The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on John 1:29-34

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 10, 2011

29. The next day John saw Jesus coming1 to him, and he saith: Behold the lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.

On the day after that on which the Baptist bore the preceding testimony, he saw Jesus coming towards him. This is the first time that the mention of the Holy Name occurs in our Gospel. Jesus (Gr. Ἰησοῦς =  Iēsous) the Hebrew ישׁוּע = yêshûa‛  (Yeshua), itself a contraction for יהושׁוּע = yehôshûa‛ (Yehoshua), meaning God the Saviour. That our Lord was so called, to show that He was to be the Saviour of men, is clear from the words of the angel to St Joseph: And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21). We cannot be certain whence Jesus was now coming; but it seems very probable that He was coming from the desert after His forty days fast. We know from St. Mark 1:12 that as soon as He was baptized, immediately the spirit drove Him out into the desert, and He was in the desert forty days and forty nights. Since, then, the present occasion was subsequent to His baptism, as we learn from a comparison of verse 33 with St. Matthew 3:16 (for the Baptist alludes, on the present occasion, to what took place at the baptism), it follows that it must have been at least fortydays subsequent. Christ seems too to have been absent when, on the day before this, the Baptist bore witness to Him, else the Baptist would have probably pointed Him out as present, just as he does on this occasion. All things considered, then, it is likely Jesus is now returning, and that the Baptist here takes the first opportunity of again commending Him to the people.

Behold the lamb (ο αμνος) of God. The Baptist, in these words, points out Jesus as the Messias, for there is evident allusion to Isaias 53:7-12, where the Messias is compared to a lamb before his shearers, bearing the sins of many. In referring to Jesus as a lamb, the Baptist recalled this prophecy, insinuated Christ’s innocence, and perhaps suggested that he was to be sacrificed. Lamb of God, because offered by God for the sins of men, as we speak of the sacrifice of Abraham, meaning the sacrifice offered by him; or it may mean simply the Divine Lamb. But the first opinion seems more probable.

Who taketh away the sin of the world. Every word is emphatic. Christ notmerely covers up, or abstains from imputing sin, but He takes it away altogether, as far as in Him lies. And it is not merely legal impurities that the sacrifice of this Divine Lamb will remove, but sin; and not merely the sin of one race, like the Jewish, but the sin of the whole world. Sin in the singular number, designates as one collective whole every sin of every kind.

30. This is he of whom I said: After me there cometh a man, who is preferred before me: because he was before me.

The Baptist goes on to say that Jesus is that very Person of whom he had said on a previous occasion After me, &c. Some take the reference here to be to the testimony of the preceding day, when the Baptist bore witnesses in verse 27; others think the reference is to the occasion spoken of in verse 15, and regard that testimony as distinct from the one recorded in verse 27. We prefer the latter view, and distinguish in all six testimonies of the Baptist recorded in the Gospels. The first, before Christ s Baptism, as in Matt 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; the second, as in John 1:15; the third, as in John 1:19-27; the fourth, as in John 1:29-34; the fifth, as in John 1:35-36; and the sixth and last, as in John 3:27-36.

31 And I knew him not, but that he may be made manifest in Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.

And I knew him not; i.e., officially so as to be able to bear witness to Him publicly; or, better: I knew Him not personally; I was unacquainted with Him, so that my testimony in His favour then and now cannot be the result of prejudice or partiality towards Him. The Baptist was indeed a relative of our Lord (Luke 1:36), and must have known what his father, Zachary, had declared, for thou shalt, go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways (Luke 1:76), that he himself was to herald the public coming of Jesus. Yet, as Jesus dwelt at Nazareth in Galilee during His private life; and John, reared in the hill country of Juda (Luke 1:39), spent the years before his public mission perhaps from his very childhood (as Origen,Maldonado.) in the deserts (Luke 1:80), it is conceivable how he might not have known Christ’s appearance. What wonder, says St. Chrys., if he who from his childhood spent his life in the desert, away from his father s home, did not know Christ?  But as he had, while still in his mother’s womb, been divinely moved to recognise Christ (Luke 1:41, 44); so, immediately before the baptism ofthe latter, he was enabled to recognise Him (Matt 3:14).

32. And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him.
33. And I knew him not: but he, who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
34. And I saw; and I gave testimony, that this is the Son of God.

32-34. Some take this as a new testimony others, with more probability, take it as a continuation of the preceding, and say that our Evangelist inserts the words, and John gave testimony, in the middle of the Baptist’s words, in order to arrest the reader s attention. The Baptist here declares what he had beheld after the baptism of Christ (Matt 3:16), and how that sign had been revealed to him beforehand as one that was to mark out the Messias, and confirm his own faith: and how he had accordingly on that occasion borne witness that Jesus is the Son of God.

That baptizeth with the Holy Ghost; i.e., who will wash you, not with water, but in the graces of the Holy Ghost. There may be special reference to the graces conferred in Christian baptism.

3 Responses to “Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on John 1:29-34”

  1. […] Nolan and Brown on John 1:29-34 for Sunday Mass, Jan 16. 12:20 AM EST. […]

  2. […] Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 1:29-34). […]

  3. […] First Reading, Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel. I would be happy to hear your suggestions for better online commentaries for each week’s […]

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