John 1:29-34 Pt. 3
The apostle concludes John’s witness of this second day by the revelation of Christ as by the Holy Spirit. “I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.” Notice, importantly, that it does not say the Jesus received the Holy Spirit, as we do when we are received into the faith. Rather, it’s more like this image of a dove returning to it’s nest. It’s this image of a dove returning to the place from whence it has always been. That it remained upon Him was a sign that Christ has always and will always be as One with the Holy Spirit. Christ and the Holy Spirit as one essence for all eternity unto the ages of ages. The vision that John sees reveals the truth that the Holy Spirit has and will always rest with Jesus, God the Son.
John continues to explain this to the multitude. “I did not know Him,” he reiterates, again casting aside doubt and suspicion of conspiracy. “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me…” This powerful revelation stands in stark contrast to the time. We must remember that, aside from the announcement of the coming Messiah, the Lord had not sent a prophet to proclaim His word in nearly 400 years. No, He had been silent, having departed the land and leaving the people to their own ways, which Paul reveals to us in the Book of Romans to be a form of His judgment. Here, the glory of the Lord had departed the land and the faith had become this cold, logically based, legal-centric set of rules, laws and commands. In the absence of God’s presence, the Scribes and Pharisees had formulated this cold dead doctrinicity based on the Law and the Prophets and bound everyone to it in absentia of the miraculous presence of the Lord. The commands of the Lord had been relegated to a loveless, powerless, checklist to be completed; and the priests had taken it upon themselves to judge who was and wasn’t worthy of entrance into the Kingdom, something that no man who truly followed the Lord could ever presume to know.
What’s more is that, we must remember, in the absence of the Lord, many had presumed to speak in His name, on His behalf; however, usually to their own ends. They had begun to prophesy in His name to sate their own avarice, further their own political agendas, garner larger groups at their events, increase the tithing that they were able to take from the people. The temples had become the home of money-changers and places for people to sell their wares. Consider, in modern times, this would be like the teacher of a Church using the name of God to sell books and merchandise, or having a currency exchange at an international Church. Jesus warns us about these very people when He admonishes us to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15). Beware of those who speak in His name, but inwardly are attempting to feed this ravenous, insatiable appetite for the things of the world. He goes on to explain, “Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name’…and I will declare to them, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22-23). See, there were many who spoke falsely in His name, for whatever carnal reasons; greed, politics, vainglory, whatever human desire and motivation led them to do so. And John stood out so strongly for this very reason. There was no gain for him. There was no money to be made, no political statement which he sought to make. There was no selfish, rational reason for him to say the things that he said; thus they didn’t know how to react. Even when he had the opportunity, before the multitude, to claim the glory for himself, he refused.
See, we can learn a lot about someone based on what their motivations are. Had John been charging an admittance fee, selling his teaching, seeking profit for what he was doing; then we could easily understand that he was feeding his greed. If he had claimed the glory to himself when afforded the opportunity, then we could understand it to be motivated by vainglory. I think of the multitude of teachers in our day and age who have released “best-sellers,” who release books whose image is of them on the cover, whose name is in larger font than the name of Jesus. I think of those teachers and can’t help but question their true motivation. Considering Paul’s admonishment about those who “imagine godliness as a means to great gain,” and warns against listening to those teachers, it grieves me to consider the chance that those very teachers are the same way. It makes it hard to trust the motives of a theologian who has millions of dollars by expositing the Scripture that states that man should never “lay up treasure for himself on earth,” and that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.”
That is the position that the Pharisees were in here. They were the main people that everyone looked to for any and all things spiritual. And here stood a true prophet, a true man of God, to whom God had offered revelation. And, for that reason, they wished that they could just silence this man. They would have preferred to silence him, that they could continue to claim that the only way to God was through them, not this man who was speaking the true words of God. It would have been preferable to them to state that the gift of prophecy had ceased, ending with Malachi, and that only the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) were the final authority, and that through their personal interpretation; that there was nothing more to be said. It would have been so much easier for them had they been able to convince everyone that there would be no more revelation, no more prophecy, no more anything. That the supernatural had ceased and everyone had to learn their cold doctrine and live their faith vicariously through the priests, the Pharisees, the Scribes; and through the stories from the Scriptures rather than experiencing these miraculous things for themselves.
I once heard the statement that resonated with me while I was studying this. The statement was “there are no new tragedies, just old tragedies happening to new people.” When I think about the position the priests were in and their response to what was happening, and consider our generation, I see such a parallel. See, I have dear brothers and sisters in all denominations, in all doctrinal systems; Orthodox, Catholic (Byzantine and Roman), various denominations of Protestant. And I constantly hear many who claim that God will not reveal Himself to anyone except through the Scripture. I constantly hear that it is truly impossible for anyone of us to experience God except vicariously through the reading of the Holy Scripture. I constantly hear that revelation has ceased, that the supernatural gifts of healing, of tongues, of prophecy, have ceased. It’s almost as though our generation of believers no longer believes; that they believe in name and word, but not in deed. They mentally ascent to a belief in God, but they don’t have true faith in His name, in His power. It’s this reductionist approach to Christianity that has relegated it to a list of formulae and rules; in much the same way as the faith of the Pharisees and the Scribes had done before the coming of the Forerunner. It’s a generation of believers who have disbelieved in the very things of the faith that require faith, and the result is living vicariously through the lives of the saints. The result is a mythological system of things that we can never experience in our own lives, and therefore the feeling that, because of our placement on the timeline, we sort of “missed” the miracle. We have created, in our generation, a Church that has all but atrophied, and then we wonder why our generation has little power to effect change, why so many of our young ones are leaving the Church. We have reduced our faith to reading about the lives of these great people who lived 6000 to 2000 years before us and whose lives we can only attempt to, in our own power, imitate; although we’ve removed the supernatural aspects of those lives that made them worthy of reading. Ultimately, we’ve removed the power of God from our faith. We tend to view Jesus’ influence over our lives solely based on what will happen to us once we fall asleep in the Lord, all the while “quenching the Spirit’s” ability to do anything in our lives currently.
When we stand in the face of this dead philosophy, which has permeated our culture, may we look to the life of John the Baptist. May we allow our relationship with the Lord and our faith to actually have power in our lives. May our worship be such that we actually join in with the angelic choir and when we speak of our faith, may we truly witness with John, stating, “I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God.” May we stop quenching the Spirit, and instead embrace Him and all the promises that He has promised us, not only in the life to come, but also in this life. Christ is risen from the dead, and He rises daily, not just once two thousand years ago. May Christ arise in our lives daily, and may we rise with Him, embracing His greatness and His holiness in all of our lives.
May the peace of the Lord be with you, my beloved family.