John 1:19-51 - Outline of John (Book Notes menu page)
Who is John? (v. 19-24)
1:19 And this is the record of John,
when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

1:20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
denied not- Another answer might have elevated John to great political advantage.
the Christ {meaning: Anointed One}- the GK equivalent to the HB term 'Messiah.'
According to multiple OT prophecies, the promised Messiah would fulfill God's purposes including: judgment of sin, salvation of believers, the restoration of national Israel, and the establishment of His Kingdom of righteosness. cp. Luk 3:15-17
1:21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?
And he saith, I am not.
Elias- ie., Elijah, the prophet.
The OT closes with a statement that Elijah will appear before the great day of judgment which will precede the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom (Mal 4:5,6). John's ministry was "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luk 1:16,17; 1:76-79). But because Israel would not receive their King at His first coming, John would not fulfill that final role of Elijah. (cp. Mat 11:14; 17:10-13)
Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.
that prophet- cp. Deu 18:15-19; Acts 3:22-23.
The prophet, whom Moses foretold, is the Messiah.
Later, many recognized Jesus as a candidate to fulfill this prophecy. Joh 6:14; 7:40
1:22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou?
that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
1:23 He said, I [am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
John fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5. Note that...
  • John is "a voice." Christ is "the Word."
  • A prophet's "voice" has no message, unless it proclaims the Lord's Word. cp. Isa 40:6
  • The Message is much greater than the messenger.
    The humble servant announces:
    1. the Glory of the Lord. v.14; Isa 40:5
    2. the Word of our God. v.14,18; Isa 40:8
    3. Behold your God. v.18, v.36; Isa 40:9
  • Does my witness fit this pattern? (cp. also Joh 3:27-30)
make straight the way- ie., get the crooked things out of your life. (cp. Mat 3:7-10)
1:24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.
the Pharisees- prided themselves with their knowledge of and obedience to the OT law.
Sadly, they considered themselves above John's message & his call to repentance.
Why did John baptize? (v. 25-28)
1:25 And they asked him, and said unto him,
Why baptizest thou then,
if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

1:26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water:
but there standeth one among you,
{cp. 'a prophet from the midst of thee,' Deu 18:15}
whom ye know not;
1:27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me,
whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
1:28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
I baptize with water...
There were two purposes for John's baptism:
  1. To prepare men for Messiah's coming, by calling them to repentance. cp. Mat 3:1-6
    To repent, is to change one's mind concerning sin.
    Men who responded to this call were baptized in water as a public confession of their sinfulness and their desire for righteousness.
  2. To point men to the Christ (v. 31-34) who...
    • can make men holy (baptize in the Holy Spirit, v.33).
    • will destroy all that is unholy (baptize with fire, Mat 3:11,12).
Baptism in the NT -
  1. Baptism of Repentance - John's water baptism was an external symbol
    of a man's inner desire to be identified with the Lord & His righteousness.
    As an expression of desire, it had no transforming power, but prepared the heart for the coming of the One who would make men holy. Acts 19:4
  2. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the invisible powerful work of God,
    by which He identifies a believer with Himself & infuses him with His nature. 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27,28; Rom 8:9-12. cp. Joh 1:12,13; 3:5,6
  3. Water baptism of the Christian believer (especially by immersion) is
    an illustration of, and visible testimony to, God's work of regeneration and the believer's identification and union with Christ. The act of baptism itself has no power to save, but is an outward expression of inward faith in Christ (note the order in Acts 18:8 "hearing... believed... baptized"; cp. Acts 2:41; 8:36-38).
       Such faith (which involves repentance & identification with Christ) results in remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Believer's baptism has no merit. It is simply a symbol of what occured at the moment of salvation (by God's grace, through the believer's faith in Christ and His finished work of redemption).
    The believer is...
    1. spiritually immersed into Christ (Gal 3:26,27; 1Cor 12:13),
      and because of this union, becomes
    2. spiritually dead to sin and alive in Christ (Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:11,12).
1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith,
Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
{Isa 53:4-7}
1:30 This is he of whom I said,
After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
the Lamb of God- the sacrificial lamb provided by God for man's sin.
This is the ultimate fulfillment of Abraham's prophetic statement to Isaac in Gen 22:7-8.
