Recognizing Jesus, the Christ

Recognizing Jesus, the Christ

Home Church Service 1/29/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”

“The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

                                                                                John 1:19–34 (NASB95)

We have just completed the prologue to John’s gospel account, verses 1 – 18, where John presents, in a rather majestic way, the Word – Jesus Christ. John’s view of Jesus is unique from the other three gospel accounts and that continues as we reach out next passage in chapter 1. We move from the majesty of the preexistent Word to the rigors of everyday life for John the Baptist.

In this passage we will see the first two titles given to Jesus in John’s gospel account – the Lamb of God and the Son of God. Thus begins the shaping of John’s unique perspective and the difficulty people have had, both then and now, in Recognizing Jesus the Christ.

John the Baptist confessed to the priests and Levites he was not the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet. He said he was a voice crying in the wilderness. While the priests and Levites had trouble Recognizing Jesus the Christ, John points to Him as the One whom the Spirit remained upon – the Lamb of God and the Son of God.

As Christ followers, it is important for us to know who we are in Christ. Those around us may have difficulty in Recognizing Jesus the Christ, thus everything we say and do must point to the One who takes away our sin – the Lamb of God – and the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit – the Son of God.

In this message we seek to understand how we can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ.

We can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ by being their voice in the wilderness.

1). As Christ followers, we must first understand that many will have difficulty Recognizing Jesus the Christ because they are looking in the wrong places and asking the wrong questions.

We must be open, honest, and transparent because we simply do not have all the answers.

Verses 19-28 deal, once again, with the testimony of John the Baptist. John, the author of the gospel, makes it clear to his readers, that John the Baptist has been sent from God to testify to the Word – Jesus Christ. We are told that John the Baptist gave this testimony when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to question the Baptist. There are a couple of things here that we need to aware of that will help us understand what is happening. First, we need to remember Israel was a divided kingdom. The Northern Kingdom, Israel or the House of Israel, was sent into Assyrian captivity in approximately 722 B.C. The Southern Kingdom, including the capital city of Jerusalem remained until the Babylonian captivity of 586 B.C. While the Southern Kingdom would return from Babylonian captivity, the Northern tribe assimilated into other cultures, never to return. So, what we know as the Northern kingdom, at the time of Jesus, would be Samaria and Galilee.

Why is this important? Because John tells us in his prologue that the Word, Jesus, came to His own and His own rejected Him. Naturally most people assume this is the entire nation of Israel, but this is not the case. The word Jews in verse 19 actually means Judeans and Judah was part of the Southern kingdom that returned from captivity and includes the capital city of Jerusalem. So, it is not the entire nation of Israel that rejects Jesus but the Judean Jews who reject Him. We will see further proof of this later in the gospel account of John. Secondly, there are Levites among those who question the Baptist. Why is this important? The Levites are the priests of Israel in charge of those who are priests and perform priestly duties. Remember, John the Baptists father, Zechariah, is a priest and as the son of a priest, the Baptist is expected to become a priest, but he must go through the proper channels of authority and the Baptist has not done that.

Now we can fully understand the testimony of the Baptist. Those who came to question him want to know who he is and who gave him permission to baptize. The fact that the Baptist does not conform to the rules and customs of the priesthood is a great threat to the Pharisees. This is also the start of a pattern for those John the author refers to as Jews. Most of the confrontation between the Jews and Jesus has to do with authority. Again, the same old question, who gave you permission? Notice the answers the Baptist gives grow shorter with each question. “Are you the Christ?” to which he replies, “I am not the Christ?” The second question, “What then? Are you Elijah?” again the Baptist replies, “I am not.” And finally, he gives a simple “No” to the question about being the Prophet.

The Baptist knows and understands these men are looking for his credentials, but he will not play into their game. The Baptist believe authority comes from God, not man. The Baptist understand he has been sent on a mission from God and as such, his authority comes from God. He has made a point of being clear in pointing to the One who comes after him, One these men do not know though He stand among them. The witness and testimony has been to point the way to the Word, Jesus the Christ; he did not waver from this mission and has denied being the Christ freely and openly. And yet these men sent by the Pharisees continue to ask the wrong questions and look in the wrong places for the much-anticipated Messiah.  

