Readings on John 1

(Edited by J.T.M.)

Brief notes on this golden Gospel will appear monthly for the help of the babes in God's family. They know the Father (1 John 2:13), and consequently desire to know more of His beloved Son in whom He delights. His glory fills this Gospel, and it is to the study of it from this point of view that we invite our young readers.

Chapter 1:1-13

"In the beginning was the Word." Before time began the One who bears this title was there, and He, THE WORD, "was with God" then. Before the first creatorial word broke the silence of eternity, He was the companion, the equal and the delight of the eternal God (Prov. 8:30). This could only be because He, "the Word was God". Faith encounters no difficulty here, for it accepts and rejoices in God's revelation of Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But it is not the Father, nor yet the Holy Ghost, that is introduced to us here, but the Son, and He not yet as the Son, but as the Word. This is a divine and eternal title, and it belongs to Him whom we know as JESUS, our Saviour, and this, of course, makes us eager to know what the title means. It means that whenever, and howsoever, and to whomsoever God has spoken and revealed Himself, He has done it by Him who is the Word; it means more than that — even that all that has been revealed is in Him who has told it out, and that it was there before it was told out.

At the opening of the Gospel we are brought face to face with the glory of this blessed One who is eternally and personally God. It is interesting and delightful to see that at the end of the Gospel (chapter 20, for chapter 21 is a beautiful postscript to the Gospel), Jesus is confessed to be Lord and God by one of His disciples, and we are sure that the whole company of his brethren bowed down in silent acquiescence as Thomas gave utterance to the glorious truth that had broken into his dull soul. At the beginning of the Gospel the truth of the Lord's Person is declared, at the end of the Gospel the truth is believed and confessed, and the Gospel has been written and given to us that we too might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His Name (chap. 20:29).

"All things were made by Him". He was the originator, the designer and the maker of the vast universe and every creature within it, "for without Him was not anything made that was made". How wonderfully these simple yet great statements clear the air for us. We have no need to waste our time and weary our brains in the vain search for some missing link to establish some groundless hypothesis that those who would banish the Creator from His creation have put forth, we begin with the truth that the Word has made all things, that He upholds all things, and will eventually make all things serve His glory. How wonderful must be that wisdom that planned the infinite variety that even we can see in creation, and how great the power that has bound every part of it together and holds it all together in a harmonious universe.

We shall see Him in other relationships in this Gospel, as, for instance, in relationship to the Father as His only-begotten Son, and in relationship to us as our Saviour, Shepherd and Leader. Many of His glories will pass before us that will stir our hearts and make us glad that we know Him, but we begin with His power and divinity. He has created all things, and He must be supreme over all His creation, and able also to control every creature and force within it, whether they have remained in subjection to Him or have broken their fealty and now fight against Him, and He must eventually make the whole universe serve His will and purpose in creating it. What confidence this should give us! What rest of heart and quietness of spirit! We are to learn how tenderly He loves us, that He is the One who when on earth wept when those whom He loved were in sorrow, and His heart is the same today as then, but He who loves us is not a feeble lover, daunted by difficulties and afraid of foes. He is God the Creator; as to power, almighty; as to wisdom, infinite; as to being, eternal.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men". His power and wisdom have been demonstrated by His works of old, but there is more than this for us to learn: in Him was life, and this could not be said of any creature. He has given life to His creatures, natural life, and He will give eternal life to as many as obey Him, but only of God could it be said, "In Him was life, and this life was the light of men." Darkness is ignorance of God, and if men are to have any knowledge of God it must all come through the Word. This Gospel shows us how that life which is in Him was manifested, and gives us the light that can dispel all darkness. Yet there never was any reason, except on man's side, why he should have been in darkness. For the Creator and Life-giver had made the universe throb with life, and it spoke to men though their ears were deaf to its voice, and it showed the great works of God though their eyes were blind and would not see. The Psalmist speaks of creation in this way, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day to day uttereth speech, and night to night shows knowledge" (Ps. 19:1-2). Some were affected by these great works, as Abraham, Job and David, but the majority refused to hearken to their voice, for they did not desire to retain God in their thoughts (Rom. 1:19-21).