"God will provide Himself... " No other lamb could do what this Lamb would do:
who takes away the sin...- (or) who bears up and carries away... cp. 2Cor 5:21; 1Pet 2:24; Heb 9:25,26
OT sacrifices provided an 'atonement' (lit., a covering) for sin. Heb 10:4
Christ makes an end of sin. His sacrifice removes sin completely. Heb 10:14-18
...the sin of the world.- Christ's sacrifice is unlimited in efficacy.
  • It is sufficient for the remission of the whole world's sin (1Joh 2:2).
    But it is only effective as a 'ransom for many' (Mat 20:28).
  • Salvation is offered to all (v.9).
    It is only applied to 'as many as received Him' (v.12).
a man... preferred before me, for he was before me {cp. v.1,2}-
John cannot over emphasize the eternal nature of Christ's Person.
(This is the third occurrence of this statement. cp. v.15-18, v.27, v.29,30)
Unlimited salvation requires the unlimited Lamb.
Why did John baptize Jesus?
Prior to being baptized by John, Jesus said it was "to fulfill all righteousness." Mat 3:13-17
By participating in John's baptism, Jesus identified with those who desired to be right with God.
But from John's perspective, there was another reason:
1:31 And I knew him not:
but that he should be made manifest to Israel,
therefore am I come baptizing with water.
1:32 And John bare record, saying,
I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
1:33 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.
1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
that He should be made manifest- ie., be made known, be understood for who & what he is.
To this end, God gave John a specific sign.
the Spirit descending and remaining...- a sign with prophetic significance to Israel.
see Isa 11:1,2; 42:1; 61:1; also see Joh 3:34.
I knew him not...- There is no conflict with Mat 3:14.
"John knew Jesus only as his cousin, and perhaps as a son of David, but certainly as a man of exceptional sanctity [holiness] of life. So, quite naturally he said it were more befitting for Jesus to baptize him... Taught, however, by the Holy Spirit, the baptist declared what must have filled him with amazement, that his cousin was Jehovah come in the flesh." [GWms]
cp. 1Cor 12:3; Mat 16:16-17
I saw and bare record... this is the son of God.- cp. Joh 11:27; 20:31
Testimonies of others concerning Jesus:
1:35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
1:36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith,
Behold the Lamb of God!
Behold- ie., look intently, see for your own benefit --
-- the Lamb in His Work, v.29
-- the Lamb in His Person, v.36
Note the reaction to John's witness:
1:37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
1:38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following,
and saith unto them, What seek ye?
They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,)
where dwellest thou?
1:39 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.
What seek ye?- Many have approached Christ seeking for earthly benefits (eg., Joh 6:26,27).
Rabbi- school master, teacher.
These disciples of John wanted to become disciples of Jesus.
Where do you dwell?- The physical accommodations are not critical to knowing Him.
dwell- GK= meno, to stay, remain, continue.
(cf., in v.14, a different word for 'dwelt' refers to transient housing: 'He tented among us.' This world was not His home. Luk 9:58)
What is Jesus' permanent dwelling place? We should seek to know Him there. See Psa 91:1
Come and see- cp. Psa 34:8; Rev 3:20
These two men 'abode' {GK=meno} with Jesus that day, beginning around the 'tenth hour' (10 am by Roman reckoning, 4 pm by Hebrew reckoning). The earlier time is favored by the word 'day.' They spent the whole day, with Him, as He began to make Himself known to them.
Andrew's witness (v. 40-42) -
1:40 One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him,
was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
1:41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him,
We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
Here is the answer to the question Jesus asked, in v.38. They were seeking for the Messiah.
It was a time of heightened expectancy, due to John's ministry & the prophetic time frame outlined by Daniel. cp. Dan 9:25,26; Mark 1:15
After hearing John's testimony, and after spending just a few hours with Jesus, Andrew believed their search had ended.
1:42 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.
Simon- This name means 'listening.'
Andrew sounded so sure. Simon would need to hear Jesus for himself, before reaching a conclusion. But, even after he knew the truth, Simon would prove susceptible to peer pressure.
     The name Simon is the same as Simeon. The Lord, knowing Simon's brash and impulsive character (much like his namesake, see Gen 49:5-7), intended to transform him. 'Thou shalt be called...'
Cephas- a stone, the Aramaic equivalent of GK 'Petros' (Peter).
