such a way they mount up with wings like eagles.  I mean, do you want to be like that this morning?  Well Isaiah gets to the heart with these people he’s speaking to, that they do not understand how great their God is, and he wants them to understand.  John the Baptist has a good perspective of how great Jesus is, how awesome he is. [And Jesus is none other than Yahweh, the very God Isaiah was writing about, Yahweh, who was none other than the Logos, the Word, who became Jesus Christ.]  I’m not even worthy, I’m unworthy to even loose his sandals.  Just imagine his heart as he ministered to the Lord and prepared the way, the fear, the awe, the privilege of being able to even share like he did.  And maybe that’s something I need to consider too more, just the privilege.  If it’s a privilege for John the Baptist, if it would be an incredible privilege to untie Jesus’ shoes, if that’s something he said he was unworthy of, then how should I view my privilege of being a child of God, and being an ambassador of Jesus Christ, and being a witness and his representative, bearer of his message to this world around me.  Man, I should see it in a different light, shouldn’t I, with the perspective of John.  I should say, ‘Man, as a witness for Christ, what an incredible privilege that I have, that I could even speak for Jesus, that I could even be an ambassador for Jesus, the Son of God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  How awesome he is, man, who am I to be able to even serve him.  But the fact is, he’s even called me, and I get to follow him and serve him. 


“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”


Verses 29-34, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for he was before me.  I did not know him.  But that he should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.’  And John bore witness saying ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he remained upon him.’  I did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”  So the next day we’re told here, the Baptist sees Jesus walking towards him and he exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Tremendous statement for him to say before the people of Israel, “Behold, “the” Lamb of God”.  Of course going on in their very temple, and for centuries before were all these lambs being sacrificed for the nation of Israel.  And now he says ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  The world, that’s an interesting thing to consider, let’s notice that for a moment.  This Lamb, the message of the Lamb of God, of course it goes right back to the very beginning of the Bible, and it continues to point to the cross, continues to point to “the” Lamb, Jesus Christ.  You see a lot of pictures and imagery pointing to Jesus [Hebrew: Yeshua].  But this message of the Lamb grows throughout the Bible and becomes greater and greater, encompassing more and more.  But in Genesis, you remember Abel brings most likely a lamb for a sacrifice for himself alone.  So you have a lamb being sacrificed for an individual.  And then in Exodus during the Passover each household was to sacrifice a lamb for their family.  Then as we studied on Wednesday nights in Leviticus, the people of Israel were to sacrifice a lamb on the Day of Atonement for the entire nation of Israel.    And now “the” Lamb of God, I mean this fulfillment goes greater and greater, “the” Lamb of God comes, and John says that “he” is to be sacrificed to take away the sin, not just for a nation, but for the entire world, every person that’s ever lived has hope then in this Lamb of God in Jesus Christ.  Anyone who’s willing to turn to him, there is available the power to deliver them from their sin, from the bondage of their sin, there is the mercy and grace and power available to bring forgiveness from their sin.  This Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world means life for anybody on this planet today, life for anybody whose willing to turn to him and find the cure for their sin, and to find the way to be delivered from the judgment of their sin.  This is life in Christ, new life, to be cleansed, to be forgiven forever.  We have been reading through the Psalms, and this week we read Psalm 103, and David sings about forgiveness of sin.  He says “Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies.  The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, he will not always strive with us, nor will he keep his anger forever.  He’s not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities, for as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards those who fear him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”  So, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, that’s what it means.  As David realizes about forgiveness and what it means he just sings out in his heart.  And that’s what it means to anybody whose willing to turn to Christ, anybody in the world today, doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, what your past life has been like, you can turn to this Lamb of God and have your sin removed from you, to be forgiven.  Sin is removed from you as far as the east is from the west.  So maybe you’re here this morning, man, and there’s been things in your life, and there’s guilt and there’s issues because you’ve done things you’ve wished you’d never done.  But there is hope.  In fact, there’s forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ, but not only that, he removes our sin, the penalty, the bondage, the effect, he heals our sin [i.e. he heals us from our sin], removes it from us as far as the east is from the west.  Well John continues sharing about this Lamb of God in verse 30 to 33, sharing how this man, this Jesus again was the one who was to be preferred, this one that he had noted the previous day.  But he says in those verses, he says initially he did not know that Jesus was the one.  But then God revealed this to him.  So you wonder, how did he not initially know that Jesus was the one.  You might remember that Jesus was John the Baptist’s cousin.  Of course he knew Jesus.  But as he says here, and I think he makes it clear, he did not know initially that Jesus was the Messiah.  He knew Jesus.  But God revealed to him, ‘I’m going to show to you who the Messiah is, and the Messiah is the one whom the Holy Spirit is descending upon and remaining on him, he is the one….The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus and remained upon him, and then his ministry began.   An interesting picture for you and I.  But he says, ‘I didn’t know, initially, but then God showed me and I saw the Holy Spirit come upon Jesus, and then I knew, God confirmed, indeed this was the promised Messiah.  Then in verse 34 he says ‘What I saw, what I then understood, I’ve seen that he’s the very Son of God, I understand that now’.  And then therefore he says “I’ve seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”  So God revealed to him that Jesus [Yeshua, his own cousin] was the Messiah.  Then this understanding that he was the Son of God, and as God revealed that, he then testified indeed that Jesus was the Son of God.  And that’s my third point, as we just go through this chapter, effective evangelism is just declaring what you have seen, just sharing what God has shown you.  That’s what John does, telling people about God as far as what God has revealed himself to you.  How has he revealed himself to you?  That’s just sharing that with other people.  It’s that simple.  And of course I can’t give what I haven’t received.  What I do know I can tell others.  I can point them to Jesus, I can talk about Jesus, and I can just share very simply ‘This is what I’ve learned.  I’ve been a Christian for one week, I heard this shared at this church, I heard this on their radio, you can know this much.’  That’s all it is, being a witness.  It’s amazing what God will do, too, with that.  And that’s what we see John the Baptist doing, as God reveals things to him about Jesus, he just shares it with those around him.




