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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
John 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-34

May the Holy Spirit, who inspired these words, inspire us through them as we read them!

John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word.

The divine Logos, whom we know as the Christ of God. “In the beginning was the Word.” The first words of this gospel remind us of the first words of the Old Testament: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Even then “the Word” was; he existed before all time, even from everlasting.

John 1:1. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I know not how the Deity of Christ can be more plainly declared than in his eternal duration. He is from the beginning. In his glory he was “with God.” In his nature he “was God.”

John 1:2. The same was in the beginning with God.

As we have been singing —

“Ere sin was born, or Satan fell;”

ere there was a creation that could fall,

“the same was in the beginning with God.”

John 1:3. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

He that hung upon the cross was the Maker of all worlds. He that came as an infant, for our sake, was the Infinite. How low he stooped! How high he must have been that he could stoop so low!

John 1:4. In him was life;

Essentially, Eternally.

John 1:4. And the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

It never has done so; it never will. You may sometimes call the darkness, the ignorance of men, or the sin of men. If you like, you may call it the wisdom of men, and the righteousness of men, for that is only another form of the same darkness. “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

John 1:6. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

How very different is the style of this verse from the one that precedes it!

How grand, how sublime, are the Evangelist’s words when he speaks of Jesus! How truly human he becomes, how he dips his pen in ordinary ink, when he writes: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Yet that was a noble testimony to the herald of Christ. John the Baptist was “a man sent from God.”

John 1:7. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

Dear friends, if you and I know our real destiny, and are the servants of God, we are sent that men might, through us, believe in Jesus. John was a special witness; but we ought all to be witnesses to complete the chain of testimony. Every Christian man should reckon that he is sent from God to bear witness to the great Light, that, through him, men might believe.

John 1:8-9. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

There was no light from John except what he reflected from his Lord. All the light comes from Jesus. Every man who comes into the world with any light borrows his light from Christ. There is no other light; there can be no other. He is the “Light of the World.”

John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

This is a sad verse. He was a stranger in his own house. He was unknown amidst his own handiwork. Men whom he had made, made nothing of him.

“The world knew him not;” did not recognize him.

John 1:11. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

That favored circle, the Jewish nation, where revelation had been given, even there, there was no place for him. He must be despised and rejected even by his own nation.

John 1:12-13. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

To receive Christ, a man must be born of God. It is the simplest thing in all the world, one would think, to open the door of the heart, and let him in; but no man lets Christ into his heart till first God has made him to be born again, born from above.

John 1:14. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

They who saw Christ on earth were highly privileged; but it is a spiritual sight of him alone that is to be desired, and we can have that even now.

How full of grace, how full of truth, he is to all those who are privileged to behold him!

John 1:15-16. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.

I wish that we could all say that. Even out of this company, many can say it; and linking our hands with those who have gone before us, and those who are still with us in the faith, we say unitedly, “Of his fullness have all we received,” and we hope to receive from it again tonight, for it is still his fullness. There is never a trace of declining in him. It was fullness when the first sinner came to him; and it is fullness still; it will be fullness to the very end. “And grace for grace.” We get grace to reach out to another grace, each grace becoming a stepping-stone to something higher. I do not believe in our rising on the “stepping-stones of our dead selves.” They are poor stones; they all lead downwards. The stepping-stones of the living Christ lead upwards; grace for grace, grace upon grace, till grace is crowned with glory.

John 1:17. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

We know that the law came by Moses. The law has often burdened us, crushed us, convinced us, condemned us. Let us be equally clear that grace and truth come by this divine channel, “Jesus Christ.”

John 1:18. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

We do not want to see God apart from Christ. I am perfectly satisfied to see the Eternal Light through his own chosen medium, Christ Jesus. Apart from that medium, the light might blind my eyes. “No man hath seen God at any time.” Who can look on the sun? What mind can look on God? But Christ does not hide the Father; he manifests him. “The only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

John 1:19-22. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No. Then said thy unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice--

Not “I am the Word,” but “I am the voice.” Christ is the essential Word; we are but the voice to make that word sound across the desert of human life.

John 1:23. Of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

You see, even as a voice, John was not original. That straining after originality, of which we see so much today, finds no warrant among the true servants of God. Even though John is only a voice, yet he is a voice that quotes the Scriptures: “Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.” The more of Scripture we can voice, the better. Our words, what are they? They are but air. His Word, what is it? It is “grace and truth.” May we continually be lending a voice to the great Words of God that have gone before!

John 1:24-27. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize 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.

Ah! Dear friends, although it was a lowly expression that John used, you and I often feel that we want something that goes lower even than that. What are we worthy to do for Christ? Yet there are times when, if there is a shoe-latchet to be unloosed, we are too proud to stoop to do it. When there is something to be done that will bring no honour to us, we are too high and mighty to do it. O child of God, if you have ever been in that condition, be greatly ashamed of yourself! John was first in his day, the morning-star of the Light of the gospel, yet even he felt that he was not worthy to do the least thing for Christ. Where shall you and I put ourselves? Paul said that he was “less than the least of all the saints.” He ran away with a title that might have been very appropriate for us. Well, we must let him have it, I suppose; and we must try to find another like it; or if we cannot find suitable words, God help us to have the humble feeling, which is better still!

John 1:28-29. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John preached a sacrificial Saviour, a sin-bearing Saviour, a sin-atoning Saviour. You and I have nothing else to preach. Let each of us say —

“Tis all my business here below

To cry, Behold the Lamb!”

John 1:30-31. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not:

Although John knew the Saviour personally, he did not know him officially.

He had a token given to him by God, by which he was to know the Messiah; and he did not officially know him till he had that token fulfilled.

John 1:31-33. But that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

John would not know of his own judgment. No doubt he was morally certain that Jesus was the Christ. He had been brought up with him; he knew his mother, he had heard of his wondrous birth; John and Jesus must have been often together; but he was not to use his own judgment in this case, but to wait for the sign from heaven; and until he witnessed it, he did not say a word about it. When he saw the Holy Ghost descend upon him, then he knew that it was even he.

John 1:34. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Hear ye, then, the witness of John. The Christ, who came from Nazareth to be baptized of him in Jordan, he on whom the Holy Ghost descended like a dove, “this is the Son of God.” This is the sin-bearing Lamb. Oh, that you and I might fulfill John’s expectation, for he spoke that we might believe. He, being dead, yet speaketh. May we believe his witness, and be assured that “this is the Son of God”!


Verses 1-37

John is the majestic Evangelist; he is the high-soaring eagle with the piercing eye. His is the Gospel of the Son of God.

John 1:1-3. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

We cannot describe the Deity of Christ in clearer language than John uses. He was with God; he was God; he did the works of God, for he was the Creator. If any doubt his Deity, they must do so in distinct defiance of the language of Holy Scripture.

John 1:4-5. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Christ is still not understood, Jesus is still not known. How should darkness understand light? It opposes light, it has to flee before light, but it does not, it cannot understand light. O God, work a miracle in our dark hearts, and fill them with the light of Christ!

John 1:6-7. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

That is our business, too. We who are ministers sent from God bear witness of the Light, that all men through him may believe. Oh, how often we go home, and cry, “Who hath believed our report?” We do not ask you to believe in us; no, but in our Master, whose heralds we are. If we can lead you to faith in him, we shall be glad indeed; but, if not, we will sorrow because we have missed our mark, and failed in our purpose.

John 1:8-9. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

If any man has saving light, true light, he gets it through Christ. There is no other light; all other light is but darkness visible. The light in which we see God comes from Jesus.

John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

Strange was it that the Creator came to his own earth, and yet he was unknown. Men mistook him, they hated him, they crucified him whom they ought to have entertained with sacred hospitality, and worshipped with holy loyalty.

John 1:11-12. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

All men are not the sons of God; the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood is utterly untrue. They only become the sons of God who receive Christ, and believe on his name; else are they heirs of wrath, even as others:

“To them gave he power to become the sons of God.”

