I am not the Christ. Jesus is.
Series: The Gospel of John
As we continue our journey through the Gospel of John, Pastor Matt illuminates the Big Idea that “I am not the Christ, Jesus is” by showing us that: 1. Jesus is the Redeemer, 2. Jesus is the Lamb and 3. Jesus is the Son.
ESV Study Bible – Study notes on the Gospel According to John
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John – Andreas Kostenburger
Pillar New Testament Commentary Series – The Gospel According to John – DA Carson
The New City Catechism: Question #16
“Who are you?” It’s a seemingly easy question to answer but give it a moment and you’ll see that it’s not as easy as it seems. Who are you? I don’t mean your name, what you do for a living, or your hobbies. I mean you. Who are you? Few questions are more relevant or important to be able to answer, but the question isn’t so simple. Our passage this morning will help. “Who are you?” is the question that John the Baptist is asked in the opening verse of our passage this morning. Though John the Baptist made a cameo in the opening of the Gospel of John, but this week John is center stage, sort of. As an aside, it’s important to mention that John the Baptist is a different person from the Apostle John who authored this Gospel. It’s John the Baptist who figures into the center of our passage today, sort of. John 1:19-20, 29 – And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ”…29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! To know who we really are, we must know two things, who we are not, and who Jesus is. And that brings us to the big idea of our passage this morning: I am not the Christ. Jesus is. Like John the Baptist shows us, I am not the Christ, neither are you, but Jesus is. John the Baptist strikes me as a strange, bold, free, and purposeful man. There is incredible freedom and peace that come when you know who you are not. John had this and so can you. I am not the Christ. Jesus is.
The word “Christ” means “anointed one.” Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The term Christ or “anointed one” has royal overtones. King David, Israel’s greatest king, was anointed with oil when the prophet Samuel declared David to be Israel’s true king, rather than Saul. Later in David’s life, the Lord promised David that from David’s family line would come an eternal king, an even greater anointed one, who would one day rescue and rule over not just Israel, but all people who trust Him by faith. During John the Baptists day, when God’s people suffered under Roman rule, there was a lot of “Anointed One, Messiah, Christ expectation.” So, the religious leaders want to know, who are you? Are you the Christ? John flatly denies. Undeterred, the religious leaders ask John the Baptist is if he’s one of the other expected end times figures, like the second coming of Elijah who never died or the Prophet promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18. The leaders go on to ask John also denies being the second coming of Elijah, who never died, and was expected by some to introduce the Messiah. This denial is sort of humorous because Jesus will later identify John the Baptist with Elijah, reminding us that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. Jesus knew John the Baptist better than John the Baptist knew himself. John also denies being the Great Prophet who was predicted by Moses back in Deuteronomy 18:15 and was expected in Jesus’ day. John the Baptist says, “no, I’m not the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet.”
Friends, there are few things quite so freeing, empowering, and clarifying as knowing who you are not. John the Baptist is a gracious reminder of the joyful freedom that comes when we genuinely live out of the belief that it’s not about us. We’ve been born and born again into a life that is a celebration of another. I am not the Christ. How wonderful is that. I no longer need to posture to get noticed or get the credit. I am not the Christ. I no longer need to defend my righteousness because I don’t have any; I am not the Christ. I no longer need to obsess over the admiration of people. I don’t need to be admired because I am not the Christ. I no longer need God to conform everything after the counsel of my will; I am not the Christ. Right where you are, say out loud with me, “I am not the Christ.” I am not the Christ.
It’s not enough, however, to know who you are not. To know who you are, you also need to know whose you are. I am not the Christ. Jesus is. Who is the Christ? 1. Jesus is the Redeemer 2. Jesus is the Lamb 3. Jesus is the Son.
