Friday, February 27, 2015

Sunday School Lesson

March 1

Lesson 1

(Spring) The Lamb of God

Devotional Reading: Joel 2:23-27

Background Scripture: John 1:29-34

John 1:29-34

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

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

32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Key Verse

I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. —John 1:34

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize John the Baptist’s identification and testimony about Jesus.

2. Explain the significance of John the Baptist’s description “Lamb of God.”

3. Prepare a brief testimony about Jesus that can be used to help an unbeliever come to faith in Christ.

Lesson Outline


A. The Water and the Dove

B. Lesson Background: John’s Identity

C. Lesson Background: John’s Baptism

I. Observations (John 1:29-31)

A. Lamb That Saves (v. 29)

B. Man Who Surpasses (v. 30)

Time Traveler?

C. Revealed to Israel (v. 31)

II. Testimony (John 1:32-34)

A. Identification (v. 32)

The Power of Imagery

B. Affirmation (vv. 33, 34)


A. Pivotal Figures

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

A. The Water and the Dove

In modern culture, particularly since the days of the war in Vietnam, the image of a dove has come to serve as a symbol of peace. This symbol was popularized before that by Pablo Picasso, who was commissioned to design a logo for the meeting of the 1949 First International Peace Conference, in Paris. Following his lead, the dove was widely adopted as a symbol for anti-war movements.

Those living in the first-century AD also saw the dove as a symbol of peace, but for a very different reason. In Roman culture, the olive branch was often used to represent Eirene, the goddess of peace (think of the word irenic). Some Roman coins bore an image of Eirene holding an olive branch. Imagery of this kind doubtless reminded the earliest Jewish Christians of the story of Noah. As the waters of the great flood began to recede, Noah sent birds from the ark to see if they could find dry land. On the third attempt, one of Noah’s doves returned to the ark carrying a freshly plucked olive branch (Genesis 8:9-12).

The meaning for the earliest Christians was that peace with God had been restored after the flood, a parallel to eternal peace with God available because of the death of Christ. Consequently, the comforting image of a dove carrying an olive branch was often painted on the walls of burial catacombs and inscribed on sarcophagi in the early centuries of the church. This reminded mourners of hope beyond the grave. Yet Noah and Picasso are not the only sources for the popular connection between doves and peace, as today’s lesson reveals.

B. Lesson Background: John’s Identity

The ministry of John the Baptist opened a significant chapter in the history of God’s communication with humanity. For almost 400 years, no prophet had risen in Israel to speak God’s word to the people. The last of the great Hebrew prophets, Malachi, ended his book by predicting that the prophet Elijah would one day reappear to call people to remember the Law of Moses (Malachi 4:4-6).

As years, decades, and centuries passed, this promise seemed less and less certain. One can readily understand why John the Baptist’s controversial ministry in the wilderness around the Jordan River area, near the very place where Elijah himself had ascended to Heaven in a fiery chariot (compare 2 Kings 2:7-12 with John 1:28), aroused popular interest. John’s simple attire (compare 2 Kings 1:8) and sparse diet of locusts and honey (Mark 1:6; Matthew 3:4)—ritually clean food (Leviticus 11:22; 20:24)—complemented his message of repentance and call to justice (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:10-14).

All this led at least some of John’s contemporaries to speculate that Elijah himself had indeed returned, a speculation that John denied in the literal sense of being Elijah reincarnated (John 1:21; compare Matthew 11:13, 14; 17:10-13; Luke 1:13-17). Instead, John the Baptist openly identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23) that was predicted in Isaiah 40:3. This identification stressed his role as the forerunner to the Lord’s appearance. John’s designation as “the Baptist” is helpful to us for not confusing him with the apostle John, who wrote the Gospel from which today’s lesson is drawn.

C. Lesson Background: John’s Baptism

While modern readers of the Bible may be most captivated by John the Baptist’s diet, attire, and radical message, a most distinctive feature of his ministry was the fact that he baptized people in water (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26). Ritual or ceremonial washings (known as lustrations) as a means of removing impurities from hands, eating utensils, and even the entire body were common in first-century Judaism (Mark 7:1-4; Luke 2:22; John 2:6; 3:25; compare Leviticus 11:32; 14:8, 9; 15:4-12, 16-22, 25-27; Ezekiel 36:25). Faithful Jews, desiring to avoid anything that might make them “unclean” in God’s sight, would wash themselves regularly in running streams or pools of water. John, however, gained notoriety for washing other people, a practice unheard of at the time.

Since washing with water was viewed as a sign of self-purification, then almost by definition it would not occur to Jews that one person could wash another—no person could secure another person’s purity that way. For John the Baptist, however, water baptism represented the cleansing of the soul that came through genuine repentance (Luke 3:3; Matthew 3:11; compare Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5).