Things really haven’t changed that much over the past 2,000+ years, people still ask the wrong questions and look in the wrong places, making it difficult in Recognizing Jesus the Christ. Speaking from my own experience only, people still ask questions about authority, they still seek to know who is running the show. People still ask questions seeking credentials, seeking to answer the same old question, “Who gave you permission?” There is a never-ending series of questions that seem to run in a loop that doubles back time and again. In reality they are simply seeking to deflect the question and change the subject.

There is this great misconception among most people that becoming a Christ follower will solve all of your problems instantly. I have been asked many times about money and money issues. “Why should I become a Christ follower? Don’t you still have money problems?” Yes, that is a real question have I been asked, probably a dozen times or more. The next most ask question is “What’s in it for me?” As if the removal of your sins and eternal life isn’t enough! The third question, and perhaps you have heard this, “What makes you so special?” In other words, “Who put you in charge?” There are other questions that follow but these are the most common from my experience. Some who asked may have been genuinely curious, but for most it was a way to deflect and change the subject.

The other issue is that people look in the wrong places. In the case of the Baptist, the men sent to question him were looking for human credentials and permission for the Baptist to do the work he was doing. The Baptist knew his credentials and authority came from God alone, but the religious sect of Israel felt they had the last word on who could become a priest and then perform priestly duties. We have the same issue today. People want to see the human validation behind everything anyone does. That includes stepping out in faith to share your story in Christ.

You see if a human being has given their approval, it is real and tangible in this world. Like the Pharisees, people today must have the final say, not the God who has called you to serve Him. Today people turn to many different things in looking to fill the void, that something deep down inside that is missing. The first place is an authority on earth, as we have just discussed but there are plenty of other places they look. People look to a sports team or event to fill the void. Perhaps it is celebrities or psychics that fill the void. Others turn to astrology or self-help materials or another religion where they have control of their own destiny.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

In your own life, what are some of the ways you have rejected Jesus?

When do you have difficulty in Recognizing Jesus the Christ?

What are some of the ways you have experienced people deflecting or attempting to change the subject when talking about Jesus?

We can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ by being their voice in the wilderness.

2). As Christ followers, we must then understand it is our responsibility to point the way for those having difficulty Recognizing Jesus the Christ by making straight the way of the Lord.

We can only help others if we are willing to walk with them, no matter how dirty we may get along the way.

Time and again we see the Baptist pointing the way to Jesus. When asked if he were the Christ, he freely and openly confessed he was not. His answer was the same for the follow up questions about his identity because the Baptist was confident in who he was and what his mission was. John the Baptist had ample opportunity to grab glory for himself and run with it, but his humility would not allow him to do so. His own description of himself comes from the prophet Isaiah as “one crying in the wilderness.” He was sent to witness to and testify about the true Light coming into the world, the Light that gives life to all people. As the one who is crying in the wilderness his job is to make straight the way of the Lord, to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah. The Baptist knew who he was, and he knew his mission.

In verse 29 we find, perhaps, the greatest example of the Baptists willingness to point the way to Jesus. John the Baptist is standing with others, his own disciples among them, and as Jesus approaches them, he quickly and clearly proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This title must have caught the people off guard and caused them to take notice of this man the Baptist proclaimed. Every Jew in the area would understand the implication of calling this man “the Lamb of God.” Every day at the Temple, two lambs were sacrificed, one in the morning and one in the evening. These lambs were sin offerings for the people. This would also bring to mind the story of the original Passover and the lamb each family sacrificed so the Lord might Passover their homes as the plague of death hit the first born of Egypt.

Symbolically, the Passover pictured the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. He is the lamb without blemish, a picture of His sinless life. The blood that was sprinkled on the door post pictured His blood shed on the cross. It was the sign that the life and blood of an innocent lamb had been substituted for the firstborn. So, when the Baptist proclaimed, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” he had to be aware of the sacrificial aspect of the title. This is an echo of the Old Testament, once again coming from Exodus but there is also an echo from Genesis.

Some may have recalled the account of Genesis 22 and the sacrifice of Isaac. So much of this story also foreshadows the coming of Christ as Messiah. Abraham is instructed by God to take his ONLY son, the son he loves to the land of Moriah as a burnt offering. For three days Abraham and Isaac travel, all the while Abraham aware that he must offer his son to the God who has called him. Once they reach the site, Abraham places the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac, and they climb the hill. For three days Abraham must have seen his son as good as dead, now the time has come to complete the offering. It is Isaac that ask where the lamb for the sacrifice is to be found. His father tells him God will provide the lamb. Sure enough, God stops the offering and indeed does provide a lamb for the offering, the son of Abraham has risen from among “the dead.”  

