The preparation takes place in two stages. As in the other Gospels, Jesus' ministry begins in the context of the Baptist's ministry (Mt 3:1-17 par. Mk 1:2-13 par. Lk 3:1-22). In John, the Baptist acknowledges that the Spirit's descent upon Jesus at his baptism is what enables him to recognize Jesus (1:32-33), but the event itself is not recounted. The emphasis is on the Baptist's testimony arising from this event (1:34). It is when the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God in the hearing of some of his disciples that they become his first followers (1:35-37). The Baptist had an extensive ministry quite apart from his testimony to Jesus (Mt 3; Lk 3; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.116-19), but in John all of this is eclipsed. For John, the Baptist is a witness to Jesus and a model of true discipleship.
The second stage is the gathering of disciples around Jesus, beginning with two of the Baptist's own disciples. This section offers many insights into the nature of discipleship. It is also striking for the number of titles given to Jesus right from the outset, including Son of God (1:34, 49). These titles are part of the preparation for the glory, though the characters in the story do not yet understand their true significance. The section closes with Jesus' promise that they will "see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (1:51), which prepares us for the revelation of God's glory that follows.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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