Such repentance was critical in view of the fact that God was soon to establish His kingdom on earth. John associated this event with the coming of a figure much greater than himself (Mark 1:7; Acts 13:25). This figure to come would baptize people not with water but rather “with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16), symbols of a much deeper and more thorough cleansing from sin.

Within the larger context of his baptizing ministry, John also baptized Jesus himself. The first three Gospels mark Jesus’ baptism as the beginning of His public ministry (see especially Luke 3:21-23). Jesus’ baptism, not recorded in the Gospel of John, had already occurred at the point in time of today’s lesson (see Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11). The location as our text opens is “in Bethabara beyond Jordan” (John 1:28).

I. Observations

                                                                                   (John 1:29-31)

A. Lamb That Saves (v. 29)

29. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

The next day means that what we are reading happens immediately after John the Baptist’s interaction with the priests, Levites, and Pharisees noted in John 1:19-27. John, seeing Jesus, clarifies that Jesus is in fact the person of whom John has been speaking in verses 26, 27. While the author of this Gospel does not specify the audience of the observation before us, it seems likely that John the Baptist is sharing this information with several of his own disciples, at least two of whom later become followers of Jesus (John 1:35-37).

What Do You Think?

What have you found to be effective and ineffective ways to introduce others to Jesus?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Through visible lifestyle choices

In personal, one-on-one conversations

In group settings


The title that John the Baptist bestows on Jesus is essential for understanding Christ’s identity and mission. At first glance, the phrase the Lamb of God may seem to associate Jesus with the sacrificial lambs used in the celebration of Passover. Paul uses this image to so describe Jesus in 1 Corinthians 5:7, with specific reference to the purifying effects of Christ’s death, and John may be thinking along similar lines.

However, the Passover lamb was not understood to be a sacrifice for sin in its original context. Rather, it is eaten as the main course of the Passover dinner, where it functions as a reminder of God’s rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt—rescue that involved the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:21-27). Many commentators therefore suggest that John is referring not to Exodus 12 but to Isaiah 53, a famous passage that describes the coming Messiah as God’s suffering servant. Foreseeing Christ’s ministry, Isaiah says that He is to be “brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (v. 7).

Whether John the Baptist is referring to the Passover lamb or to the Suffering Servant as lamb, the essential point is the same: Christ will be able to effect a total elimination of sin and its consequences through His death.

B. Man Who Surpasses (v. 30)

30. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.

The past tense verb said indicates that John the Baptist has previously spoken of his own status with regard to that of Christ. We see this prior declaration at John 1:15. Further, at 1:27 John the Baptist stresses his own unworthiness to untie the sandals of the other one, who is now on the scene (compare Mark 1:7).

In the Greek text, John the Baptist’s comment takes the form of a saying that seems paradoxical on the surface, but reveals a deeper meaning once its various terms are correctly understood. More literally, John 1:15 and 1:30 read, “The man coming behind me has become ahead of me because he was before me.” If someone is ahead of John, how can that person also be coming behind him?

The meaning is clear, however, when John the Baptist’s language is understood in terms of the eternal nature of Christ. Jesus comes after John in the sense that Jesus’ ministry begins after John’s ministry is already well under way—John preaches first, and Jesus preaches second. This is only natural in view of John’s role as Jesus’ forerunner. But even though Jesus starts His ministry after John does, Jesus is preferred before John because of Christ’s preexistence (see John 1:1, 2). John preaches about the coming of a superior one, and Jesus is that person. While Jesus the man comes after John the Baptist in time, Jesus the Word existed before time itself.

There can be no question, then, about Jesus’ authority. As a prophet, John the Baptist speaks the very words of God; Jesus, as the Word become flesh, is God himself.

What Do You Think?

What are some proper ways to view ourselves as we meditate on Christ’s preexistence?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Relative to His authority

With regard to servanthood

Regarding recognition and honor


Time Traveler?

Michael J. Fox starred as teenager Marty McFly in the 1985 science-fiction comedy Back to the Future. The teen’s much older, eccentric friend was modifying a car to be able to travel through time. Marty accidentally triggered the time-travel mechanism, and he ended up 30 years in the past.

Arriving in his hometown in the year 1955, when his (future) parents are teenagers, Marty’s presence interrupts the chain of events that is to cause those two to be attracted to each other. Marty then sets out to repair the damage that his arrival has caused so that he will eventually be born. Through a convoluted and fanciful plot as such films are forced to use, Marty accomplishes his goal. Eventually, he is able to travel “back to the future.”