Creation ought to have illuminated the minds of men, for it bears testimony to them of the power and the divinity of the Creator, but because of what they were it failed in this, and something more was necessary. Thank God, that which creation could not impart the Creator can. In Him was life! This is what He is in Himself, not what He has done as Creator, but Himself, the source of life and light and blessing to His creatures. To Him alone we must look now.

There came a man from God whose name was John, and he came to bear witness of the Light. He came to say the Light is coming. Just as the moon shines in the darkness, bearing witness to the sun, so John was a burning and a shining light in the night. The moon has no light in itself, it is only as it catches the light of the sun that it can reflect it, and so shed it upon a dark earth; and so it was with John. His soul was enlightened by the glory of the One who coming after him was preferred before him, because He was before him, and when He came John was content to disappear. "He must increase, I must decrease," he said, just as the moon fades from sight when the sun breaks in his glory on the earth.

John was not the Light, though a faithful witness to it. "That was the true Light that lighteth every man that comes into the world". This does not mean that every man has been enlightened, but the Light shines upon all. Alas! it does not shine into the hearts of all, for they won't let it in. The statement should read, "The true Light was that which, coming into the world, lightens [or is light to] every man." The Light is the Word, but now He is not creating, but shining for the blessing of His creation. He came into it for that purpose. Yet, though He was in the world, and that not for judgment but for blessing, men neither perceived it, nor desired to. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own, and His own received Him not." How dense must the moral and spiritual darkness be in which the devil holds the world! How complete must be the alienation from the life of God in which men are by nature! Such a statement as this reveals it all to us. The world did not know its Creator when He came into it. The elements owned Him, for the winds and the waves obeyed His command, and the fish of the sea knew His voice. It was men, made in the image and likeness of God, that did not recognize Him and did not obey Him; and, worse still, His own, that favoured nation to whom God had spoken in the law and by the prophets, who boasted that they were God's people, they received Him not when He came to them. They loved the darkness and not the light, because their deeds were evil. The Creator was a rejected stranger in His own world, and not rejected only but hated.

There could be no other light but the true Light, and if the true Light shone in vain, if men loved the darkness and spurned this Light, there was none other to come, and what then? Must the whole race of men sink under the darkness in which they lived in this life into the outer darkness of the lake of fire? Well, if God's patience had been exhausted by the wickedness of men, Yes; but because it was not, No. A new energy was put forth, an energy mightier than the darkness and death that held men in thrall. Not only did the Light come into the world, the Son to reveal the Father, but the Holy Spirit took up His work in connection with that coming, that the eyes of men might be opened to see and appreciate the Light. So we read, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in His name: which were born, not of blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

What inconceivable energy there must have been in that word, "Let there be light." The darkness of ages fled before it, but we see a greater, a more remarkable energy put forth here. It is active now not to bring about a world or worlds in which the power of God is displayed, but A FAMILY in which His love can find its joy. His purpose was to have children, only such could satisfy His heart: those who should be morally like Him, able to appreciate His love and respond to it. The universe would have been nothing to Him apart from this. It was created for the Son of God and for them who were to be His companions, His brethren; and before He put forth His power to give it being His delights were with them, the sons of men (Prov. 8). And here we find them out of a scene of darkness and death they come, not by man's power, not because they were of high birth, not because they had learned wisdom in the school of men, but because THEY WERE BORN OF GOD.

Chapter 1:14-28

"And the Word became flesh" (N.Tr.). What great statements there are in this chapter; they break upon us with an abruptness that would startle us if we had not become so familiar with them. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit may give to us a fuller entrance into their meaning. We will put two of them together. "In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was made flesh." The first sentence carries us back into Eternity, the second brings Him who was eternal into Time. First we have what the Word was, then what He became, and this opens up a new chapter in God's relations with men that must issue in eternal blessing to them. It was the Word Himself, the Creator, that became Man. We have got used to this fact, it is an article of our faith, but we should pray earnestly that the immensity of it might possess us. It was not an angel that became flesh, but the Word, and the Word was God. He did not assume human form merely, as in Old Testament days when He appeared to Abraham, but He became an actual Man and dwelt among men. He took our very nature, which in Him was sinless and holy; and this we must press, Jesus was just as holy in His manhood when He lived among men as He was in His eternal Godhead on the throne.

Here we have the mystery of godliness, which is very great, it transcends all human conception, and because of this we must keep to the words of Scripture in speaking of it. Many a fierce battle has been fought in the history of the church over this truth, and creeds have been formulated in the hope of defining and fixing the faith of men as to it, and these have become in turn the subject of conflict; but we require neither creed nor formula, we will be satisfied with the words of the Holy Ghost, the Word became flesh. He became a man and will remain a Man for ever; only in this way could He reach us, only by becoming one of us could He communicate the thoughts that filled the heart and the mind of God towards us.

We do not explain the mystery of the incarnation because we cannot, but we rejoice in the fact that God has come near to us in this way, not to condemn but to save, not to make us afraid by the splendour of His majesty but to win our hearts by His grace.

But in the course of this amazing declaration of the coming of the Word into manhood there are two interruptions. Two witnesses speak out as to who He was who became a Man and dwelt among men, and at the mouth of two witnesses every word shall be established. First, the writer of the Gospel breaks into the middle of a sentence, and exclaims, "and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father," and then when the sentence is finished, the Baptist's testimony is introduced before the truth as to the results of the incarnation of the Word is allowed to flow on as a veritable river of life. What is the reason of these interruptions? The answer is not difficult to give. The Eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among men, not coldly distant from them, but one of themselves, eating and drinking with them with a freedom that angered the Pharisees; and so meek and lowly was He, so without self-assertion or insistence on His own rights that men despised Him. He was nothing to them but a man, a Nazarene, a carpenter, and to some of them, so blind were they, He was mad and had a devil. Those that sat in the gate spoke against Him; and He was the song of the drunkard; so we learn from one verse in Psalm 69. Those that sat in the gate were the rulers, the great men of the city, honoured and respected, and the drunkards were the rabble, the riff-raff, the degraded. Society from its highest grade to its lowest dregs took advantage of His meekness and grace and treated Him with hatred and disdain. They did not recognize the greatness of the Person who dwelt among them full of grace. This was their blindness and sin. It is also the blindness and sin of the present day, for the denial of the Godhead glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is the great lie of Modernism, and it is the canker that lurks in most, if not all, the religious cults that have sprung into being in these strange times. To be wrong as to this is to be fundamentally and hopelessly wrong about everything. It is admitted that He was a man, but it requires no faith to admit that; those who hated Him most admitted that, some acknowledge that He was a good man and so honour Him with the lip, but the Bible truth as to His Person is rejected as an exploded myth. Thus are men blinded by the god of this world, and thus is the only Saviour rejected.

These two interruptions occur, to meet this very opposition to the truth. It would seem as though the Holy Spirit would allow no interval to elapse between the statement of the fact of the incarnation of the Word and the declaration of the unchanged glory of His Person, so there breaks in this exclamation from the Evangelist. The testimony surely is that in becoming Man He did not surrender what He was before. His circumstances were changed and His condition. He who was in the form of God was now in the form of a servant, He who was the Creator had become a man, in the full sense of that word as God Himself would define it, but He was still the Word, and He is confessed by the disciples as the Son. His relationship with the Father remained as it ever was in those timeless ages before the worlds were made. In His humiliation, yes, down to the deepest depths of it, He was still the only-begotten with the Father, and the disciples were permitted to contemplate His glory in this relationship that they might bear witness to it.

It was not an earthly glory but a heavenly that these disciples saw; it was not a human glory such as Solomon possessed, for it had never rested upon a man before, it was a divine glory, and the Man upon whom it rested was a unique and heavenly Man. The distinction that rested upon Jesus was that He was the all-sufficient Object of the supreme delight and love of the Father, and that He lived and found fullness of joy in what the Father was, for He was the Son. He was enough for the Father and the Father was enough for Him. This had always been so, for He said to the Father, "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (chap. 17:24), but John is not talking here about what was in eternity, but that which they had seen in time and here upon earth. No angel could claim this divine and heavenly distinction, it belonged to One alone, and He a Man dwelling among them. Then comes the testimony of the Baptist; he did not speak of the glory of the Son's relationship with the Father, but of the fact that He was before him. He said, "This was He of whom I speak, He that comes after me was preferred before me: for He was before me." There would have been no sense in John's testimony if the Lord had not been more than man, for John was born before Jesus, but as his mother, Elizabeth, recognized in Mary the mother of her Lord (Luke 1), so John now recognizes the Lord Himself and bears witness to His Deity. He was before John, before Abraham, the great I AM (chap. 8).