One after another the disciples start to gather around Jesus


Verses 35-42, “Again the next day John stood with two of his disciples, and looking at Jesus as he walked, he said ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’  The two disciples heard him speak and they followed Jesus.  And Jesus turned and seeing them following said to them, ‘What do you seek?’  They said to him, ‘Rabbi’, which is to say when translated ‘Teacher’, ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ‘Come and see.’  They came and saw where he was staying, and remained with him that day.  Now it’s about the tenth hour.  One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him ‘We have found the Messiah’, which is translated ‘the Christ’.  And he brought him to Jesus.  Now when Jesus looked at him he said, ‘You are Simon son of Jonah, you shall be called Cephas’, which is translated ‘a stone.’”  So now it’s the following day.  John gives us four days in a row, then in chapter 2 he gives us an entire week worth of events.  But he says now in front of two of his disciples, he says the same thing, he says ‘Behold the Lamb of God’, just pointing people to Jesus, just speaking about Jesus, just declaring what he knows.  These two disciples we’re told, immediately followed Jesus.  They hear that, and they immediately follow him.  And you can only imagine these two men as they follow Jesus, just their curious stare.  I mean, they’ve just been told that this is the Messiah, this individual.  Maybe they had seen him before and not known that.  But now it’s been pointed out, ‘This is the Messiah, this is the Lamb of God.’  Just imagine as they follow Jesus, I mean, they’re watching everything he did.  They were just checking him out, going ‘Wow, this is the Messiah?  This is the one who was promised for century after century, this is him?’  Just the awe and wonder of looking at him, the curious stare and the marvel.  ‘Is this he, the promised Messiah?’  Well they heard the words of John the Baptist, man, about Jesus, and they just responded and followed Jesus.  And this is what God says to anyone who sees and understands what and Who Jesus is.  It’s not just to see him and to hear about him and to attend church, it’s about following him, and that’s what they do, they follow him.  Understanding isn’t just enough, or professing the truth isn’t just enough, it’s about following Jesus.  Jesus, in fact, will tell us a little later in John chapter 10, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Well, to follow Jesus.  That’s what these disciples are all about, and that’s what it’s all about for you and I too.  But verse 38, “Jesus seeing them following him then asked them ‘What do you seek?’.  Then they asked him, ‘Teacher, where are you staying?’  and he says to them ‘Come and see’.”  And Jesus asks the same question of men and women today, ‘What do you seek?’  I ask you this morning, “What do you seek?”  Some men seek wealth, some men seek fame, some men seek one form of prosperity, some men seek to fulfill some type of appetite they have.  Who do you seek?  What do you seek?  Well, these men are a good example, because they say ‘Hey, where are you going?’ and ‘Where are you staying?’  ‘I’d like to go there, I’d like to know a little bit about that.’  And there are wise men and woman today who seek Jesus, who understand the futility of seeking other things, and understand the real power and the beauty of being with God and his presence and following Christ.  Paul said to the Corinthians “For all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”  You know, listening to Bob Berryhill last week, we spent time with him on Thursday, and he shared, he wrote this Wipe-out, fifteen years old, somebody had this dream about a song and he wrote the song “Surfer Joe”, and they were in the studio to record it, and as they recorded one side the producer said through the window ‘Hey, 45’s have two sides, we need another song.  And they didn’t have another song.  So right there on the spot, Bob Berryhill began play a little rip on his guitar, `the drummer started first, and it kind of went together, they worked through it a few times, and boom, there was a song, they recorded it.  Within six months, I remember the timing, these nobodies where at the top of the charts, on top of the world, and they were teenagers.  And for the next few years, man, they were on the top of the top, they were famous, they had everything going for them.  But Bob Berryhill shared, you know, being there, having all that, and then seeing the futility and the feebleness of it, and the fickleness of hearts.  He said,  ‘I realized, even as a young person, this was not what it’s all about.’  And later he turned to Jesus Christ.  And now today he’s had a good life, a satisfying life.  If you talk to him, he has a full life, even today, he’s had forty good years.  But the other guys in the band continue to seek other things.  