Skip to content

Chrysostom (347-407) on John 1:29-31

June 8, 2009

Chrysostom:

These things were done in Bethany beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

[1.] A GREAT virtue is boldness and freedom of speech, and the making all things second in importance to the confessing of Christ; so great and admirable, that the Only-begotten Son of God proclaims such an one in the presence of the Father. ( Luke xii. 8.) Yet the recompense is more than just, for thou confessest upon earth, He in heaven, thou in the presence of men, He before the Father and all the angels. Such an one was John, who regarded not the multitude, nor opinion, nor anything else belonging to men, but trod all this beneath his feet, and proclaimed to all with becoming freedom the things respecting Christ. And therefore the Evangelist marks the very place, to show the boldness of the loud-voiced herald. For it was not in a house, not in a corner, not in the wilderness, but in the midst of the multitude, after that he had occupied Jordan, when all that were baptized by him were present, (for the Jews came upon him as he was baptizing,) there it was that he proclaimed aloud that wonderful confession concerning Christ, full of those sublime and great and mysterious doctrines, and that he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe. Wherefore he saith, “These things were done in Bethany,” or, as all the more correct copies have it, “in Bethabara.” For Bethany was not “beyond Jordan,” nor bordering on the wilderness, but somewhere nigh to Jerusalem. He marks the places also for another reason. Since he was not about to relate matters of old date, but such as had come to pass but a little time before, he makes those who were present and had beheld, witnesses of his words, and supplies proof from the places themselves. For confident that nothing was added by himself to what was said, but that he simply and with truth described things as they were, he draws a testimony from the places, which, as I said, would be no common demonstration of his veracity. “The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The Evangelists distributed the periods amongst them; and Matthew having cut short his notice of the time before John the Baptist was bound, hastens to that which follows, while the Evangelist John not only does not cut short this period, but dwells most on it. Matthew, after the return of Jesus from the wilderness, saying nothing of the intermediate circumstances, as what John spake, and what the Jews sent and said, and having cut short all the rest, passes immediately to the prison. “For,” saith he, “Jesus having heard” that John was betrayed, “departed thence.” {Matt. xiv. 13.) But John does not so. He is silent as to the journey into the wilderness, as having been described by Matthew; but he relates what followed the descent from the mountain, and after having gone through many circumstances, adds, “For John was not yet cast into prison.” (c. iii. 24 .) And wherefore, says one, does Jesus now come to him? why does he come not merely once, but this second time also? For Matthew says that His coming was necessary on account of Baptism: since Jesus adds, that “thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. iii. 15.) But John says that He came again after Baptism, and declares it in this place, for, “I saw,” saith he, “the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him.” Wherefore then did He come to John? for He came not casually, but went expressly to him. “John,” saith the Evangelist, “seeth Jesus coming unto him.” Then wherefore cometh He? In order that since John had baptized Him with many (others), no one might suppose that He had hastened to John for the same reason as the rest to confess sins, and to wash in the river unto repentance. For this He comes, to give John an opportunity of setting this opinion right again, for by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world,” he removes the whole suspicion. For very plain it is that One so pure as to be able to wash away the sins of others, does not come to confess sins, but to give opportunity to that marvelous herald to impress what he had said more definitely on those who had heard his former words, and to add others besides. The word “Behold” is used, because many had been seeking Him by reason of what had been said, and for a long time. For this cause, pointing Him out when present, he said, “Behold,” this is He so long sought, this is “the Lamb.” He calls Him “Lamb,” to remind the Jews of the prophecy of Isaiah, and of the shadow under the law of Moses, that he may the better lead them from the type to the reality. That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.

Ver. 30. “This is He of whom I said, He that cometh after me is preferred before me.” [2.] Seest thou here also how he interprets the word “before”? for having called Him “Lamb,” and that He “taketh away the sin of the world,” then he saith that “He is preferred before me, for He was before me”; declaring that this is the “before,” the taking upon Him the sins of the world, “and the baptizing with the Holy Ghost.” “For my coming had no farther object than to proclaim the common Benefactor of the world, and to afford the baptism of water; but His was to cleanse all men, and to give them the power of the Comforter.” “He is preferred before me,” that is to say, has appeared brighter than I, because “He was before me.” Let those who have admitted the madness of Paul of Samosata be ashamed when they withstand so manifest a truth.

Ver. 31. “And I knew Him not,” he saith.

Here he renders his testimony free from suspicion, by showing that it was not from human friendship, but had been caused by divine revelation. “I knew Him not,” he saith. How then couldest thou be a trustworthy witness? How shalt thou teach others, while thou thyself art ignorant? He did not say “I know Him not,” but, “I knew Him not”; so that in this way he would be shown most trustworthy; for why should he have shown favor to one of whom he was ignorant? “But that He should be made manifest unto Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.” He then did not need baptism, nor had that laver any other object than to prepare for all others a way to faith on Christ. For he did not say, “that I might cleanse those who are baptized,” or, “that I might deliver them from their sins,” but, “that He should be made manifest unto lsrael.” “And why, tell me, could he not without baptism have preached and brought the multitudes to Him?” But in this way it would not have been by any means easy. For they would not so all have run together, if the preaching had been without the baptism; they would not by the comparison have learned His superiority. For the multitude came together not to hear his words, but for what? To be “baptized, confessing their sins.” But when they came, they were taught the matters concerning Christ, and the difference of His baptism. Yet even this of John was of greater dignity than the Jewish, and therefore all ran to it; yet even so it was imperfect. “How then didst thou know Him?” “By the descent of the Spirit,” he saith. But again, lest any one should suppose that he was in need of the Spirit as we are, hear how he removes the suspicion, by showing that the descent of the Spirit was only to declare Christ. For having said, “And I knew Him not,” he adds, “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.” ( Ver. 33.)

Seest thou that this was the work of the Spirit, to point out Christ? The testimony of John was indeed not to be suspected, but wishing to make it yet more credible, he leads it up to God and the Holy Spirit. For when John had testified to a thing so great and wonderful, so fit to astonish all his hearers, that He alone took on Him the sins of all the world, and that the greatness of the gift sufficed for so great a ransom, afterwards he proves this assertion. And the proof is that He is the Son of God, and that He needed not baptism, and that the object of the descent of the Spirit was only to make Him known. For it was not in the power of John to give the Spirit, as those who were baptized by him show when they say, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” (Acts xix. 2.) In truth, Christ needed not baptism, neither his nor any other; but rather baptism needed the power of Christ. For that which was wanting was the crowning blessing of all, that he who was baptized should be deemed worthy of the Spirit; this free gift then of the Spirit He added when He came. Chrysostom, “Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistles to the Hebrews,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 14:57-59.

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: