John 1:29-30 (HCSB)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’”
This might not seem like much of statement, someone saying that someone else “existed before me.” I agree that it’s an odd way of saying that the person in view “…is older than I am.” However, when you read this in light of some added background information, such a proclamation takes on a whole different light…
Luke 1:26-45 (HCSB)
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her:
Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.
Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”
The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.
And consider your relative Elizabeth — even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless.”
Elizabeth is the mother of John. This means that John is actually six months older than Jesus.
So, then why would John say something so strange about Jesus, that “…He existed before me”?
For the same reason that the Jews would later pick up stones, and also would eventually bring Jesus before Pilate to be executed by crucifixion…
John 8:48-59, Luke 22:66-23:2 (HCSB)
The Jews responded to Him, “Aren’t we right in saying that You’re a Samaritan and have a demon?”
“I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. I do not seek My glory; the One who seeks it also judges. I assure you: If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death — ever!”
Then the Jews said, “Now we know You have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death — ever!’ Are You greater than our father Abraham who died? Even the prophets died. Who do You pretend to be?”
“If I glorify Myself,” Jesus answered, “My glory is nothing. My Father — you say about Him, ‘He is our God’ — He is the One who glorifies Me. You’ve never known Him, but I know Him. If I were to say I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced.”
The Jews replied, “You aren’t 50 years old yet, and You’ve seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.”,
At that, they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden, and went out of the temple complex…
…When daylight came, the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the scribes, convened and brought Him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If You are the Messiah, tell us.”
But He said to them, “If I do tell you, you will not believe. And if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.”
They all asked, “Are You, then, the Son of God?”
And He said to them, “You say that I am.”
“Why do we need any more testimony,” they said, “since we’ve heard it ourselves from His mouth?”
Then their whole assembly rose up and brought Him before Pilate. They began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a King.”
Jesus is God
Jesus existed before all of us because He is God. John (the Baptist), who was “sent from God,” came to announce Jesus’ arrival, the One who “existed before” him. And, for those who believe in His name, such will be given the right to be children of God…
John 1:1-34 (HCSB)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man named John
who was sent from God.
He came as a witness
to testify about the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but he came to testify about the light.
The true light, who gives light to everyone,
was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world was created through Him,
yet the world did not recognize Him.
He came to His own,
and His own people did not receive Him.
But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name,
who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.
The Word became flesh,
and took up residence among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
(John testified concerning Him and exclaimed,
“This was the One of whom I said,
‘The One coming after me has surpassed me,
because He existed before me.’”)
Indeed, we have all received grace after grace
from His fullness,
for the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The One and Only Son —
the One who is at the Father’s side —
He has revealed Him.
This is John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”
He did not refuse to answer, but he declared: “I am not the Messiah.”
“What then?” they asked him. “Are you Elijah?”
“I am not,” he said.
“Are you the Prophet?”,
“No,” he answered.
“Who are you, then?” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?”
He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord, — just as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?”
“I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know Him. He is the One coming after me,, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.”
All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan,, where John was baptizing.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ I didn’t know Him, but I came baptizing with water so He might be revealed to Israel.”
And John testified, “I watched the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He rested on Him. I didn’t know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One you see the Spirit descending and resting on — He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God!”
Godspeed to the brethren!