We Have Found the Messiah
JOHN the Baptist was now preaching and
baptizing at Bethabara, beyond Jordan. It was not far from this spot that God had stayed
the river in its flow until Israel had passed over. A little distance from here the
stronghold of Jericho had been overthrown by the armies of heaven. The memory of these
events was at this time revived, and gave a thrilling interest to the Baptist's message.
Would not He who had wrought so wonderfully in ages past again manifest His power for
Israel's deliverance? Such was the thought stirring the hearts of the people who daily
thronged the banks of the Jordan.
The preaching of John had
taken so deep a hold on the nation as to demand the attention of the religious
authorities. The danger of insurrection caused every popular gathering to be looked upon
with suspicion by the Romans, and whatever pointed toward an uprising of the people
excited the fears of the Jewish rulers. John had not recognized the authority of the
Sanhedrin by seeking their sanction for his work; and
he had reproved rulers and people,
Pharisees and Sadducees alike. Yet the people followed him eagerly. The interest in his
work seemed to be continually increasing. Though he had not deferred to them, the
Sanhedrin accounted that, as a public teacher, he was under their jurisdiction.
This body was made up of
members chosen from the priesthood, and from the chief rulers and teachers of the nation.
The high priest was usually the president. All its members were to be men advanced in
years, though not aged; men of learning, not only versed in Jewish religion and history,
but in general knowledge. They were to be without physical blemish, and must be married
men, and fathers, as being more likely than others to be humane and considerate. Their
place of meeting was an apartment connected with the temple at Jerusalem. In the days of
Jewish independence the Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the nation, possessing secular
as well as ecclesiastical authority. Though now subordinated by the Roman governors, it
still exercised a strong influence in civil as well as religious matters.
The Sanhedrin could not well
defer an investigation of John's work. There were some who recalled the revelation made to
Zacharias in the temple, and the father's prophecy, that had pointed to his child as the
Messiah's herald. In the tumults and changes of thirty years, these things had in a great
measure been lost sight of. They were now called to mind by the excitement concerning the
ministry of John.
It was long since Israel had
had a prophet, long since such a reformation as was now in progress had been witnessed.
The demand for confession of sin seemed new and startling. Many among the leaders would
not go to hear John's appeals and denunciations, lest they should be led to disclose the
secrets of their own lives. Yet his preaching was a direct announcement of the Messiah. It
was well known that the seventy weeks of Daniel's prophecy, covering the Messiah's advent,
were nearly ended; and all were eager to share in that era of national glory which was
then expected. Such was the popular enthusiasm that the Sanhedrin would soon be forced
either to sanction or to reject John's work. Already their power over the people was
waning. It was becoming a serious question how to maintain their position. In the hope of
arriving at some conclusion, they dispatched to the Jordan a deputation of priests and
Levites to confer with the new teacher.
A multitude were gathered,
listening to his words, when the delegates approached. With an air of authority designed
to impress the people
and to command the deference of the prophet the haughty rabbis came.
With a movement of respect, almost of fear, the crowd opened to let them pass. The great
men, in their rich robes, in the pride of rank and power, stood before the prophet of the
"Who art thou?"
Knowing what was in their thoughts, John answered, "I am not the Christ."
"What then? Art thou Elias?"
"I am not."
"Art thou that prophet?"
"Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of
"I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord,
as said the prophet Esaias."
The scripture to which John
referred is that beautiful prophecy of Isaiah: "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,
saith your God. Speak
ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her appointed
time is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned. . . . The voice of him that crieth in
the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for
our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and
the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord
shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Isa. 40:1-5, margin.
Anciently, when a king
journeyed through the less frequented parts of his dominion, a company of men was sent
ahead of the royal chariot to level the steep places and to fill up the hollows, that the
king might travel in safety and without hindrance. This custom is employed by the prophet
to illustrate the work of the gospel. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every
mountain and hill shall be made low." When the Spirit of God, with its marvelous
awakening power, touches the soul, it abases human pride. Worldly pleasure and position
and power are seen to be worthless. "Imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth
itself against the knowledge of God" are cast down; every thought is brought into
captivity "to the obedience of Christ." 2 Cor. 10:5. Then humility and
self-sacrificing love, so little valued among men, are exalted as alone of worth. This is
the work of the gospel, of which John's message was a part.