Jesus did not merely change a name.
The name would be changed because Jesus would change the man.
Simon, though naturally unsure, unstable, and fearful, frequently reacted to circumstances with impetuous strength, thus displaying his fleshly weakness. eg., Mat 16:21-23; Joh 13:36-38; 18:10,15-17,25-27
Yet, after he was 'converted' {turned around}, he would become rock solid through dependence upon His Lord, and he would be the first to preach about the risen Christ (Luk 22:31,32; Acts 2:14-f).
Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.- Jesus proved Himself strong in Peter's behalf.
Philip's witness (v.43-46) -
1:43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip,
and saith unto him, Follow me.
1:44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
1:45 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.
1:46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?
Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
We have found him...- the one who is the fulfillment of prophecies about the Messiah.
Nathanael was skeptical. Perhaps he pointed out that the OT makes no reference to any 'Jesus son of Joseph,' nor to Nazareth as the origin of any important figure (cp. Joh 7:41,42).
Come and see.- Philip could not answer these questions. But he knew the One who could.
1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him,
Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
1:48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me?
Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee,
when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
1:49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him,
Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
no guile- no subtilty, no deceitfulness, no two-facedness.
Nathanael was sincere, even in his doubting condition. cp. Psa 32:2; Rom 2:28,29
(In contrast, the Pharisees were not open to the truth, found excuse to disbelieve, and looked no further. Joh 7:48-52)
Nathanael was willing, at least, to check the evidence.
I saw thee...- or, 'I knew thee.' cp. Psa 139:1-4; Joh 2:24,25
What were the exercises of Nathanael's heart under the fig tree?
Was he meditating on scripture? What was the object of his desire in prayer?
     Perhaps, as he sat under a fig tree, his spirit had been caught up in a sincere prayer of yearning for the fulfillment of God's Covenant with Israel, as described by the prophets. Since the judgment which fell upon the nation in Jeremiah's day, there had been a partial restoration (Jer 33:1-14). But Israel was still oppressed by the nations, and there was no king on David's throne. Oh, When would the LORD perform the 'great and mighty things' that He had promised? (Jer 33:15-26) When would the Messiah come to establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace? (eg., Mic 4:1-4; Zech 3:8-10)
Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Nathanael's response shows that he understood, that Jesus had not only seen him sitting under a fig tree, but that He had heard his heart's meditation and prayer. The One who saw and knew him, would guide him into understanding the Truth (cp. Psa 32:8).
1:50 Jesus answered and said unto him,
Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?
thou shalt see greater things than these.
1:51 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.
greater things than these...- ie., stronger evidences to His identity,
than that He knew Nathanael's heart desire. eg., Joh 5:36; 2:19-22
verily, verily...- lit., 'amen, amen' (HB), ie., truly, surely, of a truth...
ye shall see heaven open... the angels of God ascending and descending...- cp. Gen 28:10-17
Jesus' words refer back to the Lord's confirmation of His Covenant with Jacob (Israel).
Nathanael and these other men were longing for the fulfillment of those promises.
Jesus assures them that...
  • you shall see...- God's Covenant is sure. It is 'Amen and Amen.'
    In their day, these men would observe God working to fulfill His purposes.
  • angels... ascending... descending upon the Son of man-
    These men would see the means of that fulfillment.
    God's promises would be carried to completion in the Person of the Son of man. cp. 2Cor 1:20
       Only He, as the God-man, could span the gulf between God and man. cp. 1Tim 2:5,6
    They did not yet comprehend the significance of His identity as the Son of man (cp. Psa 80:17-19; Dan 7:13,14).
    But soon, they, like Jacob, would say, "Surely the LORD is in this place..." (Gen 28:16). cp. v.14; 1Joh 1:1-4
  • Heaven open...- He, who is the 'Gate of Heaven' (Gen 28:17),
    is the means of access into the presence of God the Father (Joh 14:6).
Summary of testimonies concerning Jesus (in ch. 1):
John- He is 'the Word' who displayed and declared the glory of God (v.14-18); He is the Lamb of God (v.29,36).
Andrew - He is the Messiah (v.41).
Philip - He fulfills the OT prophecies (v.45).
Nathanael - He is the Son of God, He is the King of Israel (v.49).
But what do you say? Who is this man called Jesus? Come and see...

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