Second Sunday after the Epiphany, January 19, 2020 (John 1:29-42a)
The early church abbreviated a five-word creed by using the Greek word for “fish”. The English transliteration of this Greek word for fish is IXThUS. Each letter stood for a single word that confesses the identity and work of Jesus. Put into English: The “I” is the first letter of Jesus. The “X” is the first letter of Christ. The “Th” is the first letter of God’s. The “U” is the first letter of Son. And the “S” is the first letter of Savior. Thus the Greek word for “FISH” (IXThUS) was an acronym for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. This “FISH” acronym for the identity and work of Jesus we here call the “Fish Story”.
John the Baptist starts this Fish Story as he is the first to realize Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. The Apostle John thus wrote, …all might believe through him (John 1:7). All believe through John the Baptist? Yes, he was the first to realize and share the Fish Story.
God had clearly predicted that the Christ would be uniquely endowed with the Holy Spirit. One example of such prophecy is found in Isaiah 61:1. Here the Christ (the “Anointed One”) says: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor….(61:1). Because the Holy Spirit is invisible, how could anyone identify the Christ to be endowed with the Spirit? God has a solution: The Holy Spirit would take the form of a dove! Thus John the Baptist attests: I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him (John 1:32). At that moment, literally visible to John the Baptist’s eyes, the long awaited Christ, who would be absolutely endowed with the Holy Spirit, is revealed. Merely confessing that Jesus is the Christ—the one who’s coming is at the very heart of the Old Testament—is in itself a confession that He is also the Son of God, the Savior.
Almost immediately after seeing Jesus to be the Christ, John confesses the second part of the Fish Story: And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God (v 34). Now we have the confession from John the Baptist that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This basic confession, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, echoes throughout the New Testament. Consider how in John 11 when Jesus asks Martha whether she believes Him to be the resurrection and the life, she answers, Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God (v 27). When Jesus is cross-examined before the Jewish Council they demand, If you are the Christ, tell us (Lu 22:67). Their next question is also part of the Fish Story: Are you the Son of God, then? (v 70). The Jewish leaders had been hearing that this Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. After Jesus rises from the grave the Apostle John explains the purpose for recording some of His miracles:…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (20:31). As a final example, immediately after Saul’s conversion, Luke records in Acts 9:20: And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God’. Then, almost as if scripted, verse 22 relates: But Saul…confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. Saul (Paul) clearly considered it foundational that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
The Fish Story is the confession: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. So what about John the Baptist’s confession of Jesus as Savior? John identified this reality by introducing Jesus with the profound exclamation: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (v 29). Is there any greater confession of the saving work of Jesus? Indeed every Christian believes and confesses the Fish Story introduced by John the Baptist, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior: IXThUS.