John the Baptist’s expression of his status with regard to that of Jesus can seem as convoluted as a time-travel movie! It requires careful thinking, and John’s audience may receive our sympathy if they did not immediately comprehend his description of Jesus as being both “before” and “after” him. Which of us is capable of fully understanding Jesus’ eternal existence, even with our better historical perspective? Even so, Jesus’ factual response to His opponents was “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The great I am still is.—C. R. B.

C. Revealed to Israel (v. 31)

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

And I knew him not indicates that up to a certain point John the Baptist had not known Jesus to be the one to come. The remainder of this verse sheds light on the ministry of John the Baptist by revealing an important detail: his own uniqueness in baptizing with water (see the Lesson Background) is connected with his larger work of preparing people for the Messiah. In other words, John’s baptism helps to make Christ manifest to Israel by getting people ready to recognize and receive Jesus.

This verse also suggests that John has been told by God that the identity of the Messiah was to be revealed to John through his baptizing—that somehow John would recognize the Christ in the context of that baptizing ministry. Such a recognition takes place in the special sign that occurs when John baptizes Jesus (next two verses).

Visual for Lesson 1 (spring). Point to this visual as you introduce the discussion question associated with verse 34.

II. Testimony

                                                                                  (John 1:32-34)

A. Identification (v. 32)

32. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.

Speaking with his own disciples sometime after he had baptized Jesus, John recounts what happened and explains the significance of what he saw. The reference to a dove lines up with the accounts of Jesus’ baptism in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Correlating the data from all four Gospels, the following sequence emerges: (1) Jesus came to the Jordan River from Galilee and asked John to baptize Him (Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9); (2) John initially resisted, arguing that he should be baptized by Jesus rather than vice versa (Matthew 3:14); (3) Jesus insisted that He had to be baptized in order “to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15); (4) John relented and baptized Jesus in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:15; Mark 1:9; Luke 3:21); (5) after Jesus came out of the water, John saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him (compare Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22); and (6) after the dove landed on Jesus, a voice from Heaven declared Jesus to be “my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

While the fourth Gospel bypasses many of these details, it provides important insights on key elements of the event nonetheless. First, this Gospel makes clear that the descent of the dove was a special sign (see next verse below) seen by John the Baptist. Since Matthew 3:16 and Mark 1:10 specify only Jesus (“he”) as seeing the dove, we wonder if anyone else has been privileged to see this sign at Jesus’ baptism; Luke 3:22 may imply an answer of yes in describing the Spirit’s descent “in a bodily shape like a dove.” In any case, the focus here is on what John the Baptist has seen and what that signifies.

What Do You Think?

In what ways is the presence of God’s Spirit in the lives of Christians like and unlike the presence of the Spirit on Jesus at His baptism?

Talking Points for Your Discussion



The Power of Imagery

It’s a good thing that today’s passage doesn’t describe the Spirit descending from Heaven like a pigeon! I don’t know how first-century readers would have reacted to pigeon imagery, but modern readers probably would have negative thoughts. We know how pigeons have adapted themselves to our urban environments. The messy creatures roost on and besmirch monuments and fountains. They befoul city sidewalks and park benches. Yuk!

Doves, on the other hand, draw from us positive thoughts. Both ancient and modern peoples associate doves with peace (see the lesson’s Introduction). Doves are more likely to take up residence in rural areas, reminding us of humanity’s pastoral history. Given a choice between pigeon imagery or dove imagery, wouldn’t we all choose the latter?

But now here’s a catch: pigeons and doves are both members of the family Columbidae, and to an ornithologist they are pretty much the same bird! Even in the pages of the Bible, doves and pigeons are rather interchangeable (see Leviticus 1:14; 12:6, 8; 14:22; 15:14; Luke 2:24; etc.). But do those facts change our emotionally driven preference? Probably not! Such is the power of imagery.

We can also notice that God did not select a bird of prey such as a hawk to symbolize the divine presence on and approval of Jesus at His baptism. Those possible alternatives say something too about the selection of a dove to represent the Holy Spirit. What might that be?—C. R. B.

B. Affirmation (vv. 33, 34)

33. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

John, as the prophetic forerunner for Jesus, is specially chosen to bear witness to Christ’s identity. The dove serves as a special sign in that regard. Although John will request clarification later (Matthew 11:2, 3), Jesus is in fact the one he has been waiting for. The descent of the Spirit as a dove, a unique event, is designed to reveal to John that the promise of a “preferred one” (John 1:27) is fulfilled in Jesus.

John the Baptist carefully connects this sign with previous revelation from God regarding what the one on whom the Spirit (signified by the dove) remains will do: Jesus is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Ghost. But what does this mean?