John 1:13. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

There is another birth beside the natural one; never does the birth of the flesh make us Christians. If our ancestry should be a line of saints yet are we born sinners; we must be born again if we are to become saints. If we could trace our pedigree to a perfect man, if such there be, yet the birth by the flesh would not avail us. Sons of God are.” born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 1:14. And the Word was made flesh,

Here was the incarnation of him who made all things. He that is God “was made flesh.”

John 1:14. And dwelt among us, (and we —

The apostles —

John 1:14. Beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Oh, all ye who would know Christ, learn that he is worth the knowing! He is full of grace for your sinnership, and full of truth for your ignorance. He can cleanse and he can teach; there is everything in him that you need. You shall not be deceived, for he is full of truth; you shall not be rejected, for he is full of grace.

John 1:15-18. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 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 hath seen God at any time;

He is too high, too spiritual, to be perceived by human senses.

John 1:18. The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

What of God we need to know, we may see in Christ; enough to save us, enough to sanctify us, enough to make us all like the only-begotten Son of the Father.

John 1:19-20. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

With indignation he must have repelled the idea that he was the Messiah:

“I am not the Christ.”

John 1:21-23. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice —

Humbly he reduces himself to a voice; but he was not “a voice and nothing more.” There was much that was mighty and wise in that voice.

John 1:23-27. Of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize 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.

How John hides himself behind his Master! He was a most worthy man, a truly great man; but he counted himself unworthy of the most menial service for Christ, and felt honoured by filling the office of a slave to unloose his Master’s shoe’s latchet. It is better to be the slave of Christ than to rule vast empires; he who truly serveth him is glorified thereby.

John 1:28-29. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Now is he bringing out his message; now is he pointing out his Master.

John 1:30-31. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not:

John knew Jesus very well; but he did not know him as the Sent One of God, the Messiah, till after he had received the sign and token at his baptism: “I knew him not.”

John 1:31-34. But that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Jesus and John must have been well acquainted with one another; they were closely related, but John was not to know anybody as the Messiah tin he received the token from God. When he saw that token, then he officially knew, and he bore instant witness: “This is the Son of God.”

John 1:35-36. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked,

With holy reverence, with loving awe, gazing upon this extraordinary Person “as he walked”, —

John 1:36-37. He saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

This is our one business tonight, to cry, “Behold the Lamb of God!


Verses 15-37

John 1:15. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

He was not before John in the order of human birth, yet he was truly before John, for he had an eternal pre-existence, as he was none other than the uncreated Son of God.

John 1:16-21. 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 hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered; No.

As they meant, “Art thou, literally, the prophet Elijah risen from the dead?

“John said,” “I am not.” “Art thou that prophet of who Moses foretold?”

“And he answered, No.” John gave short, sharp answers to these cavilers.

He was not a man of dainty words and polished periods, especially in dealing with ouch people as they were.

John 1:22-23. Then said they unto him, who art thou that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice--

Not “the Word.”— Christ is that, but John was “the voice.”

John 1:23-37. Of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize 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. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples, and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

In the third chapter of the same Gospel, we have yet another testimony by John the Baptist concerning Christ.

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 3:1-12; John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36.


Verses 19-33

John 1:19-28. And this in the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto Him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize 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. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Was that the place where the Israelites caressed the Jordan? It is said to have been so; and truly this is the place where we cross the Jordan too —come out of old Judaism into the true faith of the revealed Christ.

John 1:29. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

I think I hear the Elijah-like tones of that son of the desert, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

John 1:30. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

Ah! how infinitely before John; how before him? Having no beginning of days, before him in his exalted nature, before him in his superior rank and office!

John 1:31. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

It was by baptism that the Christ was to be known. John knew more of Jesus Christ than anybody else, yet he did not know him to be the Lamb of God until he had baptized him.

John 1:32-33. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me. Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

I doubt not that John had assuredly guessed that Jesus was the person; but he had nothing to do with guesses: he was a witness for God, and he could only speak as God revealed things to him.

