The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 (ESV)
John the Baptist had the job of introducing the world to Jesus. What a privilege! Followers of Christ today are to follow in John’s footsteps. It is our honor and duty to announce to the people around us that Jesus is God’s Lamb sent to die in our place for the forgiveness of sins. It would have been a shocking idea to John’s listeners that a man would be a sacrifice for the expiation of sins. It is no less startling today. The proclamation that Jesus is God’s Lamb is beyond the limits of man’s power to understand. Without revelation, it is downright offensive. The gospel announcement of who Jesus is necessitates the activity of the Holy Spirit to open the listener’s heart and mind to the glorious truth of Jesus’ identity.
John the Baptist issued an inviting command to his hearers: “Behold the Lamb of God!” He knew that it always takes revelation to know who Jesus is. God had to open John’s eyes for him to know.
This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 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.” John 1:30-34 (ESV)
Paul, perhaps the greatest evangelist the world has ever known, also understood this. He fearlessly announced the gospel of Jesus the Messiah because he was convinced that the gospel contains the power to save people due to the Spirit’s ability and activity to open the human heart.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (ESV)
Recognizing Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and God’s Son (His three major salvific titles according to John) requires that God’s Spirit open our eyes today, just as in John’s and Paul’s day. Nothing has changed. Is it reasonable to assume that this is possible, even normal, as part of God’s plan to bring salvation, or was it something unique only for John and Paul? While John was uniquely the Messiah’s forerunner and Paul was a ground breaking evangelist and apostle, their experience of “beholding” Jesus is what might be considered “normal” for every believer to follow. I am not suggesting that each follower of Christ must begin with a vision of God’s Spirit descending upon Jesus or be knocked off a horse while in route to persecute believers, but I believe steadfastly that the Spirit must open the spiritual eyes and heart of every person who comes to Christ. How He does this is as unique as the people who live around us.
Something must happen to each person who would follow Christ to open his or her understanding to know that Jesus is God’s Lamb and unique Son. When John commanded his then present hearers (and readers throughout the ages to follow) to behold the Lamb, he understood what every fisher of men must know today: God’s Spirit must be actively engaged in the evangelism process for there to be any fruit at all. When we boldly proclaim the Gospel and ask people to behold Jesus, we engage the power of the Gospel and the activity of God’s Spirit. It takes these three things (a person proclaiming the Gospel, the latent power of the Gospel, and the activity of the Spirit) to create a revelational explosion in the heart of the hearer! Those who are open and hungry and in whom the Spirit is working, will somehow experience what it means to behold the Lamb! It takes faith for the fisher of men to trust in the latent power of the Gospel and the hidden working of the Spirit. We must refrain from trying to do the Spirit’s work for him by merely trying to reason a person to faith. Reasoning is important, but it can never replace revelation. Every fisher of men must be willing to get out on the limb of proclaiming a gospel that depends from beginning to end on the power of God.