JESUS IS THE REDEEMER
After John the Baptist flatly denies being the Christ, Elijah, and the Prophet, the religious leaders become exasperated and say, “well then, what do you say about yourself?” Listen to John’s response. John 1:23 – He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John the Baptist is referencing Isaiah 40:3-5, which says, A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” In these verses, Isaiah is writing to comfort God’s people who were ripped from their homeland and hauled off to a new land in the shame of military defeat, which was ultimately an act of divine judgment for their sins. Isaiah writes to comfort the exiles because exile and judgment will not be the end of the story for all who faithfully hope in God’s promises. Isaiah foretells the coming day when the glory of God will be revealed. And last week we learned that the glory of God has been revealed and Isaiah’s promise has been fulfilled in the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Isaiah also tells us that when the glory of the Lord is revealed in Christ, the rough terrain will be made smooth so that sinners can be redeemed, can come home to God by grace. Isaiah promises a Redeemer who will bring exiled sinners like us back to God, and the only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ. And John the Baptist isn’t him. John the Baptist isn’t Christ the Redeemer. John is the voice crying out, announcing, preparing the way for, and deflecting all attention to Jesus the Redeemer because John the Baptist is not the Christ. Jesus is.
This all brings me to a personal question: Who or what is your life pointing others toward? Can we be honest with ourselves? For a moment, I want you to reflect on your typical interactions with neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teachers, bosses, and people that you hobby with. I think that if we honestly reflect, most of us will have to admit that our tendency in conversation is to either subtly or not so subtly draw attention to ourselves. We are so desperate for people to acknowledge us, see how interesting we are, give us credit for our work, and the like that we draw attention to ourselves as naturally as we fill our lungs with breath. I do it too and it makes no sense. You want to know why? I am not Christ the Redeemer. I cannot bring spiritual exiles back to God. What do I need attention for? That’s the refreshing beauty of John the Baptist. He knows he’s not Christ the Redeemer, so he lives in the joy and freedom of pointing people away from himself and preparing them to meet Christ the Redeemer who alone can bring them back to God. I am not the Christ. Therefore, I just want to be a nobody telling everybody about the One who truly is somebody. So, let’s take the question a step further. What might it look like for you to pray, love, invite, and speak to others in a way that points attention away from you and prepares them for Jesus? Jesus is the redeemer. Who else is he?
JESUS IS THE LAMB
The day after the religious leaders interrogated John the Baptist, John sees Jesus and tells us exactly who Jesus is. John 1:29-30 – The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ What does John mean when he says that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? In Jesus John sees the fulfillment of one of the most significant Old Testament figures: The Lamb of God. Way back in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God chose a man named Abram and promised to make him Abraham, which means father of a multitude. Abraham was promised a land, a blessing, and many descendants who would extend God’s blessing to all the scattered nations of the world. The only problem is that Abram was old, and his wife was barren. But the Lord was faithful to his promise and gave Abraham a son in his old age, Isaac. But then the Lord did the unthinkable and asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, the son of promise, his beloved Isaac. So, Abraham hiked alongside his son Isaac up the mountain, bound him, and at just the last moment, when Abraham was about to thrust the knife into his son, the Lord stopped Abraham and the Lord provided a ram or lamb to die instead of Isaac. Jesus is that substitutionary lamb who dies in our place. A few generations later, Abraham’s multitude of descendants were enslaved in Egypt, not yet in their Promised Land. But the Lord remained faithful. To finally convince Pharaoh to release his people, the Lord sent his angel to strike down every first born in Egypt. But the firstborn of Israel would be protected. God’s people were to sacrifice a lamb, put its blood on the doorpost of their home, and the angel of the Lord would Passover the house. The lamb died so that the first born would not. Jesus is the true and greater Passover lamb who died to take away the eternal death of all who believe in Him. Once Israel was free from Egypt and in their Promised Land, they would offer a daily sacrificial lamb for their sins. Jesus is the true and greater sacrificial lamb who alone can take away the eternal curse of sin. All the lambs of God throughout the Old Testament were all preparatory for a true, greater, and final lamb of God. The prophet Isaiah promised his arrival. Isaiah 53:7, 10 – He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth… Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. When Jesus arrives on the scene, John the Baptist says, “this is him, this is the true lamb of God is going to take away the sins of the world.”
What is sin? The New City Catechism says that Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation. Question: how do you try to take away your sins? We all have an approach. Some of us just try not to think about our sins, reasoning that doing so is overly negative. If you easily drift from and aren’t deeply connected to Christian community, it’s likely that you try to take away your sins by getting some distance and not thinking about them. Others of us try to take away our sins by pretending that our sin isn’t such a big deal. Pretenders don’t typically have a very robust practice of regularly confessing sins to God. You may pray a lot, but confession isn’t part of it. Pretenders tend to struggle in marriage and close relationships because you rarely admit your faults and ask for forgiveness, instead you defend yourself a lot. On the other hand, many of us try to take away our sins by performing. Performers are often exhausted and worn out by guilt and busyness that results from trying to take away our sins by outperforming them. I tend to try to takeaway my sins by getting the right people to tell me I’m ok. Yes, God forgives me, but God is small and people are big in my heart at times, so I look to others to tell me I’m ok and take away my sins. But this makes no sense because I am not the Christ. Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is. John the Baptist did not say, “Behold the Lamb of God, now get busy, exhausted, and isolated taking away your sins.” Rather, he said, “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” You’re not Christ, Jesus the Lamb of God is. So, come to the Lamb of God with all the weariness of your sin and your futile attempts to take them away and receive rest for your soul. The Bible calls that repentance. Martin Luther said that the whole of the Christian life is repentance. So come to the Lamb every day with your sin, say the same thing to him about your sin that he does, and believe again by faith that he has taken away your sins and removed them from you as far as the east is from the west. Don’t pretend, don’t perform, instead come to the Lamb, and ask him to take away your burden. You’re not the Christ, Jesus the lamb is. Citygroup!
JESUS IS THE SON
John 1:33-34 – I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” It’s very significant that the Spirit descended and remained on the Lord Jesus because the prophet Isaiah promised that the Christ would be the eternal king from the family line of David and David’s father Jesse, and that the Spirit would rest upon him. Isaiah 11:1-2 – There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. This great promise was fulfilled the day that Jesus was baptized. King David was called a son of God in the OT, but Jesus the true and greater anointed king, is the one-of-a-kind Son of God. But notice what John the Baptist says the one-of-a-kind Son of God who is anointed by the Holy Spirit will do with the Holy Spirit. Verse 33 tells us that he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? The prophet Ezekiel is the one who promised that this would happen. Ezekiel 36:26-27 – And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. The result of sin is that you and I have hearts of stone. We cannot obey God. But the one-of-a-kind Son of God received the anointing of the Spirit at his baptism and he gives the Holy Spirit to us so that we experience a spiritual heart transplant and our new heart beats with desire and power from the Holy Spirit to obey the Lord from the heart.
Question: where are you struggling to obey Jesus? Take a moment and think about it. Whatever it is, you’re not going to be able to overcome it by will power, better habits, and personal discipline because you’re not the Christ. Jesus the Son of God who gives you the Spirit of God so that you have a new desire to obey and a new power to carry it out is. Instead of relying on your own resources, come to Jesus with all your sin and weakness. He will give you a new heart and pour out the Spirit, giving you his strength to walk in his ways. You can’t perform your own open-heart surgery. You can’t come to Jesus with the strength to obey. But you can come to Jesus the Christ every day and ask him each day for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit so that you have the strength to turn from sin and back to him.
Who are you? You’re not the Christ, so relax. He’s taken away your sin and given you a new heart that beats for his glory. So go and enjoy the freedom of pointing people away from yourself and preparing them to meet Jesus. That’s how God’s family joyfully drills deep and reaches wide.
COMMUNION & PROPHECY
- The Lord’s Supper is the family meal of Christians where we remember the death of Jesus for our sins. God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us, and to bring us into a family relationship with Him and with one another. And communion is a weekly opportunity to remember this, to take hold once again of His covenant love for us, and in turn to re-commit our lives to loving and serving Him.
- And so, as we prepare to eat and drink together, we will first have a brief time for reflection. Please take a moment now, in silence before the Lord, and confess any specific ways you’ve not been following Jesus, or not looking to Him alone as your help and your salvation. Are you willing to turn away from your sins and trust him? Take a moment to do this now, and then I’ll lead us in taking the elements.
- <30-60 seconds of silent reflection>
- If in the time of self-examination, you found that you were unwilling to turn from your sin or not trust in Christ, we’d ask that you not participate in the Lord’s Supper. Instead, repent, trust in Jesus’ sacrifice, and talk to me or another leader after the church about what it means to follow Jesus. If, on the other hand, in the time of self-examination you found that God is good and you are not, but you trust in the single offering of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, please do eat and drink with us as I direct you using the words of Scripture:
- On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Let’s eat together.
- In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Let’s drink together.
- For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Amen