The rabbis continued their
questioning: "Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither
that prophet?" The words "that prophet" had reference to Moses. The Jews
had been inclined to the belief that Moses would be raised from the dead, and taken to
heaven. They did not know that he had already been raised. When the Baptist began his
ministry, many thought that he might be the prophet Moses risen from the dead, for he
seemed to have a thorough knowledge of the prophecies and of the history of Israel.
It was believed also that
before the Messiah's advent, Elijah would personally appear. This expectation John met in
his denial; but his words had a deeper meaning. Jesus afterward said, referring to John,
"If ye are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, which is to come." Matt.
11:14, R. V. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to do such a work as Elijah did.
If the Jews had received him, it would have been accomplished for them. But they did not
receive his message. To them he was not Elijah. He could not fulfill for them the mission
he came to accomplish.
Many of those gathered at the
Jordan had been present at the baptism of Jesus; but the sign then given had been manifest
to but few among them. During the preceding months of the Baptist's ministry, many had
refused to heed the call to repentance. Thus they had hardened their hearts and darkened
their understanding. When Heaven bore testimony to Jesus at His baptism, they perceived it
not. Eyes that had never been turned in faith to Him that is invisible beheld not the
revelation of the glory of God; ears that had never listened to His voice heard not the
words of witness. So it is now. Often the presence of Christ and the ministering angels is
manifest in the assemblies of the people, and yet there are many who know it not. They
discern nothing unusual. But to some the Saviour's presence is revealed. Peace and joy
animate their hearts. They are comforted, encouraged, and blessed.
The deputies from Jerusalem
had demanded of John, "Why baptizest thou?" and they were awaiting his answer.
Suddenly, as his glance swept over the throng, his eye kindled, his face was lighted up,
his whole being was stirred with deep emotion. With outstretched hands he cried, "I
baptize in water: in the midst of you standeth One whom ye know not, even He that cometh
after me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose." John 1:27, R. V.,
The message was distinct and
unequivocal, to be carried back to the Sanhedrin. The words of John could apply to no
other than the long-promised One. The Messiah was among them! In amazement priests and
rulers gazed about them, hoping to discover Him of whom John had spoken. But He was not
distinguishable among the throng.
When at the baptism of Jesus,
John pointed to Him as the Lamb of God, a new light was shed upon the Messiah's work. The
prophet's mind was directed to the words of Isaiah, "He is brought as a lamb to the
slaughter." Isa. 53:7. During the weeks that followed, John with new interest studied
the prophecies and the teaching of the sacrificial service. He did not distinguish clearly
the two phases of Christ's work,--as a suffering sacrifice and a conquering king,--but he
saw that His
coming had a deeper significance than priests or people had discerned. When
he beheld Jesus among the throng on His return from the desert, he confidently looked for
Him to give the people some sign of His true character. Almost impatiently he waited to
hear the Saviour declare His mission; but no word was spoken, no sign given. Jesus did not
respond to the Baptist's announcement of Him, but mingled with the disciples of John,
giving no outward evidence of His special work, and taking no measures to bring Himself to
The next day John sees Jesus
coming. With the light of the glory of God resting upon him, the prophet stretches out his
hands, declaring, "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 become before me. . . . And I
knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I
baptizing in water. . . . I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and
it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize in water, He said
unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, the
same is He that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen, and have borne witness
that this is the Son of God." John 1:29-34, R. V., margin.
Was this the Christ? With awe
and wonder the people looked upon the One just declared to be the Son of God. They had
been deeply moved by the words of John. He had spoken to them in the name of God. They had
listened to him day after day as he reproved their sins, and daily the conviction that he
was sent of Heaven had strengthened. But who was this One greater than John the Baptist?
In His dress and bearing there was nothing that betokened rank. He was apparently a simple
personage, clad like themselves in the humble garments of the poor.
There were in the throng some
who at Christ's baptism had beheld the divine glory, and had heard the voice of God. But
since that time the Saviour's appearance had greatly changed. At His baptism they had seen
His countenance transfigured in the light of heaven; now, pale, worn, and emaciated, He
had been recognized only by the prophet John.
But as the people looked upon
Him, they saw a face where divine compassion was blended with conscious power. Every
glance of the eye, every feature of the countenance, was marked with humility, and
expressive of unutterable love. He seemed to be surrounded by an
atmosphere of spiritual
influence. While His manners were gentle and unassuming, He impressed men with a sense of
power that was hidden, yet could not be wholly concealed. Was this the One for whom Israel
had so long waited?