Omitting these two interruptions then the word reads, "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." "He dwelt among us." The thought here is, He tabernacled among us. He came to stay for a while, He was as a stranger passing through the world, for He came from God and went to God (chap. 13). But in that wonderful journey He was FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. Grace belongs to the New Testament, it came into the world when Jesus came, He was full of it and its fullness was brought to men in Him. It is God's favour to men, and it is infinite and unlimited. God could not have shown His favour to men in a more complete and perfect way than by the coming of His only-begotten Son into the world; this was the best and the greatest that He could do. No other than the Son could tell the love that filled the Father's heart; He came to do this, and that love in its wonderful activities on the behalf of men is the grace of which our verse speaks. It brought Jesus down to men where they were and as they were, and looked for no merit in them, only need; they needed Him, that was enough. It brought Him from the highest height of God's glory down to the deepest depth of that need, that He might remove it for ever by the knowledge of God. That fullness of grace was really the fullness of the Godhead working untiringly for the blessing of men, and it dwelt in Jesus.

How altogether suitable to the needs of men was Jesus. In other Gospels we see that He was equal to all their sicknesses and distresses, and it is beautiful to contemplate Him always accessible, always placing Himself at their disposal; but in John's Gospel there is something more and deeper. It is John's work to show us how He dealt, not so much with the burdens that were on men, but with the ignorance that was in them.

His mercy and power could heal every disease and deliver all who were oppressed from the devil's power, and lift every burden that was on them; but the grace that was in Him could meet and remove the darkness and crookedness that was in them. It was greater than all their sin.

"And of His fullness have all we received, and GRACE UPON GRACE." The needs of men, our needs, are greater than any human language can describe, but this fullness is greater than our need, and it pours itself out now for us, as it did upon those disciples, in wave upon wave, just as the sea rolls in upon the shore. It goes beyond all our need, and will, until we are filled into all the fullness of God.

And He was full of truth also; He was the truth. The law was true, but it was not the truth. It did not reveal what God is, nor did it fully expose what man was, nor the world nor Satan; it served its purpose, and has been superseded by grace and truth which came in Jesus Christ and abide in Him. He was the test of everything. What God is, and what man is, has all been shown by His coming, and that coming has not made demands upon men that they cannot meet, but has brought the unsought, unmerited, and inexhaustible favour of God to men to put and keep them right with God for ever.

But God could not have been revealed by anyone less than God, hence we are brought back to the truth of the Person of our Lord. "No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." It is the Father who is declared, and that by the Son, and the whole wealth of divine love is in that declaration. The Father's bosom was ever the Son's dwelling place; the love that filled it was His own eternal portion and joy, but He has come forth to make it known, and in making it known to share it with others. All human thought is surpassed by this grace that has come to us; it has not come to bless us at a distance from its source, and leave us in the distance; it will not rest until we are brought right home to the heart from whence it all flowed, the heart of the Father. This is the character of the love that is revealed in Jesus. That love could not rest were the redeemed not with Him fully blest. For that love gives not as the world, but shares all it possesses with its loved co-heirs.

Chapter 1:19-34

The preaching of John caused a great stir in the land, insomuch that priests and Levites came from Jerusalem to enquire as to who he could be. But he was a faithful witness and would not be diverted from his mission by the patronage of these great and influential men. He had come to speak of Christ, to prepare the people for their Lord and he refused to talk of himself. Notice his negative answers to their enquiries. "I am not," said he, and again, "I am not." Blessed and faithful servant he was who could so keep himself out of his discourse, that his Lord might be everything in it. But these religionists from Jerusalem could not understand this self-effacement, it was so different from every principle and motive in their scheme of things, and with evident impatience they make a further demand of him. Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. WHAT SAYEST THOU OF THYSELF? Being thus urged, he answered, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD, as said the prophet Esaias."

