It was August 11, 1999. We were serving as missionaries in Romania and had traveled to Sibiu to meet with our ministry partners at the time. Our girls, who were in high school at the time, stayed behind with friends in Timisoara, giving us our first taste of “an empty nest.” So we made it a date. We packed a picnic lunch, grabbed our protective eyewear, and headed for a hillside just outside Sibiu to witness something neither of us had ever seen—a total eclipse of the sun.
What a spooky, once-in-a-lifetime experience! Slowly the moon crept up on the sun until it was totally obscured making it night in the middle of the day. That’s where we ate our lunch—in the moon shadow, waiting for the sun to return. Raised in the scientific age, we weren’t afraid but we could imagine how people living in the ancient world might have taken it as harbinger of evil things to come, praying for the light to shine on them again.
Of course, we modern people know better than to fear a solar eclipse, but we too suffer from fear of the dark—not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. We see the growth of godlessness and violence, and we worry: “How long can we hold it together?” The answer: Not one second apart from the grace of Christ who, Colossians 1:15 says, “is the image of the invisible God.” That’s why Jehovah banned the making of images in the Old Testament. He was saving that sacred role for His Son “by whom all things were created,” verse 16 adds, “both in the heavens and on earth.” Consequently, if Jesus is Creator of all things, then He couldn’t have been created! He must be eternal! Remember, John didn’t say it was from the beginning Jesus was with God. He said it was “in the beginning,” before the time-space continuum began, making Him co-eternal with the Father. By the say, that’s the meaning of “oneness” in the Old Testament. It doesn’t mean singularity. It means unity, so that just as two can become one flesh in marriage, so the Father and Son have been One God from eternity past.
Furthermore, Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together,” which means it isn’t you or me or the government who is holding everything together. We couldn’t do that even if we tried. It is Christ, the Creator and Sustainer of all things Who is holding this world, this nation, your marriage, your family, your health, and your finances together by His gracious power. Praise Him forever for His mercy and grace!
That’s where we left off last week—with John 1:4, which says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!” In fact, John later adds in his epistle, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” That’s where I want to pick up today, asking you the question I ended with last week: Have you seen the Light and believed in Jesus? For remember what we learned! We’re to give the same degree of honor to Jesus that we give to the Father, and that just as we’ve learned to trust in God, we’re to put the same trust in Jesus Who said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me!” To see what that involves, let me introduce you to the cast of characters in this drama—the Witness, the Light, and the First Responders. But, first, let’s read the passage. It says –
- The Witness – John
John introduced us in the first 5 verses to the Eternal and Uncreated Word of God. But now he seems to be changing subjects, introducing us to a man named John. By the way, wherever you see the name John in this Gospel, it refers to John the Baptist or on a few occasions to Peter’s father, but never to the Apostle John who wrote this book. He preferred to remain anonymous and simply called himself “the disciple Jesus loved,” so the glory would go to Jesus and not to him.
That’s what we find here. John isn’t changing subjects. He’s taking us into the courtroom, asking us to listen to the first witness Jehovah prepared to testify to the Deity of His Son. In fact, that’s something he does throughout his book—calls witness after witness to testify to the Deity of Christ—the 11 disciples; the five thousand who were fed the bread and fishes; a man born blind; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who was raised from the dead; but the first and greatest witness of all is John who comes preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, saying: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” So verse 6 says, “There came a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.”
You might want to underline the phrase “sent from God” because I remind you this was the first prophet to appear in Israel in over 400 years. Malachi, the last prophet, was followed by 400 years of silence as a way of accentuating John’s ministry and preparing the people for the coming of the Lord.
I also remind you of his special birth. His father Zacharias, who was a priest, and his mother Elizabeth, who was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, mother, were both elderly and childless. So when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in the Temple announcing that his wife was going to bear a son, he doubted the angel’s word and was struck dumb until the day of John’s circumcision when he was asked, “What do you want to call him?” And the Bible says the moment he wrote the name “John,” meaning “Jehovah is gracious,” his tongue was loosened, and he went on prophesy that his son would be called “the prophet of the Most High” and go on before His face to “prepare the way of the Lord.”
He also enjoyed a special preparation. Luke says he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, raised in the wilderness where he wore a garment of camel’s hair, ate locusts and wild honey, and at the age of 30 began preaching in the wilderness saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make His paths straight.” The results were miraculous! John never had to do any marketing. And yet, Mark 1:5 says “all the country of Judea and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to see him, being baptized in the Jordan River and confessing their sins—which tells us two things: 1) If we’re faithful to do God’s will in the way He wants us to do it, we don’t have to worry about the results. All we have to do is be faithful, and God will take care of the rest. And believe me, John was faithful—so faithful it cost him his life.
2) We’re to make Jesus the focal point of all we say and do. For like John, that is our mission. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “Be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” All you have to do is read the rest of chapter 1, and you’ll see how faithfully John shifted the focus away from himself to Jesus. In verse 15, he says to those being baptized by him, “He who comes after me is greater than I am, because He existed before me.” In verse 25, he denies being the Christ insisting that he isn’t worthy to untie the sandals of the One coming after him. In verse 29, he says to the crowd after Jesus’ baptism, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then in verse 35, he encourages two of his own disciples (Andrew and John) to follow Jesus, pointing to Him and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
And finally, later in chapter 3, when his ministry begins to wane because everybody is following Jesus instead of him, he’s perfectly OK with that, because he knows his work is now. So he says to his disciples who are worried about his declining popularity, “A man can receive nothing unless it’s been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, I have been sent ahead of Him.’…He must increase, but I must decrease.”’ Talk about humble, faithful witnesses! What do you think? Did God pick the right man? I’ll say. In fact, we’ll see in a later study that Jesus said of him, “No greater man has arisen among men than John the Baptist.” Talk about high praise!
And that’s what we ought to live for—not the praise of men, but God’s pleasure in seeing people believe in Christ through our witness for Him. Look one more time at verse 8, and you’ll see that’s what John was all about. It says, “He was not the Light, but came to give testimony to the Light, that all might believe through him.” Believe by taking somebody else’s word for it? Absolutely! That’s been God’s plan from the beginning—to spread the good news of Christ’s love by one hungry beggar telling another where he found food. C.S. Lewis called it “the good infection.” By the way, the plan has been wildly successful, for not only are there millions and billions in heaven today who have believed because one follower of Jesus told another, but there are still hundreds of thousands being won to Christ that way every day! That’s our job! Not to be religious counselors, spiritual gurus, or Christian life coaches. Our job is to be witnesses to the glory and Deity of Jesus Christ. John was the witness, but Jesus is the Light.