And today, their stories, they’re all hurtin’ units, forty years of drugs and alcohol and destructive living.  But Bob said, ‘Man, I learned that it’s not about seeking that, it’s about seeking Jesus Christ.’  And that’s what we see here in these verses.  He says ‘What do you seek?’, and Jesus says the same to you this morning, ‘What do you seek?’  What are you focusing your life on, do you really know what it means and what the end is all about?  [see]  I encourage you to seek Jesus Christ, to be like these disciples here, that have understood and heard as you heard this morning, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  He’s the one that you should seek.  Well, the apostle John then tells us that Andrew found his brother Simon in verse 41, and said ‘We found the Messiah’, he brings Simon to Jesus.  So John the Baptist led Andrew, Andrew led Simon Peter, and we know later Peter led a bunch of people, in fact in Acts in the beginning, he leads 3,000 people to the Christ, and that’s the way it works, man.  Just people, you pointed me to Jesus, I know that somebody did, and I pointed them to Jesus, and it just keeps going and going.  That’s the way it works.  [And Jesus said that no man (or woman) can come to him, Jesus, unless the Father draws him (John 6:44,65), meaning that the empowerment in the person’s brain, mind, is coming from God the Father via the Holy Spirit, who has already started to work with that person.  And then you may come along, with your own testimony, imperfect as that may be, lame as it may seem, and it will impact that person.  Why?  Because God the Father has already started to work with that person, unbeknownst to you.]  It’s that simple.  Andrew is definitely a soul-winner.  We’ll see as we go on, this guy knows what evangelism is about, it’s very simple.  He brings people to Jesus.  Later he brings a little boy to Jesus, this little boy has a meal that Jesus uses to feed five thousand people.  And then again in chapter 12 he brings a contingent of Greeks to come ask him ‘We would see Jesus.’  So he brings them.  When you see Andrew he doesn’t show up too many times, but when you see him he’s bringing people to Jesus Christ.  And we’ll see the fruit of that in our community, and our homes and our neighborhoods as we do the same, just bringing people to Jesus, pointing them to Jesus, speaking about Jesus, and then bringing them to Jesus.  I mean, it’s all sort of the same thing.  It’s pretty simple, yet is effective.  Effective evangelism is just bringing people to Jesus so that they can see.  Sometimes that takes on the form of taking them to church, or bringing them to a concert, or bringing them to your home to do a Bible study or just bringing them to Jesus, whatever it means, just pointing them to Jesus.  It’s just that easy.  It’s not very hard, one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.  [All because God does the hard part, that of opening the person’s mind.  And what most Christians and denominations don’t realize or properly teach, if that person doesn’t respond, his or her mind isn’t in the process of being opened by God the Father yet.  So if that’s the case, go on to the next person, and pray the Father that he starts opening that person’s mind.  That’s the missing key to evangelism.]  And you’ve heard the story.  Mr. Kimball in 1858, this shoe clerk in Boston led D.L. Moody to Christ, and then later, D.L. Moody in 1879 had a tremendous impact upon a man Frederick D. Meyer, a pastor of a small church.  Well Frederick D. Meyer then later because of that began to preach in American colleges, and he brought to Christ a man named J. Wilbert Chapman, then Chapman later, because now as a Christian on fire for the Lord, worked in the YMCA ministry, and as he did outreaches he employed a baseball player named Billy Sunday, and Billy Sunday began to do evangelism with him.  We know Sunday held a revival one day in Charlotte, North Carolina.  There a group of men came to this revival, and they were so touched, so enthusiastic that after the revival they said ‘We got to do more’, so they brought in Mordicai Ham into their town to preach.  And in that revival Mordicai Ham shared the gospel, and a young man named Billy Graham came forward and received Jesus Christ.  But you can go from Mr. Kimball, and all those names I just mentioned to you were all tremendous men that led thousands and hundreds of thousands to Christ.  But you can make a direct line, one person just bringing another to Jesus, pointing another to Jesus, having an impact upon another person in the name of Christ.  [And don’t think for a moment that God the Father doesn’t have this all planned out.  As it says, he knew us before the worlds were made.]  Verse 42 says ‘And he brought him to Jesus’, and that’s all you need to do.  It’s that simple.  Well, we’re told here that now Jesus meets Simon and changes his name to Cephas, we will see more of that as we go on.  Let’s just finish the chapter.


