Last Updated on January 21, 2023 by GMC
The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”John 1:29-34
Why Did John Baptize in the Jordan?
While John was baptizing penitents in the Jordan river, Sadducees from Jerusalem came to investigate. Was he the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet (whom Moses prophesied)? Denying these identities, John replied, “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord”’” (Isaiah 40:3).
Dissatisfied with that answer, the Pharisees also came to find out why John was baptizing in the Jordan.
John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
With that enigmatic response, John left his interlocutors wondering until the following day.
Lamb of God
“The next day,” John hailed Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” All the sacrifices and prophecies of Israel culminated in the image of the Lamb. In the wilderness, God provided Abraham, the first patriarch, with a ram in place of his son Isaac to sacrifice on the altar (Genesis 22:13). Year after year, the Israelites commemorated their exodus from Egyptian slavery with the Passover lamb. Paschal images describe the Suffering Servant in Isaiah: “Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Unlike the sacrificial animals of the law, however, the Lamb of God truly takes away the sin of the world. How is this Lamb different from all other lambs? Twice in the first chapter of John’s Gospel, the Baptist points to Jesus’ preexistence, a divine attribute: “He existed before me” (John 1:15, 30). The spilt blood of the Lamb of God, united with divinity, will be resurrected as the new wine of the kingdom of heaven. Partakers of the Lamb will be divinized and become children of God.
John’s Reason For Baptizing
“I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”
In a fuller answer to the Sadducees and Pharisees, John gave his reason for baptizing in the Jordan. Living apart in the desert, John “did not know” Jesus. But the Forerunner responded to an interior, divine call to make him known to Israel.
The Holy Spirit Abides in Christ
Then John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
From the onset of the gospel, Christology and pneumatology converge. Salvation is not the work of the Son alone but also of the Spirit abiding in him. The “one who sent” John revealed the Messiah with a dove—a physical sign of the Holy Spirit. John declared that this Jesus is the “Son of God” who will “baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit Abides in the Church
The saving work of Christ, prepared for by the law of Moses, the patriarchs, and the prophets, does not end with his cross and resurrection. Before his ascension, Jesus ordered the apostles not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). At Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Blessed Virgin Mary, the disciples, and other faithful followers gave birth to the universal Church.
As John the Baptist proclaimed at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the sign of messianic authenticity is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We, too, are being saved through Christ by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, which draws us to the Father.
Upon the Lamb of God will abide a dove:
The Holy Spirit, who descends from above.