The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” …
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven and remain on him … (The) one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (verses 29, 32-34)
John, the Gospel-writer, wastes no time in making it clear to his readers who Jesus is. Indeed, John the Baptist wastes no time either. He sees Jesus coming toward him and immediately points him out to the gathered crowd, naming him with three profound titles:
(1) “Lamb of God”
This title reverberates with echoes of landmark moments in Old Testament scripture. Think of Abraham, father of faith, taking his son, Isaac, the child of promise whom he loves, and willingly preparing to offer him up as a sacrifice of devotion to the Lord God Almighty. When Isaac asks his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”, Abraham confidently responds, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:7-8). God does it, providing a ram to take Isaac’s place.
Think of Moses telling the people of Israel to sacrifice a lamb so it’s blood could be painted on the doorframes of their houses. If they did, the angel of death, bringing judgement on Egypt, would instead pass-over their homes, keeping them safe. So, they took the lamb. They made the sacrifice. They applied the blood. And judgement passed over.
Think of the “scape goat” on whose head the priest laid his hands, symbolically transferring the sins of the people – each and every sin. That goat was then released into the wilderness and it wandered off, never to return, taking away the sin of God’s people.
Think of Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
(2) “He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit”
Picture in your mind’s eye John baptizing at the Jordan, the water running clear and refreshing, the people coming, eager and willing. We’re not given details of John’s technique, but it clearly involved lots of water, either pouring or plunging. Those who were baptized would end up drenched, fully saturated. John says the coming one will saturate people just like that. But instead of water, the drenching will happen with the Holy Spirit. What a glorious prospect! How clear and refreshing! What power and authority evidenced by this Baptizer, that he has such free, limitless access to the Spirit of God himself!
(3) “Son of God”
While the other titles give us a description of what Jesus does, this title simply tells us who he is. God himself. That’s who. He shares the same essence as his Father, and therefore the same position and power and majesty. Not only so, but there is intimacy of relationship – “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), Jesus says. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “All that belongs to the Father is mine” (John 16:15). All of these are eternity-sized statements, beyond what would be expected for anyone standing, feet on the ground, on Planet Earth. But the title stretches to encompass this infinite reality.
“Look,” John says, “lift up your eyes – take in the reality. This is the Lamb of God … this, the Holy Spirit Baptizer … this, the Son of God.”
Stand in awe. This is the Lord.
Lord Jesus, I honour you as the Lamb, the Baptizer, the Son. I stand in awe. Praise your name.
Reflect: Take these titles by turns today. Reflect on one after the other. Lift your eyes to the Lamb, to the Baptizer, to the Son.