This exposition consisted of readings from John 1:19-33; John 19:1-16.


Verses 19-51

John 1:19-20. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou ? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

“I am not the One anointed of God to save mankind.”

John 1:21. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias ?

“Art thou Elijah come back to earth?”

John 1:21. And he saith, I am not.

For, though indeed he was the true spiritual Elijah who was to come as the forerunner of the Messiah, yet, in the sense in which they asked the question, the only truthful answer was, “I am not.”

John 1:21. Art thou that prophet ?

The long-expected prophet foretold by Moses?

John 1:21-23. And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice –

That is all; a voice and nothing more. John did not profess to be the Word;

he was only the voice which vocalized that Word, and made it audible to human ears. He came to bear witness to the Christ, but he was not himself the Christ: “I am the voice”

John 1:23-27. Of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. and they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize 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.

How wisely does God always choose and fashion his servants! John is evidently just the man for his place; he bears testimony to Christ very clearly; he earnestly turns away all attention from himself to his Master; and he has such a reverent esteem for him of whom he is the herald that he puts all honour and glory upon him.

John 1:28-30. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing, The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the-sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

You know, dear friends, that Christ existed from all eternity, so, in very truth, he was before John; you know, too, the glory and the excellency of our Divine Master’s person, so that, in another sense, he was and is before John and all other creatures whom he has made.

John 1:31-34. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaing on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

The secret sign of the descent of the Spirit, in dovelike form, upon our Lord, was given to John; and as soon as he saw it, he knew of a surety that Jesus was the Sent One, the Messiah, and that he must point him out to the people.

John 1:35-36. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

This was the same text from which he had preached the day before, and it was the same sermon, somewhat shortened. So should it be with us.

His only righteousness I show,

His saving truth proclaim;

‘Tis all my business here below

To cry, ‘Behold the Lamb!’

John 1:37. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

Thus John was losing his own disciples. By his testimony to the truth, he was sending them to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and he did it well and gracefully. There are many who would find it a hard task to reduce the number of their disciples; but it was not so with John.

John 1:38-46. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye ? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou ? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. and when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and earth unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth ? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

It was all a seeing gospel. John said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Then Jesus said, “Come and see;” and now Philip says the same. Faith is that blessed sight by which we discern the Saviour. Whoso looks to Christ by faith shall live.

John 1:47. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

“There is no craft or deception in this man, as there was in Jacob; he is a true Israelite, like Israel at his best.”

John 1:48. Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me ? Jesus answered and said unto Him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

What Nathanael had been doing there, we do not know; probably he had been meditating, or he may have been engaged in prayer. But this announcement was a proof to Nathanael that Jesus could see all things, and read men’s hearts, and know what they were doing in their chosen retreats: “When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” Christ knows all of you who came in here, tonight, in a prayerful spirit, seeking him. And whenever men are seeking him, be you sure that he is also seeking them.

John 1:49. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

“Thou sawest what I was doing in secret; and by that token I perceive that thou art God’s own Son.”

John 1:50. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou!’ thou shalt see greater things than these.

Those who are ready to believe Christ, on what may be thought to be slender evidence, shall “see greater things than these.” “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” They shall gaze upon a wonderful sight by-and-by.

John 1:51. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

“Thou art a true Israelite, and thou shalt have Israel’s vision. Thou shalt see the same sight as thy father Jacob saw when he fell asleep with a stone for his pillow, only thy vision shall be far grander than his. Christ always knows how to meet the needs of our hearts, and to give us something in accordance with our own expressions, and to make his answers fit our requests, only that he always far exceeds all that we ask or even think, blessed be his holy name!”

This exposition consisted of readings from John 1:19-51; and Matthew 4:12-24.


Verses 29-42

John 1:29. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of god, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John lost no time. He had no sooner discovered the Saviour than he bore witness of him. “The next day.” As soon as ever his eyes lighted upon Jesus, he had his testimony ready for him. “Behold!” said he, “the Lamb of God.”