Phillip and Nathanial


Verses 43-51, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and he found Phillip and he said to him, ‘Follow me’.  Now Phillip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Phillip found Nathanial 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.’  And Nathanial said to him ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’.  Phillip said to him, ‘Come and see.’  Jesus saw Nathanial coming to him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit [KJV: “guile”].”  Nathanial said to him, ‘How do you know me?’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Phillip called you when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’  [that fig tree must have been out of sight, so this was a miracle.]  Nathanial answered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, you do believe.  You will see greater things than these.’  And he said to him, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.’”   So the next day Jesus found Phillip and said ‘follow me’, and that’s exactly what Phillip does.  And what does Phillip do?  In return he goes and gets Nathanial, also known as Bartholomew, says ‘We found the Messiah in whom Moses wrote about’.  This guy must be real excited.  ‘We found the Messiah!  Heard about this since I was a little one, about the Messiah, he’s going to come, we found him!’  So he goes and gets Bartholomew.  When Phillip says to Nathanial ‘this is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’, of course, to be a Nazarene in that culture was to be looked down upon, and he says ‘What good can come from Nazareth?’  Phillip says ‘Come and see.’  Same kind of thing, just ‘Come and see.’  Come to Jesus, come check it out.  Well, Nathanial comes, and then as Jesus does, he revealed himself to Nathanial.  He says “Behold an Israelite, in whom is no deceit”.  Man, that’s a tremendous thing to say about a man.  But Jesus is getting at a point.  It is possible and many believe, when he says “deceit”, he uses the word in the King James, which is “guile”, which in the Septuagint is also the word for Jacob, it’s the same word.  And because of the context here, it’s possible Jesus is referring to Jacob and an experience to Jacob, and he’s using these things to stir the heart of Nathanial because it’s possible when Nathanial was under the tree, as you note here, some believe he was probably studying Genesis and reading about an experience with Jacob, maybe even wondering, because of what Jesus says here.  Well when Jesus says this to Nathanial, when Nathanial said to him ‘How do you know who I am?  You know my name.’  And something stirs Nathanial’s heart and he says to him, ‘How do you know?’  And Jesus says ‘Well before Phillip called you, I saw you under the tree.’  And he says ‘Wow!  You knew what I was doing.’  And it spoke to his heart and he said, ‘Man, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Because I said to you ‘I saw you under the fig tree, that’s really not a big deal compared to what you’re going to see.  I mean, if you believe because of that, you wait, man.  I mean, smoke is gonna come out of your ears when you see what I’m gonna do in a little while.’  That’s essentially the heart of what he says, ‘You will see greater things than these.’  In fact, he says, “you’re going to see hereafter heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”  That is interesting when you go back to Genesis, because Jacob, the deceiver, a man who was a deceiver and a supplanter and a conniver, God brought him through a time of breaking and heartache, and one night he was in the desert laying on a rock, looking up to the heaven, his life was a mess at that time because of things he had done, and as he looked up, we’re told he had a dream, and in this dream there was this ladder going to heaven and the angels were ascending and descending upon the ladder.  He got up and said, ‘Man, I’m in the house of God!  This is amazing!’  So he built a pillar, and he made a vow to God.  Well Jesus says to Nathanial, he says, ‘I saw you under the fig tree, and you’re amazed.  But you’re going to see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man’, referring back to Genesis, meaning ‘I am that ladder.  I am that connection’, where Jacob was wondering, my life is a mess God, what do I do?   He gets this vision, there was a ladder.  And Jesus now says to Nathanial ‘You’ll see the ladder, you’ll see the one that makes the connection from the earth to heaven, and there’s only one, it’s the Son of man.’  Interesting, he says “the Son of man”, meaning he’s both man and he’s God, and that’s the only one that can possibly make the connection between heaven and earth.  You got to be man, and you got to be God to make that bridge.  I can think of times when I’m on the airliner sitting next to somebody and sharing the gospel, and I pulled out that napkin, and I made that gap, and saying ‘You’re a sinner and God is holy, there is no way you can get from you’re place to heaven, because you are a sinner.  What are you going to do about your sin before a holy and righteous God?  But God has provided the way, he’s provided a ladder, and you draw the cross, and it’s the Son of man, Jesus Christ.  He died on a cross, he paid the penalty for your sin, and he’s the one now that can take hold of God the Father and take hold of you, he can bridge that gap because of who he is, because of what he has done.’  And that is the gospel.  As John the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God”, there is no other way to heaven.  There is no other way to God.  We are all sinners, the Bible says, and the wages of our sin is death, but God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  Let’s close in prayer…  [transcript of a sermon given somewhere in New England.] 


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