Finally, at the end of this passage, the Baptist gives witness to the fact that the One who is “the Lamb of God’ is also “the Son of God.” This is a title given by God Himself at the baptism of Jesus. The Baptist proclaims he saw the Spirit descend like a dove and remain upon Him. Here again is an echo from Genesis and the dove of chapter 8. The dove became a sacred bird and symbolized peace, gentleness, safety, hope, purity, innocence and future. Most significantly, it was associated with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God Himself. The Baptist testified that He saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus and remain on Him. At the baptism of Jesus, the sacred bird that symbolized peace, safety, gentleness, innocence, hope, purity and future remained on the Prince of Peace, the Gentle Shepherd, the ultimate symbol of safety, innocence, hope and future.

The dove was also associated with the king of Israel. That the dove remained on Jesus would identify Him as the King of Israel and be an important symbol of His role as King. Anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah was at a high during the time Jesus was on the earth. People were expecting the Messiah to come and release them from their oppressors, the Roman Empire. Many expected a Messiah with power, a combination of political and military strength. This is far from what Jesus presented as Messiah. Jesus filled the role of Messiah and the role of the King of Israel by subduing us to Himself. We became subjects to the King and Messiah. He ruled and defended us as a King and Messiah. He restrained and conquered those who were His enemies. This is the most important role of the King – to defend and conquer in order to provide safety.

It is our responsibility to point the way to Jesus. We cannot save anyone. We simply plant the seed and allow God to do the work of salvation. We are to be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” That will look different for different people, but we simply act as the voice that says there is another that you do not know, One who came before me; One who is the very essence of hope, peace, gentleness and safety. He is the One who as changed my life, and He is the only One who can change your life. I know, it seems over simplified, but it really can be just that simple…we need to be heard and we must plant the seeds of faith in Jesus the Christ.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How are you pointing the way to Jesus the Christ for those in your life who may be having difficulty recognizing Him?

How are you planting seeds of faith in the lives of others?

How has Jesus been the King of your life?  

We can help people in Recognizing Jesus the Christ by being their voice in the wilderness.

Demonstrating true humility is the basis for any work we do for Christ. This is especially true in being “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” for others. In ancient times, a herald, or forerunner, would go before a dignitary to announce his coming and clear the way before him. John was the Messiah’s herald and forerunner; he came on the scene to announce and to exhort people to prepare the way. Likewise, we too are the herald or forerunner for Jesus the Christ. We have been sent on a mission from God to testify and witness to the true Light that has come into the world. This is the Light that gives life to all people. We are to make straight the way of the Lord.

What are we to make straight? We need to straighten the concept of Messiah. Many in the time of the Baptist saw Him as just another man. Some saw Him as a liberator, one who would free them from the oppression of a military power. Some saw Him as the One who would judge all nations and provide for their salvation alone. We face many of these same issues. Jesus was indeed a man, but He was more than a mere man…He was God in the flesh. He came to experience all things human that He might provide for us an example and an Advocate before the Father. It is our responsibility to help others see that Jesus the Christ is different from the gods of other religions. Yes, Jesus will set you free from sin, the grave and death but He will also give you life and life in abundance, something no other religion can offer. Yes, Jesus will one day judge the sin of the nations and each individual person, but for those who know Him, He will be the defense attorney who holds the key to your release and eternal life.

We need to help people realize that religion does not save you. Religion is a man-made institution, formalized and institutionalized that each person can be in “control” of their future. Jesus the Christ is a real person who lived a real life among real people – the difference is Jesus was also fully God, come down from heaven to live as those He created in His image. He is the new message of God’s mercy, grace and love – a love so strong people can see their own sinfulness and still have hope for the future. The Messiah we know is pure, holy and truthful. He does not lead anyone astray and will not leave us to our own devices. We must make Messiah known in such a way that people sit up and take notice, people must respond before it is too late.

We are a voice and people must hear us! We must proclaim our message clearly and with urgency for the time is short and people must repent. Point the way to the One they do not know!

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 1:35-42

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