In John 1:31, did John and Jesus not meet before this? Or was John just saying that he didn’t recognize Jesus as the messiah yet?
John 1:29-31 (NIV)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
This is an interesting thought, of which I’m not so sure I have considered before.
When we read about the coming of Jesus in the beginning of Luke, he makes it pretty clear that John’s mom and Jesus’s mom were relatives and knew each other. In fact, we see their interaction with one another including discussion about the baby that Mary was carrying. We would have to assume that there must have been some kind of interaction at some point between Jesus and John. I would therefore lean on the idea that John did not recognize Him in this fashion yet, but I will come back to that.
First I want to talk a little about these accounts we call the Gospels. We must understand that the Gospels were not necessarily meant to be an account for account with every detail involved narrative of every event in history. What we understand rather is that these were an overall story hitting on some key points, written some time after the events took place. Much of the way things were done in these times were based on oral discussion rather than just written ones. That being said, these Gospels are given to us in that kind of form. The retelling of things that had happened, from the perspectives of the ones who witnessed them. That doesn’t make the details unimportant, but it can give us a little incite. It makes me think of how John’s Gospel ends, John 21:25 (NIV) “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
I personally think that this could be an example of a gift of the Holy Spirit working in John. He may have even heard about Jesus, or known Him as special, but at this moment, by the Spirit, he knew something more. Remember after all, that even when Jesus was operating in His ministry, it was not always perfectly clear who He was. This fits along with what we see when we consider the others like the disciples. Even though they “knew” they never seemed to get it. Could this have been the case with John? Plus, we don’t really know just how much if any interaction the two may have actually had.
This is the wonder and mystery of scripture. We are given such marvelous detail, sometimes which can even seem redundant. Did we really need four accounts of what Jesus did, would not one, two, or three have been enough? What we can know for sure is this; what God gave us is what He wanted us to know. Enough to be busy for our whole lives, yet enough mystery to be amazed and perplexed at the same time!
I think the wonder here shows the joy and benefit of studying scripture. If we figured it all out in the first year of being a Christian, then God didn’t have that much depth. These kinds of questions are perfect for making us interested and to search for deeper truth, which ultimately connects more deeply to God. I am continually amazed as I study the things of God. This amazement only makes me stand in more awe of Him. I so yearn for the day when I can start really getting into learning about Him, when my mind will be freed from the weaknesses of humanity.
Though I may not have given a solid answer for this Faith Fix, I do believe the question can open our minds to how we view scripture, encourage discussion, and drive us toward a relentless pursuit of what God wanted us to know. This is what we are called to after all, to know Him in every way He wished to reveal Himself to us.