John 1:29-34 – Behold the Lamb of God


John 1:29–30 (ESV) — 29 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 the Baptist is adamant that we “behold” Jesus Christ.
What does he mean by that?
• To behold something is “not the mere act of seeing but the actual perception” – Strong’s.
• But it is more than this in that the seeing and the perceiving lead one to know the truth of that which they “behold” and so “believe” in it.
    o In other words, if you are given the “ears to hear” and “eyes to see”, i.e. to behold, belief will naturally follow.

Some Biblical examples of “behold” in action:
• John 1:47 (ESV) — 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
    o Jesus could say this of Nathanael not because he saw him but because he “knew” him.
• John 20:27 (ESV) — 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
    o Now that Thomas’ beheld Jesus’ crucifixion wounds in person and saw that they were the truth, Jesus called him to take the next obvious step – believe.

An interesting symmetry between Abraham and John the Baptist with respect to “beholding” the lamb:
• Genesis 22:7-8 (ESV) — 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
    o They went looking that they might “behold” the lamb for the sacrifice.
• And then some 2000 years later, John the Baptist says:
    o “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” – Jesus!

What did John Behold?

Jesus is the Lamb:
• John makes a direct connection between the man Jesus Christ and the function of the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament.

Was this concept new or does symmetry exist between John’s claims and the claims of the Old Testament?
• Leviticus 5:5–7 (ESV) — 5 when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, 6 he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. 7 “But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.
• Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) — 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Interestingly, however, we know that early on the disciples did not fully grasp the concept of a suffering Messiah.

Peter himself provides an example of this:
• Matthew 16:21–23 (ESV) — 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

However, with his spiritual maturation and the resurrection, it becomes plainly clear to him:
• 1 Peter 1:18–20 (ESV) — 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

Jesus takes away sins of the world:
• In addition to “beholding” Jesus as the lamb, John also “beheld” that this lamb was going to “take away” the sin of the world.

What does “take away” mean?
• Strong’s describes it as the act of “placing on oneself” or “bearing on oneself”.
• Literally, however, it simply means to pickup something up and remove it.

This literal meaning, D.A. Carson believes, may give us an indication as to why the followers of Jesus did not grasp that the Messiah must suffer (as alluded to earlier with Peter).
• He says that in light of this meaning, “what John the Baptist meant by ‘who takes away the sin of the world’ may have had more to do with judgment and destruction than with expiatory sacrifice – D. A. Carson.”
• In other words, Jesus was going to remove sin by judging and destroying it not by taking it upon Himself on the cross.

But as with Peter, once Christ’s followers beheld a risen Jesus there was no mistaking what happened on the cross:
• 1 John 3:5 (ESV) — 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
• Hebrews 10:4 (ESV) — 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
• Hebrews 10:11 (ESV) — 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.


John 1:31 & 33 (ESV) — 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

Two times in our text John the Baptist points out, “I myself did not know him”.
• This statement reveals at least two things to us.
• First, as with the “not” of John’s witness we discussed last week, it points to John’s humility.
• Second, by declaring that he did not know Jesus as Messiah, he gave all the credit to a sovereign God’s revelation to him that Jesus is the Messiah.

As for the first, it is striking that we even have additional evidence that John clearly stated he did not know who the Messiah would be, only that he himself was to prepare the way for him.
• Even though John had no clue, he was obedient to God’s call and was “baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel”.
• Matthew 11:2–3 (ESV) — 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

So as to the second, how did God reveal “one who is to come” to John the Baptist?


John 1:32–34 (ESV) — 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
• The Father spoke words that would point John to an historical event that, if occurred, would show him.
• See/Witness the Spirit descend on + Remain on = Son of God
• In other words, without the revelation of the Father, John the Baptist would not have known!
• This is exactly what Jesus says, John 6:44 (ESV) — 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

This is why John can “bear witness” to Christ.
• He “beheld” himself the confirmation of the Father’s words in an actual event!
• And, for us, Christ’s resurrection further confirms the words of God to John the Baptist.
• Therefore, we continue to appreciate John’s words concerning his Gospel:
• John 20:31 (ESV) — 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Was God’s statement to John concerning the Spirit simply a convenient coincidence or did it have foundation in biblical history?
• Isaiah 11:1–2 (ESV) — 1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
• Isaiah 42:1 (ESV) — 1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
• Isaiah 61:1 (ESV) — 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Jesus recognized the Old Testament connection:
• Matthew 11:4–5 (ESV) — 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
• Jesus paraphrases Isaiah 61:1 declaring that what He is doing and saying is fulfillment of this prophecy.

Why is a Spirit that “remained” on Jesus important?
• It signifies the permanent nature of the Holy Spirit's relationship with Jesus.
    o The reason we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit when we believe Jesus.
• It is a fulfillment of prophecy.
    o Ezekiel 36:25–26 (ESV) — 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
    o God puts a “new spirit” within us through Christ.
• It contrasts the water baptism that doesn't last (John’s baptism), with the baptism of the Spirit which lasts (Jesus’ baptism).
    o Or to put another way, the transition from the OT and John the Baptist to the New Testament’s revelation of a new covenant in Jesus Christ.
    o Acts 19:3–5 (ESV) — 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

POI – Generally speaking, what is the baptism of Holy Spirit?
• “It means that Jesus Christ was the One who would give of his Spirit to those who should follow him. Or, to put it another way, it means that Jesus would come to live within the lives of his followers” – Boice.
• And this baptism is permanent!

Lesson for us:
How can we behold the Lamb of God?
• Baptism of the Holy Spirit
• Devotional and Theological grasp of Scripture
• Through His creation

Like Peter, has your understanding of Christ grown since you became a Christian?
How has it changed or grown?
• The more time we spend with Christ the better we should know Him.

John the Baptist spent his life proclaiming a Messiah he was unable to recognize without the Father’s revelation.
• We, of course, have Scripture and the testimony of the Holy Spirit that we might recognize the Messiah.
Given John’s relative “revelation deficit”, how does our faith compare to his?