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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
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
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 wilderness.
"Who art thou?" they demanded.
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,
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., margin.
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 notice.
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
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
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
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 desire.
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 words.
"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 light.
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 Nazareth?"
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 divine guidance.
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 in
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 their redemption.
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.
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