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John 1:35–39

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus” (vv. 35–37).

Isaiah 42:1–9 is one of several Servant Songs in the book of Isaiah that refer to the work of the coming Messiah. Roughly seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, God revealed to the prophet Isaiah that He would send forth His Servant to bring justice to the earth (vv. 1, 4), and that His Spirit would anoint this Servant in order to perform this task. Although John the Baptist did not have a complete understanding of all that would mean—that the Savior’s work of bringing justice would involve judging God’s enemies and bearing the just wrath of God against His people—the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus at His baptism did show John that Jesus was this Servant (John 1:29–34; see Luke 3:21–22).

Of course, John the Baptist did not keep this revelation of Jesus’ identity to himself, but he proclaimed it to others. He made this announcement before both the crowds of ordinary Jewish citizens as well as those who represented the leading Jews in Jerusalem (John 1:19–34). But he also announced Jesus to his own disciples. As a preacher and prophet, John the Baptist had attracted his own band of disciples, or learners, and he was not afraid to lose them. If he had wanted to keep his followers for himself, John would have not told them about the coming Messiah or would have stood in their way as they left him to follow Jesus. However, John did not do that. He understood his role as the forerunner, so he let two of his disciples go after Jesus (vv. 35–37). Later on, one of these initial disciples is identified—Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother (v. 40)—but the other disciple is never named. Traditionally, commentators have argued that this second disciple was none other than John the son of Zebedee, author of the gospel of John, and that is likely correct given that John chooses never to identify himself by name in his gospel account. In any case, it is worth noting that John 1:35–39 does not record Jesus’ issuing a formal call to discipleship. That official call to leave everything and follow Jesus came later, as the other gospel accounts tell us (Mark 1:16–20). Today’s account shows us that initially, at least some of Jesus’ disciples started listening to Him as the result of John’s testimony.

Heeding John the Baptist’s testimony, Andrew and John went with Jesus and spent the rest of the day with Him. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon on that day (the “tenth hour” according to first-century Jews’ reckoning of time), and so the disciples began what the New Testament says was a life of discipleship (John 1:38–39).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

To be a true disciple of John the Baptist was to heed what he said about the Messiah and follow the Christ when He arrived. If we are to be true disciples of God’s Word, then we must likewise follow Christ. As we study the Scriptures, let us look for how God’s Word points to Jesus and let us commit ourselves to following Him wherever He leads.


For Further Study
  • 1 Kings 19:19–21
  • Matthew 4:18–22
  • Mark 6:1
  • Acts 6:7

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From the January 2018 Issue
Jan 2018 Issue