Who is the Christ?
Who is the Christ? - John 1:19-51
With Dubai being a transient community, people are always coming and going and it seems everywhere we go we have opportunity to meet new people. New people at church. New people in ladies’ Bible study. New people in our neighborhoods. New people at our kid’s schools. New people in the elevator. We’re all pretty good at asking and answering the questions that come along with the meeting of new people. We ask and answer ‘what’s your name?’, ‘where are you from?’, ‘how long have you been here?’, and ‘what brought you here?’ all the time. In essence what we’re asking is “WHO ARE YOU?” This is the question that we see asked and answered in our passage this morning.
Let’s consider together John chapter 1. What we’ll see is that John answers the question of who he is, then John introduces Jesus or tells people who Jesus is and then we’ll see what people do with the information about who Jesus is.
(1) John is NOT the Christ
Let’s begin by looking at chapter 1 verse 19-22.
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Right off the bat we see the questions being asked. As we heard last week in John 1:6-8, John the Baptist was sent by God as a messenger to point people to Jesus. He knew who he was, but the pharisees and others were confused. You can imagine their confusion. For about 400 years the people of Israel had been waiting in silence for the fulfillment of God’s promise. There had been no word from God and suddenly here was a man calling them to repent and they had to wonder if he could be the one they were waiting for.
Think about their situation for a minute. A remnant of God’s people had returned from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. This remnant had hope that they would once again be free in the land God had given them, but they continued to be under foreign rule. Alexander the Great, the Roman empire and others had conquered the land and ruled over them. God’s people wanted to be rescued. God’s people wanted to be free. God’s people were waiting for the rescuer to come. They were waiting for the redeemer to come. They were waiting for the Messiah... or the Christ to come. Their hope was that the Messiah would come as a conquering king and rescue them from tyrannical rule. They thought this was their greatest need. But they would soon find out that what they needed was an even greater rescue.
So when someone comes calling for repentance, they had to wonder if he could be the one. The Jews sent priests and Levites and they asked him straight out- who are you? are you the Christ? are you Elijah? are you the prophet? John says NO, NO, NO. And then John identifies himself as a messenger.... “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’. Did you catch that? What was John’s message? He was calling the people to make straight the way of the Lord. To repent of their sin and turn back to God because the Lord was coming. John was pointing people to Jesus before Jesus even comes on the scene.
If you read on in verses 26-27 you’ll see that John’s first introduction of Jesus is... “among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” John’s message was to point people to Christ and the worthiness of Christ alone.
Obviously none of us are John the Baptist. None of us have been sent by God to point people to the coming Messiah. BUT, if you have repented of your sin and turned to Christ for forgiveness, you
have a similar task. Are you living as a messenger pointing people to Christ? Are you proclaiming the message of salvation through Christ alone? Are you telling people that they are lost in their sin? Are you telling them that Christ is the only way to be saved? Are you sharing the gospel in your workplace and neighborhood and at your kid’s school?
(2) Jesus IS the Christ
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.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 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.”
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
Imagine the scene. The day after telling the Jewish leaders that he’s there to point people to the One who will come after him, he’s out at the river baptizing people and here comes Jesus. John doesn’t ask Jesus who He is. No one else around asks Jesus who He is. Jesus doesn’t introduce Himself. John introduces Jesus as... “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
This one statement from John is a mind boggling introduction to Jesus. John identifies Jesus as (1) being of God (the lamb of God) - He’s not simply a man, but He’s the One sent by God and in fact He is of God and He is God Himself.
John also introduces Jesus as (2) the lamb who takes away sin - any Jews listening would immediately think of the sacrificial system and how in Egypt the blood of the passover lamb identified God’s people and for years since the blood of the sacrificed lamb covered up sin, but now John was proclaiming that the blood of Jesus would take away sin when He dies as the atoning sacrifice for sin paying the penalty for sin in our place.
(3) Thirdly, John introduces Jesus as the one who came to take away the sins of the world- even in the opening lines of the book of John, Jesus is seen as the One who came not just to the Jews but to the world. Jesus had come to all of His people, of all nations, to call them to repent and to turn to Him for salvation. Have you heard this call from Jesus? Have you believed on Him as the Christ- the One who came to take away your sin?
Not only did John identify Jesus as the Christ, but John explained how he knew who Jesus was. God told John who to look for...the One on whom the spirit descended. John explained that he was able to say that Jesus is the Christ, because he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.
(3) Christ is to be followed
So, how do people respond when John identifies Jesus as the Christ? The simple answer is that they follow Him. Verse 37 simply says that two of John’s disciples heard John say that Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” and they followed Jesus.
What did following Jesus look like to these disciples? I read a quote that someone posted on facebook this week that said “you don’t follow Jesus like you follow someone on twitter.” For those of you who are as technoligically behind the times as I am, I’m told that following someone on twitter means that you read (and respond) to their posts or updates. It’s one sided and non-committal. The point being that following Jesus isn’t about following when it’s convenient or following when its easy or following when He says things that you like and ignoring when He says things you don’t.
For these first disciples, and I would venture to say for anyone in this room who claims to be a follower of Christ, following means giving up your plans for your life and submitting to the sovereign plan of God.
One of the first things we see is that these two disciples followed without hesitation. They didn’t ask questions, they didn’t think through the situation, they didn’t even consider where they were going to sleep ~ they simply followed.
As we think about what it means that Jesus is the Christ and what it means that these disciples followed without hesitation, I think we need to pause and put ourselves into this picture. Are we following without hesitation? Are we prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?
When I think of following without hesitation and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel I think of Adoniram and Ann Judson who were pioneer missionaries to Burma. They knew without a shadow of a doubt that following God was going to cost them their lives and they were prepared to make the sacrifice.
Before they were married, Adoniram wrote the following letter to Ann’s father asking for his permission to marry his daughter and take her to an unknown life of sacrifice.... “I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
Most of us will not be asked to follow with that kind of abandon, but we are all called to walk across the hall to our neighbor and boldly proclaim the gospel for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for (us); for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the sake of the glory of God. Are you following in the ways you’ve been asked to follow for the sake of Christ?
The second thing we see about the way that these men followed Jesus is that their following led to more people following Jesus. Let’s read verses 40-42.
40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
Andrew heard John declare Jesus to be the Christ. He spent one evening with Jesus and obviously believed that Jesus was the Christ. The first thing he did upon believing was to go find his brother Peter. Andrew didn’t go with full arguments prepared. Andrew simply went and got his brother and brought him to Jesus.
Do you follow Jesus alone, or do you call other people to follow Him as well? I think this truth has implications obviously in evangelism and the call of all believers to go and tell the good news. But at the same time, there are implications for the way we do our Christian life. Lone ranger Christianity is popular in today’s individualized society where everyone makes their own way in the world. But what we see here is that even in the infancy of Christianity, the first followers of Jesus, brought others along as well. Are you in community with other believers? Are you trying to do this ‘Christian life’ alone, or do you have those who come alongside you and spur you on and encourage you as you follow Christ?
Our text concludes with another story of following. The first 3 followers of Jesus - Andrew, Peter and the unnamed disciple of John followed because of John’s introduction of Jesus. In this account we’ll see Jesus taking the initiative and see that when Jesus calls you to follow you can’t help but follow.
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi,you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’
What we see in the closing words of this passage is that Jesus Himself calls people to follow Him. All that John recounts for us is that Jesus told Philip to follow Him and because of what we read next we can assume that Philip believed Jesus to be the Christ and followed. What was Philip’s first task as a follower of Christ? Just like Andrew had done, Philip went and found Nathanael and told him they had found the Christ.
For the first time, we see Jesus’ identity as the Christ being questioned as Nathanael asks if anything good can come out of Nazareth. But, Philip asks him to come and see anyway and when Nathanael meets Jesus for himself all doubts are erased and he too followed Jesus. Reading this account gives me great encouragement for evangelism. Sometimes when we share the gospel with our friends the response is immediate like when Andrew called Simon. Other times however we proclaim the gospel and the response is doubt and questions and wanting proof. I think we can draw great comfort from Philip’s example here. Philip did his part- he called Nathanael to follow Christ. That’s all any of us are asked to do. Our task is to proclaim. Jesus does the rest. He does the calling. He does the drawing to Himself. He does the convicting of sin. He does the saving.
Thinking about these examples of people proclaiming Christ and following Him, where did you see yourself? Are you following without hesitation like Andrew and the other disciple? Are you calling others to Christ like Andrew and Philip? Are you boldly proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ like John the Baptist? Or, do you still have doubts like Nathanael?
Earlier, as we started talking about what it means to follow for the sake of the gospel we were reminded of Adoniram Judson asking his future father in law to sacrifice his daughter for the sake of Christ. That letter is familiar to many of us and shows us Adoniram’s heart for Christ, but we often overlook Ann’s (and her father’s) response knowing that they ended up together in Burma until death. Ann’s father told her the decision was hers. She accepted the proposal and all it entailed and soon after penned these lines to her good friend Lydia.... I feel willing, and expect, if nothing in providence prevents, to spend my days in this world in heathen lands. Yes, Lydia, I have about come to the determination to give up all my comforts and enjoyments here, sacrifice my affection to relatives and friends, and go where God, in his providence, shall see fit to place me. (Quoted in Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 84.)