What a startling declaration was this! How it ought to have thrilled those Jews who heard it, for John was quoting from Isaiah 40, and in that chapter the glory of Jehovah is unfolded for the comfort of His people Israel. It is a wonderful chapter. Let us all read it before we proceed any further with these notes, so that we may see who it was to whom these people were to be introduced if they were only ready for it. In it the tenderness of the Lord is disclosed, for He would "gather the lambs in His arms and carry His lambs in His bosom," and His greatness is told out, for "He has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out the heavens with a span." Let us consider Him well. His hand for creation, but His bosom for His lambs, and there they may rest in everlasting safety and untroubled peace. And Jesus is the one of whom the prophet spoke, or rather it is Jesus who is speaking on this wonderful chapter. He is Lord and He is God. With what eagerness these priestly delegates from the Pharisees in Jerusalem ought to have returned to those who sent them for what a message was given them to carry. The man about whom they had enquired was none other than the forerunner of the Lord. His Master's footsteps were already sounding behind him, the day had come of which so many of their prophets had spoken; Jehovah, their God, their Deliverer, their Shepherd, was on the threshold! What would they do? Alas, the announcement moved them not at all. They were a generation without faith. They could not even see behind John's message, and they continued to ask him concerning himself, so different from the disciples of John, two days later, who left him for Jesus. They were ritualists, greatly concerned about the outward form of baptism, and the authority for its performance, but they had neither ears nor hearts for the word of God which John voiced in their midst. How John must have marvelled at their stupidity! This seems to break out in his answer to them. "I baptize you with water: BUT THERE STANDETH ONE AMONG YOU, WHOM YE KNOW NOT. He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose."

Did they look about them to see who He could be who was even then amongst them who was so much greater than John, of whom they were enquiring? Probably not, but we rejoice in John's witness to our Lord and Saviour. If He were only man, then John would surely have been worthy to be His servant no matter how great a man He might have been, but He was God who had come into the midst of His people bringing glad tidings. How wonderful to find Him in this same Gospel washing the feet of His disciples. Yes, the One whose shoe's latchet John, than whom none greater was born of women, was not worthy to unloose, girded Himself with a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. But John's witness to the living Messiah among them was unavailing, and he has nothing more to say to them on that line. The next day opens with another testimony.

In this Gospel the testimony of the Baptist is entirely to the glory of Christ. In Matthew's and Luke's Gospels we are told what he said about the multitudes that, ever ready for a new sensation, flocked to hear him. He did not spare them for he was no flatterer of men, but a prophet indeed. But all that side of his service is omitted in John's account of it; what he had to say of Christ is all that is given to us here, and this is both beautiful and fitting. Our thoughts are to be concentrated in the opening of the Gospel upon Christ Himself.

John had borne witness as to the pre-existence of the Lord (v. 15); and to the fact that He was Jehovah in covenant relationship with Israel, ready to fulfil all His words to them according to Isaiah 40 (v. 23). But this witness was in vain, as far as the nation was concerned, and a new testimony is introduced, more marvellous, if that were possible, than any that had gone before. "The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and says, BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD WHICH TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD." The outlook is no longer Israel merely, it is world-wide.

We shall do well to mark the fact that in this Gospel in which God is revealed in the fullness of His love, the Lamb of God appears in the beginning of it. It surely teaches us that if God was to be known in blessing to men, and if the world was to be put in right relations with Him, the Lamb for a Sacrifice was a necessity; this lies at the basis of everything. And here now was that sacrifice, the Lamb of God's own providing; He is the taker-away of the sin of the world. It is not sins that are in question here — though every sinner may find in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God his sins removed for ever — but it is sin, the terrible principle of opposition to the will of God that has brought in all the confusion and ruin, and from which all sins break forth. This is to be taken away completely and for ever, and in its place everlasting righteousness is to be established and the universe filled with the love and the glory of God.

The One who will do this thing is the Subject here. How great He must be! If a man claimed to he able to take away the sin of a town, or the sin of a street in that town, or the sin of one house in that street, or even the sin of one person in that house, we should say, he is mad, it cannot be done. But here is One who is to take away THE SIN OF THE WORLD! We ought not to have any doubt as to who He must be, He is the Word, the Creator, the only-begotten Son, He alone could be the Lamb of God.

