Recognizing Jesus

Q. I want to ask about the passage in John 1:32-34. This is the passage where John the Baptist states that even he did not recognize Jesus except that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Jesus). My question is, how is it that John the Baptist would recognize the Holy Spirit in the form of a bird (dove) but could not recognize Jesus in the form of a man? Didn’t John the Baptist even leap while yet in his mother’s womb at the voice of Mary (who was with child) when he was yet unborn, having recognized Jesus’ presence?

A. In effect, John was saying there wasn’t anything in His physical appearance to distinguish Jesus as the Son of God. Even he, who was a cousin of Jesus, and had known about Him all his life, would not have been able to recognize Jesus as the son of God by just looking at Him. Then he offered eye witness testimony as to the Lord’s true identity by reporting that he had seen the Spirit of God descending on Jesus at His baptism. This was the sign God told John to look for so he could positively identify Jesus as the Son of God.

By the way, this is consistent with Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would have no extraordinary physical characteristics. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Until He began preaching the Gospel, He appeared to be just an ordinary man, the son of a carpenter from Nazareth. But the words He spoke have changed the whole world.

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