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John the Baptist reveals Jesus. A talk for a baptism service. John 1.29-34

John 1.29-34

You may well know this picture:

John Baptist (not to be confused with the John who wrote John’s gospel) pointing to Jesus and declaring, “Here is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Listen to the audio of this talk

John is by the river where he has been baptising (we see people in various states of undress!).
He has a quite thriving business; he is a celebrity
But John declares that the main reason that he is baptising is so that, at the right time, Jesus, the Son of God, is revealed.

This is the culminating point of John’s life. It is what his life has been leading up to, and what his life is all about.
He says, ‘I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel’.

The baptism of John is a baptism of preparation.

He baptises to prepare people to meet with the coming King, with Jesus
If you are consciously facing away from God; if you have chosen to live without God, in rebellion against God, and God’s laws and God’s kingdom; if you have chosen to make your own desires your God – then it is going to be very hard to meet with Jesus when he comes.
So John has come to call people back to God. He challenges the people about their lifestyle and about their choices. He calls them to baptism, to turn from facing away from God so that they now face God.
What John is doing is getting those who come to him to relive the experience of the people of Israel who were slaves in Egypt, in the land of godlessness. They were led by God through the waters of the Red Sea and they entered the promised land.
So now, people come to John, and by going into the water, choose to leave behind the land of slavery and enter into the land where God is king.
And that will mean that when Jesus is revealed, the people will be ready to receive him. They will be looking for him, waiting for him, longing for him.

And now John reveals three things about Jesus

1. That he is the lamb of God: he is the one who has come to take away the sin of the world.

The lamb of God. It is a reference to Isaiah 53, when the prophet declares

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:6-7

And he goes on to say:
“… he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12

We are the sheep who have gone astray
He is the lamb who was considered as one of us – even though he was without sin – who bore our sins, who was slaughtered on the cross for us.

And Jesus, the lamb of God, has taken away the sins of the world.
Because of his death the barrier of sin that separated us from God has been removed
Because of his death we are no longer under the law. People have always thought, in our pride, that if we are to earn God’s love and blessing, then we need to obey the law, to be good.

The death of Jesus shows us that we do not need to earn God’s love and blessing, we cannot earn God’s love and blessing – we simply have to receive it as a gift.

2. That he is the One who gives the Spirit

‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ John 1:33

It is all very well deciding to live for God
It is all very well receiving God’s forgiveness as a gift.
But how are we to go on living for God, when sin – self-centredness, pride, fear – is so deeply rooted in our very being?

Well, Jesus is the one who gives us his Spirit. And if we are prepared to ask God for his Spirit, and to receive his Spirit – he will give us his Spirit.

There is a very simple illustration.
Imagine that I am a few years younger and that I want to play football like Lionel Messi. I am inspired by Lionel Messi.
So I wear the same kit that he wears, I eat the same food that he eats. I follow his training programme. But sadly, when I go onto the field, it does not make me play like Lionel Messi
But imagine if he could put his spirit in me. Imagine if I now had the spirit of Lionel Messi in me. That would make all the difference

We cannot put our spirit in another person.
But Jesus can. He can put his Spirit in us, if we are prepared to ask him to do so and to receive his Spirit.
And that is the game changer for the Christian.

3. That Jesus is the Son of God

“I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God”

We are told that he has always been the Son of God – there was never a time when he was not.
John speaks of Jesus’ time here, when he says that – even though he was born in human time before Jesus – Jesus was before him.

At the heart of God there is mystery.
“He alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” 1 Timothy 6:16

But what is revealed at Jesus baptism is that at the very centre of God is an eternal relationship, between Father and Son. In the other accounts of the baptism of Jesus, we are told that there was a voice that came from heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son, my beloved”.

It is a relationship of love and trust and obedience and honour.
The Father loves the Son; he want the best for his Son, and he wants others to see how amazing and wonderful the Son is.
The Son loves the Father; he trusts that the Father wants the best for him, and he wants others to see how amazing and wonderful the Father is.

But this is not a closed relationship. This is not the ultimate eternal clique.
Human beings were created not just to gaze in wonder at the relationship between Father and Son, but to become part of that relationship.

And so John has already written, that whoever receives the Son, whoever receives the forgiveness that the Son offers, whoever receives the Holy Spirit, is given the right to become a child of God, a son or daughter of God who lives in that same relationship that Jesus has to the Father.

Today, as we remember how Jesus was revealed through his baptism, we celebrate a baptism

Baptism is a gift and a sign

It is a sign which declares that as the water washes over our heads, so he has washed us of our sins. It is a sign that we have been forgiven, that we have passed from death to life.

It is a gift and sign that we have received the Holy Spirit.
In our service we give a candle, a flame which represents the Holy Spirit.
It represents the light of the Spirit which is always shining and which guides us. When everything is bright it is hard to see the light of the candle, but it is there. When everything is dark, then it can be easier to see that light.
That is why the Holy Spirit is often described as the wisdom of God (Sophia)
And the candle flame represents the purity of God.
The Holy Spirit will burn up all that is not right in me, he will purify me.

The story is told of the young monk who went to see Abba Arsenius, one of the desert fathers. Abba, he asked, what must I do to become perfect?
Abba Arsenius held up his fingers in the sky and they became like flames, and he said, if you would become perfect, you must become all fire.
Seraphima – means literally the burning one. We are called to burn and become radiant.

It is a gift and sign of a new identity. In receiving Jesus, and his forgiveness and Holy Spirit, we receive a new identity, the right to become a child of God. And so we anoint the child with oil – we declare that they now belong to God.
Chissum means God is with me.

Baptism is a gift.

It is something that God does to us. It is a gift which God gives to you.

Think of it as like a gift of a 100 million roubles which is paid into an account for you.
Of course, you can ignore it if you wish; or you can go around boasting about it – telling everyone that you are a millionaire and so you are better than them.
But that is pointless, and the money only becomes useful to you if you start using it.

If you have been baptised, either as an adult or as a child, then you have been given an astonishing gift. A gift that is of far more value than 100 million roubles.
It was declared that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, your sins were washed away. That you are forgiven because of him. That you do not need to try to make yourself worthy before God, or try to somehow earn forgiveness, because he loves you. That the door between heaven and earth, which was firmly shut, is now open
And it was declared that you now have the Holy Spirit: who – if you allow him to work in you - enables you to live as a child of God. He will give us a new way of thinking and of seeing; he will open the things of God to us; he will change us – will fill us with his love, joy, peace.
And it was declared that you have a new identity, that you are a son or daughter of God

But for that to be a reality, it needs to be received by faith.
It is not a question of when you were baptised, but whether you are living your baptism now, whether you are living as a baptised person now.

That you live as someone who has been forgiven
That you live as someone who has received the Holy Spirit, and who feeds the Spirit and is being led by the Spirit
That you live as someone who, whatever we are going through, can hold up our heads high because we are a son or a daughter of God.


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