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A Week of Witness and Revelation

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Text:  John 1:19-51


            John the Baptist’s ministry of preparing the way for Jesus stirs in the hearts of the Jews an ancient hope of the Messiah’s appearance.  We can identify with them, for in our hearts beats an ancient hope for the return of the Messiah.  Through the eyes of John and others, we see His first coming, but through our own groaning, we long for His return and the end of Satan’s domain.

            In a way that few of the other gospel writers cared to mention, John shows us the quick escalation of witnessing and reaction that occurred in Jesus’ first week of ministry.  Notice the careful attention John puts to the passing of time in this week:  1:19-28, 29-34, 35-42, 43-51; 2:1-11, 12-23  Divide into groups and give us a quick summary of what happens during in these verses.

            God shows John the Baptist that his cousin is actually the Son of God when Jesus is baptized.  The first contact of Jesus with men who later become His disciples is made when John points Christ out as the Lamb of God, and two begin to follow Jesus. Like a wildfire that cannot be contained, belief that Jesus is the one they have been waiting for spreads from one friend to another…from one family member to another.  Let’s view this section a bit closer.

1.      Jn 1:19-28  What do you think there was about John the Baptist’s ministry that caught the attention of the priests and Levites?     What indication do you get from this passage about who they think he is?  (1:20-21)

2.      We know whom the Christ and Elijah are, but “the prophet” is obscured.  Look at Deut. 18:15 to discover who it is.  (A second prophet like Moses.)     How did John present himself to those who questioned him?  (A voice in the wilderness.)  Isa. 40:1-5

3.      The Levites then say, “If you are not the Christ, why are you baptizing?”  How was John’s baptism different that Christ’s?  (It cleansed but it bestowed no gift where those baptized could remain clean.)

4.      In what way can every Christian be like John the Baptist?  (We can point others to Jesus.)

5.      Jn. 1:29-34  John calls Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  What special pictures would come to mind for the Jews who heard John declare this?  (Temple, sacrifice lambs, Passover, Day of Atonement)     In the mind of the Jew, what would be new in this declaration?  (That this Lamb would “take away” their sin, not just push it forward to the Messiah.)

6.      Since Jesus is John’s cousin, why does John say he did not recognize Jesus?  (Previously he did not recognize Jesus was the Messiah until God revealed it to Him at His baptism by the decent of the dove.)  Matt. 3:16-17 

7.      Jn. 1:35-42  Notice at the beginning of this passage that two of John’s disciples leave him to follow Jesus.  What kind of character does it take to allow this and hold no resentment?

8.      What’s the difference in the use of the word “follow” as it is used in 1:37, 38, 40 and how it is used in 1:43?  (In the first verses it’s to follow and watch; in the last verse follow is used to commit yourself unto.)

9.      What is Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” about?  (Anyone willing to spend the time in honest searching for the truth will discover it if they will only make the effort.)

10.  Notice in verse 38 that Jesus did not say, “Whom do you seek?”, but “What do you seek?”  What does this tell us about what Jesus knows about the heart of man?
Application:  Jesus knows we are usually in the pursuit of a thing which will satisfy our needs.  If we follow after Jesus, we will soon discover the thing is in fact a person…Jesus!

11.  Instead of answering Jesus’ question of what they are seeking, they ask Jesus a counter question of where He is currently living.  What does that tell you is stirring in the mind of the new would-be disciples?  (They want to go to His house where they can watch more of Him in action before they commit themselves to Him.)

12.  What does this tell you about our evangelistic approach when witnessing to friends?  (Life style evangelism; friends and family are the field in which the Gospel spreads.  Don’t push them into a corner and make a commitment right away.  Let them come alongside and watch for a while and come at their own pace as they come to believe at different points.  Even Jesus didn’t push these men into an immediate decision.)

13.  On rare occasions, Jesus gave people new names.  What do you think the significance of this is?  (A sign that you are a new person in the eyes of Christ.  Jesus is the only one who can see into the heart of man and also see their future, thus He have him a name that put the heart and the future together.)     What significance is there in Peter’s new name?  (Cephas = stone; Peter was to become one of the stones of the foundation of the soon-to-come Church.)
Insight:  After giving Peter the new name of Cephas, only once did Jesus use this name hereafter: Luke 22:34, when Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him three times.  It would seem that Jesus was reminding Peter that he had not yet proved worthy of his new name just yet.

14.  Jn. 1:43-51  At first Nathaniel is a skeptic because he didn’t think anything good could come out of Nazareth.  Nazareth was in Galilee, and at this point in history Galilee has only produced hotheaded fanatics and bogus-Christs.  How can prejudice interfere with our search for Christ?     How do you overcome prejudice?  (Only by studying all the available evidence in the light of truth.  And so Philip asks Nathaniel to do what Jesus asked him to do, to “come and see” for himself.)

15.  When Nathaniel cautiously measured up Jesus, what was his conclusion about Him?  (He had no guile, no deceit, he was no decoy, but the real thing.)     Jesus then reveals that He has supernatural knowledge of his whereabouts.  What conclusion did this produce in the heart of Nathaniel?  (Insight that He was indeed the Son of God.  BELIEF!)

16.  Notice carefully the wording in verse 51: “…you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."  Do you see the significance of the word “on”, instead of “with”?  (Jesus is the real ladder by which the gulf of heaven has been spanned and making God visible in the form of a man…Jesus!)


            John concludes his first chapter with the conclusion that he started it so poetically…Jesus is indeed deity, the Son of God.  And by resounding proof, one by one His would-be disciples sign up for the school of discipleship because they believe.  John has written only one chapter and already he has several believers.  That’s the goal of his book.  John never tires of underlining the truth that Jesus was what He said He was.  Jesus did what He did and said what He said because He was in constant communion with the Father. 

How about you, do you believe? 


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