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John i. 29–42. 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.
The day after the priests and Levites had been with John, to ask him who he was, and he had answered them that he was not the Messiah, Jesus came to John, to show his belief in his divine mission by attending his preaching, and perhaps to hear what he had further to say concerning him; for he had already pointed out Jesus to the people at his baptism.
By calling Jesus the lamb of God, he probably referred principally to the innocence of his character, in which he resembled a lamb. By this quality, and his preaching and miracles, he foretels that Jesus would accomplish, what he found himself unable to do, the reformation of the world. It has been supposed that there is here an allusion to the death of Christ, and that John meant to intimate, that as the sacrifice of a lamb was, under the law of Moses, effectual for removing the ceremonial uncleanness of the offerer, so the death of Christ would be efficacious for removing the moral guilt of sinners throughout the world; but it does not appear that John certainly know Jesus to be the Messiah, or, if he was assured of this, that he had any knowledge of his death: for it is probable that John, as well as the apostles and other Jews, expected a temporal and triumphant Messiah.
30. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which was preferred before me: for he was my chief, or, “ principal,”
That is, after me cometh a prophet who is behind me in point of time, but before me in point of rank: for he is greater than I. Some* chuse to translate the middle clause of the verse, not which was preferred before me, but which hath been before me ; supposing that the Baptist meant to intimate that his successor was present to his mind, as the object of continual espectation and reverence. This will accord very well with the latter part of the verse, “ for he was my suo perior, or chief;" for that contains the reason of placing him in his view.
The circumstance to which the Baptist alludes in this case seems to be this, that to a man who is walking, the persons and things before him are the natural and usual objects of attention, not those behind hiin. Whereas, on the contrary, says John, He that cometh after me hath been, in this respect, before me; as he hath been the object of my attention, for whom I have been continually looking, according to the prophecies and the particular instruction to myself.
31. And I knew him not: but that he should be, rather, “ that he might be," made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come, baptizing with water.
John here declares that he was sent to baptize with water, in order to direct the attention of the Jews to his successor; but that he did not know who that successor was to be, until he was pointed out to him in a miraculous manner at his baptism. We are told, however, Matt. iii. 14, that when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee and comest thou to me? which expressions seem to imply that John knew Jesus to be a great prophet and his successor, before he was baptized, contrary to what he has here declared. But the passages may be reconciled by supposing John to refer, in what he is represented as saying in Matthew, to private conversation, which the history does not re•
* Theological Repository, Vol. i. pp. 54, 295, 297.
cord, which passed between himself and Jesus, and which discovered so much knowledge and piety on the part of Jesus as to fill him with admiration, and to induce him to make the inference ascribed to him, that he was fitter for performing the ordinance of baptism to another than for submitting to it himself. Such a knowledge of Jesus as this, it would be easy for him to obtain by a few questions, very naturally proposed to him before baptism, and yet to have been in total ignorance of his character and person before that event. It was wisely ordered by Providence, that John should not be acquainted with Jesus before the descent of the Spirit upon him at his baptism, to prevent a suspicion that there had been any collusion between them, and that John had been induced, by tle partiality of friendship, to announce Jesus as his successor.
32. And John bare record, « bare testimony,” saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, like a dove, and it abode upon him.
That is, not in the form of a dove, but with the grad. ual and gentle motion with which a dove alights upon the ground. The appearance was probably that of a bright light or flame, such as the Schechinah is represented to be: for the other evangelists say that the heavens were opened upon the occasion; an appearance which light would naturally produce. This flame stood suspended over him for some time, and was intended to intimate that the spirit or power of God was descending or coming upon him, in the same manner as the cloven tongues of fire were intended to point out miraculous powers bestowed upon his apostles.
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.
Baptizing with the Holy Ghost here promised, is supposed to refer to the communication of miraculous powers, and particularly on the day of Pentecost; and there can be no doubt that that event is to be included; but it may be doubted whether it is to be confined to it, and does not refer to miracles in general: for no where, if not here, does John refer to that long series
of miracles wrought by our Lord before his crucifix:ion, and yet he is understood to have predicted them.
for it is said, John x. 41, “ John, indeed, did no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true;" that is, he performs miracles, as John foretold.
The word baptize, is used with great latitude in the New Testament, and is more than once employed to express visiting with calamity; as when our Lord says, “ I have a baptism to be baptized with;" and tells the sons of Zebedee that they should be baptized with his baptism, meaning thereby, that they should be visited with great calamities. To baptize with the Holy Spirit may, therefore, mean, to demonstrate his divine authority by the clearest and most numerous proofs, by performing extraordinary miracles himself, as well as by communicating miraculous powers to others.
34. And I saw and bare record, that this is the son of God, that he is a highly favoured prophet.
This he inferred, not only from the descent of the symbol of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, but likewise from the voice uttered at his baptism, which declared, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” That, by the son of God, John did not understand the Messiah, is pretty plain from his entertaining doubts upon that subject afterwards, which could never have been the case, had he been informed by a voice from heaven that Jesus was he. That “son of God” was sometimes understood to signify no more than a favorite prophet, seems evident from what our Saviour said when accused by the Jews; “ Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the
world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the son of God;"
35. Again, the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples;
36. And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the lamb of God.
37. And the two disciples heard him speak; and they followed Jesus.
38. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is, being interpreted, Master) where dwellest thou?
This question they asked with a view to show how ready they were to become his disciples, and to live with him, at least for the present.
39. He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and also abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour; four o'clock in the afternoon : so that the day was far spent.
40. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
The other disciple is supposed to be John the evangelist, the writer of this history, who, with that modesty which is characteristic of him, conceals his own name.
41. He first findeth his own brother