Many commentators relate this baptism with the Spirit to the events of the Day of Pentecost, some seven weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection; Jesus himself seems to make this connection in Acts 1:5. On that day, the disciples’ empowerment by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues is accompanied by “cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3). At the end of Peter’s sermon to the crowd, he encourages those present to “repent, and be baptized,” promising that those who did so would “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).

One can readily argue, then, that Christ does indeed offer baptism with the Holy Spirit not long after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. This implies that baptism in the Holy Spirit refers to the gift of the indwelling Spirit promised at John 7:37-39; 14:15-18.

However, another reading of John 1:33 understands baptism with the Spirit in a more general sense (compare John 15:26). Old Testament prophets had promised that God would pour out His Spirit on all peoples in the last days, the time of the Messiah (see Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Joel 2:28-32 [quoted in Acts 2:16-21]). Closer to Jesus’ day, a similar theme is reflected in several of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which envision a time when God’s Spirit purifies the righteous of all sin, preparing them to enter His holy presence.

If John is referring to these ideas, then baptism with the Spirit refers to the totality of Jesus’ ministry and its effects on those who hear His message: “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). Put another way, John the Baptist may be referring less to a single, specific event (Acts 2) than to the overall effect of Jesus’ work: people are made holy.

One implication is clear either way: while John the Baptist himself can offer only a preliminary cleansing, Jesus comes to offer a complete cleansing of the soul—one that produces holiness in those who believe and repent in contrast with those who do not.

What Do You Think?

What changes in your life are most evident as you move from unholiness to holiness? Why is that?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Incremental changes

Drastic, sudden changes

34. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Jesus refers to himself as “the Son of man” in many places throughout the fourth Gospel, usually leaving it to others to use the designation the Son of God, as John the Baptist does here (compare John 1:49; 11:27; 19:7; 20:31; contrast 5:25). His affirmation and I saw alludes again to his own witness of the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus. John the Baptist is portrayed as the ultimate witness to Jesus in the fourth Gospel. This witness is most profound at John 3:30, where John informs his disciples that he is glad to see Jesus’ influence become greater than his own because, ultimately, Christ “must increase, but I must decrease.”

What Do You Think?

What are some specific ways for Christians to bear witness to Christ daily?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In the workplace

Among family members

In social settings

While participating in athletic events


A. Pivotal Figures

A pivotal figure can be thought of as someone who stands at the crossover point between two periods of history and is instrumental in bringing about the transition from one to the other. An Old Testament example is Samuel. As the last of the judges (Acts 13:20) and the first of the prophets (Acts 3:24), he played a key role in Israel’s transition to monarchy (1 Samuel 8-10).

John the Baptist is no less a pivotal figure, his ministry signaling that a transition was underway. In a sense, this “voice crying in the wilderness” was both the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the New Testament prophets. His testimony still rings forth today: Jesus is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). May we proclaim this until Jesus, the final and ultimate pivotal figure, presents himself at His glorious second coming.

B. Prayer

God, may our lips offer the same testimony of John the Baptist: that Jesus is Your Son. May that testimony cause us to serve You ever more faithfully as we fulfill Your calling for us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Testify to the Christ!

How to Say It

Bethabara Beth-ab-uh-ruh.

Columbidae Kuh-lum-buh-dee.

Eirene Eye-ree-nee.

Elijah Ee-lye-juh.

Isaiah Eye-zay-uh.

Levites Lee-vites.

lustrations luhs-tray-shunz.

Malachi Mal-uh-kye.

Messiah Meh-sigh-uh.

ornithologist ore-nuh-thaw-luh-jist.

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

March 8

Lesson 2

Another Comforter

Devotional Reading: Psalm 23

Background Scripture: John 14:15-26

John 14:15-26

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.

20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Key Verse

The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. —John 14:26

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit.

2. Explain the link between the presence of the Holy Spirit and living in loving obedience to Christ.

3. Write a prayer of thanks to God for the presence of the Holy Spirit in his or her life.

Lesson Outline


A. Abandoned!

B. Lesson Background

I. Promise of the Spirit (John 14:15-17)

A. Initial Requirement (v. 15)

B. Firm Promise (vv. 16, 17)

The God Who Is There

II. Assurance by the Son (John 14:18-24)

A. Presence (v. 18)

B. Life (v. 19)

C. Knowledge (v. 20)

D. Obedience (v. 21)


E. Clarification (vv. 22-24)

III. Purpose of the Spirit (John 14:25, 26)

A. Son’s Present Message (v. 25)

B. Spirit’s Future Ministry (v. 26)


A. Abandoned? Never!

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at

God Bless