Jesus came in poverty and
humiliation, that He might be our example as well as our Redeemer. If He had appeared with
kingly pomp, how could He have taught humility? how could He have presented such cutting
truths as in the Sermon on the Mount? Where would have been the hope of the lowly in life
had Jesus come to dwell as a king among men?
To the multitude, however, it
seemed impossible that the One designated by John should be associated with their lofty
anticipations. Thus many were disappointed, and greatly perplexed.
The words which the priests
and rabbis so much desired to hear, that Jesus would now restore the kingdom to Israel,
had not been spoken. For such a king they had been waiting and watching; such a king they
were ready to receive. But one who sought to establish in their hearts a kingdom of
righteousness and peace, they would not accept.
On the following day, while
two disciples were standing near, John again saw Jesus among the people. Again the face of
the prophet was lighted up with glory from the Unseen, as he cried, "Behold the Lamb
of God!" The words thrilled the hearts of the disciples. They did not fully
understand them. What meant the name that John had given Him,--"the Lamb of
God"? John himself had not explained it.
Leaving John, they went to
seek Jesus. One of the two was Andrew, the brother of Simon; the other was John the
evangelist. These were Christ's first disciples. Moved by an irresistible impulse, they
followed Jesus,--anxious to speak with Him, yet awed and silent, lost in the overwhelming
significance of the thought, "Is this the Messiah?"
Jesus knew that the disciples
were following Him. They were the first fruits of His ministry, and there was joy in the
heart of the divine Teacher as these souls responded to His grace. Yet turning, He asked
only, "What seek ye?" He would leave them free to turn back or to speak of their
Of one purpose only were they
conscious. One presence filled their thought. They exclaimed, "Rabbi, . . . where
dwellest Thou?" In a brief interview by the wayside they could not receive that for
which they longed. They desired to be alone with Jesus, to sit at His feet, and hear His
"He saith unto them,
Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day."
If John and Andrew had
possessed the unbelieving spirit of the priests and rulers, they would not have been found
as learners at the feet of Jesus. They would have come to Him as critics, to judge His
words. Many thus close the door to the most precious opportunities. But not so did these
first disciples. They had responded to the Holy Spirit's call in the preaching of John the
Baptist. Now they recognized the voice of the heavenly Teacher. To them the words of Jesus
were full of freshness and truth and beauty. A divine illumination was shed upon the
teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. The many-sided themes of truth stood out in new
It is contrition and faith
and love that enable the soul to receive wisdom from heaven. Faith working by love is the
key of knowledge, and everyone that loveth "knoweth God." 1 John 4:7.
The disciple John was a man
of earnest and deep affection, ardent, yet contemplative. He had begun to discern the
glory of Christ,--not the worldly pomp and power for which he had been taught to hope, but
"the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John
1:14. He was absorbed in contemplation of the wondrous theme.
Andrew sought to impart the
joy that filled his heart. Going in search of his brother Simon, he cried, "We have
found the Messias." Simon waited for no second bidding. He also had heard the
preaching of John the Baptist, and he hastened to the Saviour. The eye of Christ rested
upon him, reading his character and his life history. His impulsive nature, his loving,
sympathetic heart, his ambition and self-confidence, the history of his fall, his
repentance, his labors, and his martyr death,--the Saviour read it all, and 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."
Philip obeyed the command, and straightway he also became a worker for Christ.
Philip called Nathanael. The
latter had been among the throng when the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. As
Nathanael looked upon Jesus, he was disappointed. Could this man, who bore the marks of
toil and poverty, be the Messiah? Yet Nathanael could not decide to reject Jesus, for the
message of John had brought conviction to his heart.
At the time when Philip
called him, Nathanael had withdrawn to a quiet grove to meditate upon the announcement of
John and the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He prayed that if the one announced by
John was the deliverer, it might be made known to him, and the Holy Spirit rested upon him
with assurance that God had visited His people and raised up a horn of salvation for them.
Philip knew that his friend was searching the prophecies, and while Nathanael was praying
under a fig tree, Philip discovered his retreat. They had often prayed together in this
secluded spot hidden by the foliage.
The message, "We have
found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write," seemed to
Nathanael a direct answer to his prayer. But Philip had yet a trembling faith. He added
doubtfully, "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Again prejudice arose in
Nathanael's heart. He exclaimed, "Can there any good thing come out of
Philip entered into no
controversy. He said, "Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of
him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" In surprise Nathanael
exclaimed, "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."
It was enough. The divine
Spirit that had borne witness to Nathanael in his solitary prayer under the fig tree now
spoke to him in the words of Jesus. Though in doubt, and yielding somewhat to prejudice,
Nathanael had come to Christ with an honest desire for truth, and now his desire was met.
