John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him (Jesus).” Jn_1:29-34
The first twelve chapters of the John’s Gospel are called the Book of Signs. We might consider these like road signs, pointing us in the direction of getting to know WHO Jesus truly is. For example, from those signs we can see that Jesus is ‘Almighty,’ as He walks on water to save His disciples. We can see that Jesus is our Healer, as He gives Sight to the Blind. And then, there are examples where Jesus Feeds us, Forgives us, and even Raises us from death, like Lazarus, to New Life in Him.
In these early verses of John’s Gospel, John is working on introducing Jesus to the Jewish people, whose whole religion was based on stories describing the signs of God. Signs that were shown through people like Abraham, Moses and Elijah. You see, these people were very familiar with terms like “the Lamb of God,” that came from the paschal or Passover Lambs that were eaten at the time of the Exodus. They were familiar with God’s lambs that were Sacrificed by the Priests in the Holy Temple for the atonement of sins. And they were familiar with the lamb as a symbol of the Conquering Warrior, sent by God to lead His people to safety, in the days of the Maccabees.
So here in this first chapter of John’s Gospel, John is declaring that Jesus IS that Lamb of God who would offer Himself as a sacrifice to take away sins and to lead His people to safety. He IS their long-awaited Messiah or Savior.
And why, we might ask, does John the Baptist declare such a radical thought? Because he, himself, had seen a revelation, a sign from God, that proved it.
Now keep in mind that John had baptized hundreds or thousands of people. Today, we would say that he was a Certified Professional at baptism. You know how, when you get really, really good at something, you become an expert at seeing – even the most minute details. In his expertise, John the Baptist saw that something was clearly different about Jesus’ baptism. John saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove upon Jesus.
Never before, in all the thousands of baptisms he had done, did John witness such a sign. You see, the dove was another well-known sign for the Jewish people. It was considered a sacred bird that was not hunted, nor eaten, because it was a tame creature.
It was the dove that Noah sent out from the ark after the Great Flood, to find a dwelling place for his family. And it is that same dove, the Holy Spirit, that John saw descend and REMAIN upon Jesus.
In His Baptism, Jesus became the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, to teach, and to share, and to offer the Wisdom of God to all who would listen. It would be three years of this ministry, before Jesus would be crucified, rise from death, and ascend to a heavenly dwelling with His Father.
And then, He would send that dove, the Holy Spirit, to dwell within the hearts of His believers, on that first Pentecost. But this time, rather than using the symbolism of a gentle dove, Luke describes the descent of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire . . . The fire of God’s love dwelling within our own hearts. The fire that burns away our sin and enlightens our path, so that we may always walk and act in the righteousness of knowing Jesus, of dwelling IN Him, and He IN us.
What an incredible reminder and blessing, beloved, that we can carry into this New Year!
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