The man referred to in our verse today was an older cousin of Jesus known as John the Baptist. Two relatives could not have been much different. Even Jesus acknowledged the difference between Himself and His older cousin when He contrasted their ministerial styles in the words,
“For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, ‘He has a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking,
and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’
Matthew 11:18 (NIV)
Not only did Jesus and John have differing social behaviour but they dressed very differently as well. Matthew’s Gospel recorded in 3:4 “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.” (NIV).
In John 19:23 we read of the soldiers splitting up the five pieces of clothing of Jesus. When it came to the fifth, an undergarment woven without a seam, they cast lots for it as it was of significant value. So Jesus had one piece of clothing that cost a considerable amount of money. John did not.
John had only one meeting with Jesus and that was when he baptized Him. John 1:29 and 35 record the only other two times John ever saw Jesus. Whether or not John saw Jesus as they grew up we do not know. Nothing is recorded of such a visit. As an adult, John confessed he did not recognize his cousin until he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus.
What then did John see in Jesus? John said that he was unworthy to untie the thongs of Jesus’ sandals (John 1:27). This simple task was the work of a slave and not a disciple. John thus confesses he was nothing compared with Jesus.
Then John twice said Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29 NIV). He also said Jesus was the “Son of God” (John 1:34). When Jesus used this term about Himself the Jews understood it as a claim to deity (John 19:7) and blasphemy which was an offense worthy of death.
So three things are evident as John “looked upon Jesus”. John felt himself as unworthy to do anything for such a superior Being (John 1:27), he saw Jesus as somehow “carrying off the sins of the world” (John 1:29), and he thought of Jesus as God (John 1:34).
John only had a glimpse of Jesus yet he saw so much in Him. We need to have a clear understanding of who Jesus really is. Only as we recognize that Jesus is God in human form and the Saviour of sinners will we be equipped for the alternatives this life offers us.
Every one of us needs to have this divine traveling companion in the journey of life. Without the teaching and redeeming work of Jesus we cannot make sense of what we see around us. When we consider the cruelty and inhumanity of people there is no explanation if we do not accept the biblical account of how pain and suffering originally entered creation.
If we do not submit to Jesus, this God man Who can deal effectively with the issues of sin and suffering, we are truly without God and without hope in this life.
Who do you think Jesus is? Where did He come from? Why did He come? Only as you look or “glance” at Jesus will you be able to answer these questions and have a great hope in this life. Today may you see what John saw in his cousin, and may you believe in Him who came to give life and abundant life at that!