His faith went beyond that of the one who had brought him to Jesus. He answered and said,
"Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel."
If Nathanael had trusted to
the rabbis for guidance, he would never have found Jesus. It was by seeing and judging for
himself that he
became a disciple. So in the case of many today whom prejudice withholds
from good. How different would be the result if they would "come and see"!
While they trust to the
guidance of human authority, none will come to a saving knowledge of the truth. Like
Nathanael, we need to study God's word for ourselves, and pray for the enlightenment of
the Holy Spirit. He who saw Nathanael under the fig tree will see us in the secret place
of prayer. Angels from the world of light are near to those who in humility seek for
With the calling of John and
Andrew and Simon, of Philip and Nathanael, began the foundation of the Christian church.
John directed two of his disciples to Christ. Then one of these, Andrew, found his
brother, and called him to the Saviour. Philip was then called, and he went in search of
Nathanael. These examples should teach us the importance of personal effort, of making
direct appeals to our kindred, friends, and neighbors. There are those who for a lifetime
have professed to be acquainted with Christ, yet who have never made a personal effort to
bring even one soul to the Saviour. They leave all the work for the minister. He may be
well qualified for his calling, but he cannot do that which God has left for the members
of the church.
There are many who need the
ministration of loving Christian hearts. Many have gone down to ruin who might have been
saved if their neighbors, common men and women, had put forth personal effort for them.
Many are waiting to be personally addressed. In the very family, the neighborhood, the
town, where we live, there is work for us to do as missionaries for Christ. If we are
Christians, this work will be our delight. No sooner is one converted than there is born
within him a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus.
The saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart.
All who are consecrated to
God will be channels of light. God makes them His agents to communicate to others the
riches of His grace. His promise is, "I will make them and the places round about My
hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be
showers of blessing." Ezek. 34:26.
Philip said to Nathanael,
"Come and see." He did not ask him to accept another's testimony, but to behold
Christ for himself. Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, His disciples are His
representatives among men, and one of the most effective ways of winning souls to Him is
exemplifying His character in our daily life. Our influence upon others depends not so
much upon what we say as upon what we are. Men may combat and defy our logic, they may
resist our appeals; but a life of disinterested love is an argument they cannot gainsay. A
consistent life, characterized by the meekness of Christ, is a power in the world.
The teaching of Christ was
the expression of an inwrought conviction and experience, and those who learn of Him
become teachers after the divine order. The word of God, spoken by one who is himself
sanctified through it, has a life-giving power that makes it attractive to the hearers,
and convicts them that it is a living reality. When one has received the truth in the love
of it, he will make this manifest in the persuasion of his manner and the tones of his
voice. He makes known that which he himself has heard, seen, and handled of the word of
life, that others may have fellowship with him through the knowledge of Christ. His
testimony, from lips touched with a live coal from off the altar, is truth to the
receptive heart, and works sanctification upon the character.
And he who seeks to give
light to others will himself be blessed. "There shall be showers of blessing."
"He that watereth shall be watered also himself." Prov. 11:25. God could have
reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a
character like Christ's, we must share in His work. In order to enter into His joy,--the
joy of seeing souls redeemed by His sacrifice,--we must participate in His labors for
Nathanael's first expression
of his faith, so full and earnest and sincere, fell like music on the ears of Jesus. And
He "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." The Saviour looked
forward with joy to His work in preaching good tidings to the meek, binding up the
brokenhearted, and proclaiming liberty to the captives of Satan. At thought of the
precious blessings He had brought to men, Jesus added, "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."
Here Christ virtually says,
On the bank of the Jordan the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended like a dove
upon Me. That scene was but a token that I am the Son of God. If you believe on Me as
such, your faith shall be quickened. You shall see that the heavens are opened, and are
never to be closed. I have opened them to you. The
angels of God are ascending, bearing
the prayers of the needy and distressed to the Father above, and descending, bringing
blessing and hope, courage, help, and life, to the children of men.
The angels of God are ever
passing from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth. The miracles of Christ for the
afflicted and suffering were wrought by the power of God through the ministration of the
angels. And it is through Christ, by the ministration of His heavenly messengers, that
every blessing comes from God to us. In taking upon Himself humanity, our Saviour unites
His interests with those of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, while through His
divinity He grasps the throne of God. And thus Christ is the medium of communication of
men with God, and of God with men.