John 1:30-33. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me: And I knew him not: but that he should manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not:

At first.

John 1:33-34. But he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare record, that this is the Son of God.

Notice how very clear John is. There is no mistaking him. He repeated himself lest there should be any possibility of an error, and he gives the detail of the mode by which he recognized the Saviour, in order that all might be persuaded to accept Jesus as in very truth the Messiah and the Son of God, so that we are to preach very plainly — not with enticing words of men’s wisdom, but with demonstration of the Spirit and with power. What have we to conceal? Nay, we have everything to reveal and our business is that men should be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, and should come and put their trust in him

John 1:35-36. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples: And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God?

There is no objection to preaching the same sermon twice if it be on such a matter as this. “Behold the Lamb of God,” he said one day, and the next day he did not vary the phraseology. He had no new metaphor — no new figure — with which to set forth Christ, but, as striking a nail upon the head and the same nail will help to fasten it, and may do more service than bringing out a new nail, so he gets to the same word and the same subject — “Behold the Lamb of God.”

John 1:37. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

They went beyond their teacher. And oh! what a mercy it is if our hearers can go Christward far beyond us. John was well content to be left behind if they followed Jesus; and so may any minister of Christ rejoice if his people will follow Jesus, even if they go far beyond his attainments.

John 1:38. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?

Christ wants intelligent followers: so he asks the question, “What seek ye?”

John 1:38-39. They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master), where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see,

Which is often his answer to enquirers — “Come and see.” “Oh! taste and see that the Lord is good.” Learn by experience. Do not merely hear what I say, but come and see.

John 1:39-42. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus,

This is how the kingdom began to grow — by individual effort. “Andrew findeth Simon”: one convert must bring another: “and he brought him to Jesus.”

John 1:42. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone,

There was a meaning in the change of names, for there was about to be a change of character — the timid son of a dove soon to become a very rock for the Church.

This exposition consisted of readings from Isaiah 40:1-17; Isaiah 25-31. John 1:29-42.


Verses 29-51

John 1:29. The next day —

This chapter is a record of the events that occurred on different days. Sometimes God does great things in a single day; one extraordinary day may have more in it than a hundred ordinary years. It is well for us to try to live by the day, and not to let any day pass without some good action having been done in it. Let us never have to cry, “I have lost a day.”

John 1:29. John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

We ought never to be slow in delivering such a message as that which John the Baptist uttered. I do not wonder that, as soon as ever John knew that Jesus was the Messiah, he told the good news to others. Hast thou found Jesus? Tell thy brother tonight; or, if not tonight, go as soon as thou canst, and bid him, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

John 1:30-34. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am. I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

John was acquainted with Jesus, for they were related to one another, and were brought up together, but he did not officially know him as the Messiah until he saw the Holy Spirit descending and remaining on him; for that was the Lord’s token by which he was to recognize him. He refused, therefore, to follow any knowledge or judgment of his own. He would not know Jesus as the Christ until he saw the private mark for which the Lord had told him to look. As soon as he saw that, then John said that he knew him; and as soon as he thus knew him, he began to preach him. Has the Lord given thee in thy soul a token that Christ is thy Saviour? Dost thou know him by the witness of the Holy Ghost? Then go and speak of him to others and, like John, say, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Let this be your one business between here and heaven.

John 1:35-36. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

“Again the next day.” See how the Evangelist goes by days in his record. John preached the same sermon two days running, and if you proclaim Christ and him crucified, you may preach him two hundred days running, but you will never preach him too often. If you preach Christ as the Lamb of God, the great Sin-bearer, you may be always at that blessed work. There are some who very seldom preach Christ as bearing the sin of men; so that others of us must do it all the oftener to make up for their shortcomings. As for me, I can say with Charles Wesley, —

“His only righteousness I show,

His saving truth proclaim;

‘tis all my business here below,

To cry, ‘Behold the Lamb!’”

John 1:37. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

It is hard preaching when you preach away your congregation, but John did this deliberately, He wished these two no longer to be his disciples, but to become the disciples of Jesus. He had mastered the meaning of his own words, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” and he was quite willing that it should be so: “The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.”

John 1:38-39. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see.

He gave them a full invitation to come to the place where he tarried, and see for themselves. That is what Jesus still says, “Come and see.” If any of you want to know him, “Come and see.” You are perfectly welcome to “Come and see” all that Jesus has to show you.

John 1:39. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

The best part of that day was the portion which they spent with Jesus it was the best day they had ever enjoyed, for they lived with Jesus. It was also the beginning of better days for these two disciples; for, having once lived with Jesus, they learnt never to live without him. Oh, that we also may abide with him!

John 1:40-41. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

Where should missionary work begin? A brother should begin with his brother. It is all very well to have a desire to go to the heathen in Africa; you had better begin work as a missionary in England, and then go to Africa. He who cannot win his brother is not likely to win anybody else. “He first findeth his own brother Simon:” this Andrew, who was afterwards to bring so many to Christ, must begin at home, and succeed there. If we are not faithful with one or two relatives, how can God trust us with a pulpit and a congregation?

John 1:42. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona:

“Simon, son of a dove, thy name may point thee out as being timid; mind where thou dost wing thy flight.”

John 1:42. Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.

Something more solid than the son of a pigeon; something more stable than the son of a dove. Christ changes men’s names, and changes their natures, too. He can make the most fickle of us to become firm and steadfast. Oh, that he would thus work by his grace upon us!

John 1:43-44. The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

“The day following.” See, friends, what a wonderful chapter this is. There is a book called, The Book of Days; I call this chapter the chapter of days. Every day seems memorable for some great event. “Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter,” was a poor, miserable village; but God greatly honoured it. Great works often begin in little places. The best of beings came out of the despised town of Nazareth, and three of the best of men, Philip, Andrew, and Peter, came out of Bethsaida.

John 1:45. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

True faith may make blunders. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, except by reputation, and he was Jesus of Bethlehem quite as much as he was Jesus of Nazareth; but true faith is accepted of God even though it makes some mistakes. It believes God’s Word, and it believes God’s Son, and therefore it shall be accepted.

John 1:46. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

Christ had said, “Come and see.” Now Philip used the same words, “Come and see.” It is always right to follow the example that the Lord Jesus has set us.

John 1:47-48. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me?

You may remember that, a short time ago, I preached a sermon upon Nathanael. He was a kind of Jewish John Blunt, a man who always spoke his mind. He had a mind, and he had a mind to speak it, and he spoke his mind. So, the moment that Christ spoke of him, he asked, “Whence knowest thou me? “He was conscious that Christ did know him, and being a man who was altogether free from cunning and craftiness, he pointedly asked how Christ came to know him.

John 1:48. Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

What was he doing under the fig tree? Jesus knew, and Nathanael knew, but nobody else knew, and perhaps nobody else ever will know. That was a secret between Christ and Nathanael. He was doing something there that he regarded as quite private, and the Saviour’s allusion to his being under the fig tree was the plainest proof he could have of Christ’s divinity. “Oh!” thought he, “he who can remind me of that secret transaction must be God.”

John 1:49-50. Nathanael answered and saith unto him: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

You who are honest in heart, you who can be convinced by a single argument, — and, mark you, one good argument is as convincing as twenty good arguments, and a great deal better than a hundred bad ones, — you who are willing to be led by a single thread shall be led. If you are willing to believe on what is clear evidence, you shall have more evidence: “thou shalt see greater things than these.” God will show much to that man who has eyes with which to see it. He who will not see, and does not wish to see, shall grow more and more blind, and the darkness shall thicken about him.

John 1:51. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

He could see actually what Jacob saw only in a dream, when he beheld that wonderful stairway of light which leads from earth to heaven, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who by his manhood and his Godhead bridges the distance between us and God.

 


Copyright Statement
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 1:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/john-1.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 24th, 2019
the Fifth Week after Easter
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