Let us have clear thoughts as to what the sacrifice of Christ means in the Scriptures. The word is commonly used for the surrender of something or someone for the good of another — an extreme case of this kind would be when one lost his life in rescuing a friend from danger; or it is used when one suffers or gives up something, perhaps his own life for the truth's sake, as many martyrs have done. Often these meanings of the word are all that is understood as being involved in the death of the Lamb of God by the superficial religious thought of the day. But there is much more than that. The Lamb of God was Himself the Sacrifice. "Through the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God" (Heb. 9:14). "He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). "This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). We cannot separate the sacrifice of Christ from the sin that made it a necessity; when He suffered on the tree, it was the penalty of sin that He bore, the righteous judgment of God that we deserved. He was the holy victim upon the altar; not only did God's love give Him, but God's judgment fell upon Him when He was made sin for us, and the sacrifice was not completed until His blood was poured forth. That blood is the basis of all blessing, it makes expiation for sin, by it our sins are purged, and apart from it there is no remission. "Christ our passover is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7), and in Him "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). We must keep in mind the true meaning of His sacrifice when we "Behold the Lamb of God." It is one of the fundamentals of our faith, and apart from the sacrificial death of Christ there is no salvation for any man.

Chapter 1:29-34

It is only in this Gospel in which the glory of the Son of God is so fully revealed that John the Baptist's testimony to Him as the Lamb of God is given. This is noteworthy, and from it we should learn at least that in considering the sacrifice that He made upon the cross we must not lose sight of who He was that made it. It was the greatness of the Person that gave efficacy and perfection to His work. He is the Passover Lamb. The Passover is prominent in this Gospel. It was at the Passover that He cleansed the Temple (chap. 2:13). It was when the Passover was nigh that He fed the multitude (chap. 6:4). At the third Passover in the Gospel the people sought for Him in the Temple (chap. 11:55). And at the preparation for the fourth Passover the last solemn scenes which had their culmination in the cross were enacted. And it is in this Gospel only that the words are quoted from the Scriptures, "Not a bone of Him shall be broken." We find that this instruction was given in regard to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12.

We remember that in Exodus 12, the Israelites had to take a lamb on the tenth day of the month and slay it on the fourteenth day. For four days it lived with them in the house that was to be sheltered from the judgment by its blood. It was before their very eyes during that period. They might consider it and talk of it and say, "This is the lamb that is to suffer for us." It is in this way that the Lamb of God is before us in this Gospel. The work of the Baptist was to call attention to Him, and we behold Him from the tenth day to the fourteenth, dwelling among us. We can trace His footsteps from one passover to another until the fourth is reached, and we can say, "This is the true Passover Lamb." We behold Him as He walks, without spot or blemish. He could in this Gospel challenge His enemies, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" (chap. 8:46), and even the heartless pagan judge had to own three times over that he could find no fault in Him (chap. 18:38; 19:4, 6). As we behold Him we shall surely be moved to follow Him until we reach the place of sacrifice, and there wonder and worship in the presence of the love that led Him to die for such as we are.

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and shame to the uttermost was heaped upon Him; but we do not begin here with that, but with the dignity, the glory of His Person, He is the LAMB OF GOD. God's Lamb provided by God, and for God, and coming forth from Him, and here John breaks out for the third time, "THIS IS HE of whom I said, After me comes a Man which is preferred before me," but why should He be preferred before, or take precedence of John? "for He was before me." At each step in his testimony he maintains the truth as to the One of whom he speaks. He was before John, the Word in the beginning, the Son in the bosom of the Father, and yet "a man." None other than He could be the Lamb of God.

John had had no previous acquaintance with the Lord, and though he was according to nature His cousin, yet this did not help him to recognize Him when He appeared. He knew Him not, except by divine revelation. It was God who sent him to baptize, who told John how he would know Him, "Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." And John bear record as to this. He saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode on Him. The dove is an emblem of purity and peace. The Spirit could rest upon the Lord as a Man upon earth with peace and complacency, because He was altogether pure and spotless. Thus was He distinguished from all other men, and though as truly a man as any other, yet how different from all others! A Man without sin! The second Man, the Lord from heaven! and He who, through the eternal Spirit that had come upon Him, would offer Himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14).

And He is the One who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. In the three synoptic Gospels John contrasts himself with the Lord in this respect. He says, "I baptize you with water," I can bring you down into the place of death, the only right place for you because of your sinful state, "but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost." He alone can bring you into life, and impart the Holy Spirit to be the power of the life that He gives. This He has done from the right hand of God in heaven, and thus has the faith of Christ been established on the earth in divine and heavenly power. But the cross had to precede this. First He is the Lamb of God on the cross to meet all our liabilities and for our redemption, then raised up from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, He baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. He brings those who have redemption through His blood into vital relationship with Himself and His Father by the gift of the Holy Ghost. But this is a divine prerogative, hence John exclaims, "And I saw and bear record that this is the Son of God."

It is instructive to see that a new day begins at this point (v. 35), and two disciples who hear John speak follow Jesus, not because they were commanded to do so, but because He had become the supreme object of their hearts. Their feet could but follow Him who had taken possession of their hearts. And this beautiful result of John's testimony was prophetic of that which now is in this day of the Holy Ghost. It is His great work to take of Christ's things and show them to us, to fill hearts with His beauty so that He becomes all-sufficing. And here we have the fullness of the gospel and the effect of it. First, the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for sin upon the cross. Then that same blessed Person raised up from the dead and glorified in heaven, to give the Holy Ghost to all who believe in Him, and then Himself in that heavenly glory, the supreme object of the hearts of those whom He has redeemed — their Leader, Lord, and Centre.

Chapter 1:35-43

Verse 35 introduces THE NEXT DAY AFTER. And what happened on that day sets before us most beautifully what should characterize this present period of God's work on earth.

First, JOHN STOOD. His testimony to Christ could continue no longer; a burning and shining light he had been, but he must pass out of sight in the presence of the Light of the World. He had faithfully led his disciples to this point, to Christ, and this was the winding up of his ministry. Jesus had come and John stood as JESUS WALKED. The God-appointed Leader of the flock of God had come, and John, faithful servant that he was, retires. But before doing so, he looks upon Jesus as He walked, and his whole soul becomes absorbed with Him. What could he say other than what He did say, "BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD!"? Was this word intended for the ears of his disciples, or was it simply the outburst of adoration from a heart wholly absorbed? I think it was both, and thus he introduced his followers to their Lord, and they left John and followed Jesus. Happy John! He came from God, to speak of Christ, and those that heard him speak followed Him of whom he spoke. Here we have the source, the object, and the result of his mission, and in these three things he was a faithful servant and a pattern for us. The two disciples followed Jesus without being told to, and it seemed the most natural thing for them to do. We see in them the way the constraining love of Christ works, the true motive in the Christian's life. There was no stern law laying on them a heavy obligation, they followed Jesus because they could not help it. They had, indeed, come under a law, but it was the law of attraction; the Lord had taken possession of their hearts, and where the heart is, there the feet will be if by any means they can be.

It is instructive that these disciples followed Jesus immediately after the mention of the Holy Ghost. Let us keep the great things of this section of the chapter in their order before us. (1) The great sacrifice (v. 29); here is the foundation of Christianity. (2) The gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 33); here is the power in Christianity. (3) Two disciples follow Jesus (v. 35); here is the centre of Christianity, Christ the great object and attraction. Later, when Andrew sought for Simon and brought him to Jesus, we have (4), the activities of Christianity (v. 40); they have Christ as their start and Christ as their end. But the Holy Ghost has but one object and that is to make Christ glorious in our eyes, and to enable us to follow Him. This, I believe, is what the sequence of things here would teach us. Sincere souls are often troubled as to whether they are walking in the Spirit or not; here is a simple test: when the heart is set on Christ and the feet are following Him, we are walking in the Spirit.

The Lord knew that these two disciples were following Him, for He was drawing them after Himself. Nor is He ever indifferent to any movement of heart after Himself. So we read, "Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and says to them, WHAT SEEK YE?" What encouragement there must have been for them in this question, and the way it was put! These two men heard the Shepherd's voice for the first time, and would they ever forget it? Their response is immediate; they had seen Him and heard Him, and there is only one answer they could give, "MASTER, WHERE DWELLEST THOU?"

"For oh, the Master is so fair,
  His voice so sweet to banished men
That those who hear it unaware,
  Can never rest on earth again."

Only His dwelling place could satisfy them now, His company. Their answer meant, we want you, we cannot do without you. Faith, too, was at work, for they realized that He would be glad to have them in His dwelling, that a welcome awaited them there. This is one feature of faith, it is bold, indeed to those who have it not it seems presumptuous, but with the sense of need that always goes with true faith, there is the knowledge of Him who can meet the need; it lays hold of God and doubts Him not, it finds its refuge and satisfaction in Jesus.

How blessed is the answer that the Lord gives to the earnest enquiry. "COME AND SEE," and "they came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour." Where He was became the home and rest of their hearts. We are reminded here of some lines written by the most famous singer of the last century, Jenny Lind, known as the Swedish Nightingale:

"In vain I seek for rest
  In all created good.
It leaves me still unblest
  And makes me cry to God.
And sure of rest I cannot be
Until my soul finds rest in Thee."

These disciples had found rest indeed, in the Lord's own dwelling.

In Matthew's and Mark's Gospels, the Lord speaks of Himself as the Son of Man without a place to lay His head, but it is not that side of things that is presented to us in this Gospel. Here He has a dwelling place; it is the Father's bosom, for He is the only begotten Son, in the bosom of the Father. And how often He speaks of His Father! It was the joy of His heart to reveal Him to His disciples and to speak of His Father's house, nor could He be satisfied until He could say to them, "My Father, and your Father," He dwelt in the Father's love, it was His home and rest, and there He would have His disciples dwell. This wonderful sphere is open for us too. We are to have it as our home for ever, and what a welcome we shall get when we actually enter into it! But now He would have us to make it the home of our hearts. He says to us, "Come and see."

How perfect Scripture is in its unfoldings of the truth! It was not one disciple that followed the Lord, but two; and herein we have a pattern of what Christian communion is. Two men are drawn together by one Object; their hearts go out after one Person, and what could they do but walk shoulder to shoulder after Him? There was no jarring, no discord between them. How could there be? It is when questions and not Christ occupy the mind of Christians that they leave following Christ to quarrel with each other. Here is a needed lesson for us, and how beautifully it is taught to us in this incident! What harmony we see between these two as they follow Jesus! and how blessed must have been their communion together as they abode with Him that day! All sense of each other's peculiarities lost sight of in the presence of His perfection. It will be so in heaven, for

"Every knee to Jesus bending,
  All the mind in heaven is one."

And it is God's will that His children should have a foretaste of this while still on earth and in the midst of earth's discords.

One of the two disciples was Andrew, and he FIRST FINDETH HIS OWN BROTHER SIMON AND HE BROUGHT HIM TO JESUS. He bore an effective testimony to the Lord. "WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAS," said he, and he had no difficulty in persuading his brother to come to the One who had become everything to him. And Jesus knew him, and in the way He addressed him He showed His own right to dispose of him as He would, "Thou art Simon, the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas." Great monarchs such as Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of those that served them according to their own will, but here the Messiah of Israel exercises His right in this matter and the name that He gives to Simon declares his destiny rather than his character. He was a stone. A stone for a great and imperishable building which is now in course of preparation, composed of living stones. Every believer is what the Lord declared Simon to be. Each has become this by coming to Christ, the Living Stone (see 1 Peter 2). And the completion of this building is the consummation of God's work in this special period of time. It is in Christ, "in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth to an holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:22).

Four things, then, resulted from John's testimony to Jesus which ought to be the outstanding features of our day, and which will be, when the heart is right.
1. The hearts of those who heard him became engrossed with Christ.
2. They were drawn in unity of purpose and fellowship with each other in following Jesus.
3. They were introduced in communion with Him in His own things.
4. They bore a fruitful testimony to others.

Verse 43 brings in another day, "the day following"; and Philip and Nathanael represent the remnant of Israel who will receive the Lord with gladness when He comes again. To Philip was given the command to follow the Lord, and he obeyed it. In Nathanael we see the chastened spirit that will characterize the remnant of Israel at the coming of the Lord to them. They will confess their sins in secret to Him who sees in secret. Every house will do so apart (Zech. 12:10-14). And He who hears their confession will forgive, and the joy of Psalm 32 will be theirs. For then they will be without guile. The Lord will be able to say to each of them as He said to Nathanael, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile." And they will confess what Nathanael confessed, "THOU ART THE SON OF GOD, THOU ART THE KING OF ISRAEL." Then will they be blessed indeed, and shall see heaven and earth united in the Son of Man.