John’s Witness to the Light
Primary Truth Taught- John was the man sent by God to be a witness to the light and prepare the people to meet God.
The Prologue of John’s gospel is one of the great literary masterpieces. It’s style and flow is almost poetical. It stands to reason that this would be the case since it is describing One who is eternal, spanning all of history.
Verse 1 and 2, we’ve learned that Jesus was in existence at the time of the beginning
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.
We see in verse 3 that Jesus is the Creator on all things…
3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Then, in verses 4 and 5 we’ve learned that not only is Jesus the Creator of physical life, He’s also the Creator of eternal, spiritual life. Just like when God spoke, Let there be light, John captures this imagery of light to very accurately depict the saving light of Jesus when God grants the sinner salvation in Christ it’s much like God speaking, Let there be light into the dead, dark heart.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This brings us to our text for today…
All week, I’ve been asking God a question about this passage, why in the middle of this wonderful prologue, which shows us who Jesus really is, do we have a few verses about John the Baptist. It goes Jesus is God He’s Creator He gives physical life and spiritual life…John the Baptist…then right back to Jesus as the light.
At first, these verses seem out of place.
Let’s see if we can discover why they are placed where they are…
In order to understand, we must understand the dynamic of a witness bringing added proof to a claim. John the Apostle in his Gospel has made some very bold claims, namely, Jesus is God, He is the Creator and He gives eternal life. Let’s look to his purpose statement once again:
John 20:30–31 (ESV)
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
So, what John has told us is that there are key things we must believe about Jesus and in believing them we will have life in His name. He has given us the key things to believe, Jesus is God, Creator, and Savior. Now because he writes to instill belief within the reader, he is going to show us reasons why in makes good logical sense to belief. Our faith must always be grounded in facts not some outlandish claims without any evidence. That’s why in the Gospel of John, he gives us eight witnesses to these claims in order that we’re convinced by evidence and not simply by the claims themselves.
Our legal system (as flawed as it is) operates using evidence. One very important piece of evidence comes from credible witnesses testifying about whether or not so and so either committed or did not commit a certain crime. They say things like, I was there and saw the whole thing or I was with the alleged perpetrator at the time of the crime and I can tell you he did not do it.
I want to spend a few minutes showing the eight witnesses John uses to prove his statements about Jesus are true and that by believing these things we will have eternal life.
John 5:39–40 (ESV)
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Scripture does not give us eternal life. They tell us about the One who does. They are a witness to who Jesus is and what He has done and so, lead us to Him. Only in Jesus can one find eternal life.
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”
John 8:14 (ESV)
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
John 10:25 (ESV)
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,
John 9:25 (ESV)
25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
You could argue many things with this man but the fact remains, he was blind before Jesus and after Jesus he could see.
John 15:26–27 (ESV)
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
I belabored this point to help give you confidence in what you believe. We don’t have faith in some made up fabricated fairy tale. Jesus is not some make believe account from Walt Disney. Jesus, His Words, His Works, and His Message are grounded in hard concrete facts with multiple credible witnesses backing up everything He said. If Jesus were on trial for being the Messiah, the Son of God He would be declared guilty as charged.
I pray this strengthens your faith. The next time you hear someone commenting that Christianity is ludicrous or a myth for the weak minded, remember they do not have a clue as to what they’re talking about.
Human Need Met
Our human need that this text meets today is our need for the claims of Jesus to be backed up by facts and eyewitnesses. God never asks us to believe something that is not backed up by proof.
Normally, people born blind still cannot see even after someone speaks to them to open their eyes. The fact remains Jesus opened his eyes that day. Many people, including the unbelieving religious leaders in Jerusalem saw him with his sight.
John’s Gospel is a cure for a weak faith…
John 1:6–9 (ESV)
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
This short interlude about John the Baptist is not an addition to the original text as some of our liberal scholars might want us to think. Rather it moves the first five verses even more forward and heightens their truth. What we were given in the first five verses stretches our understanding of Jesus to the point where we might be tempted to think these truths too grand even for Jesus. Then John inserts the witness of John the Baptist to nail these truths down for us.
By way of contrast we have the Son of God who was sent by God to earth to bring salvation through his name. So by way of contrast we now have a man sent by God to be the initial eyewitness that all of John’s magnificent claims about Jesus are, in fact, true.
John the Baptist could have been called, John the Witness because his job was more than just baptizing but his job was preaching and bearing witness about Jesus.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah spoke to Judah about one who would come with a message of preparation, which would introduce the coming of Yahweh or Jehovah.
Isaiah 40:3–5 (ESV)
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The Old Testament declares that this person’s message would prepare the way for the Lord, literally for Jehovah.
I’m not sure if we would have made the connection if it was not for Matthew’s Gospel and his declaration…
Matthew 3:1–6 (ESV)
3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
So, we see John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the Isaiah text. Matthew tells us that he is the one Isaiah spoke about…the man sent from God.
We’ve learned that his mission was to prepare the way for the Lord. He wasn’t going to level roads and take down mountains as Isaiah poetically portrays. Literally he was the man sent from God to get the people ready to meet Jesus. His mission was two-fold, first, preach to the people about their sin and second, to connect them with Jesus.
John 1:19–23 (ESV)
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
One more OT prophecy concerning John the Baptist…
Malachi 3:1 (ESV)
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
Notice that according to the quotes above, John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jehovah. Isaiah 40:3 says that John is to clear the way for YHWH (Jehovah). In Mal. 3:1, it is God who says that “he will clear the way before Me.” Yet we see that the fulfillment of these verses is found in the arrival of Jesus.
Clearly, the Bible prophecies that John the Baptist will prepare the way of YHWH (Jehovah), yet it is Jesus who arrives on the scene. How can this be? The simple answer is that Jesus is divine, that is, He is the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). Also, John 1:1, 14 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . 14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The fulfillment of John the Baptist as the messenger and Jesus as YHWH make these Scriptures clear for us to understand.
In order to make the people ready for Jesus, John the Baptist preached a message of the coming of God’s kingdom. He showed the people that God was coming and they were not ready to meet Him. He spoke about their horrific sin and their inability to deal with it. His baptism was an acknowledgement of the fact that they were sinners.
So, the way he prepared the way for the Lord was to show the people their true nature, their sinful hearts and there great need for God to forgive them. Before John, there was no Word from God. For 400 years from the Prophet Malachi to John there was only silence from God.
John declared that across the board, the people were sinful. From Herod the King to the lowest peasant, all needed God to forgive them.
We might think of John’s preaching like this:
Point 1- You are sinners and must repent because God is coming to visit us personally…
Matthew 3:1–2 (ESV)
3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Point 2- Behold, God is Here to Forgive You
John 1:25–30 (ESV)
25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’
John’s point is behold God (He was before me and ranks above me) is here now (Kingdom of heaven is at hand) and He will take you sin away (the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world) I am immersing you in water but He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit.
I once heard an old preach say that before you can get people saved you need to get them lost first. He knew that we can’t get anyone saved, but his point was that unless people see their need for God to forgive their sin, why would they want to get saved? So many times Christians approach evangelism as if Jesus will make your life better. He’ll make your marriage better or you’ll be a better parent etc.
John’s evangelism went like this: You all are the wickedest people on the planet and God is on His way to visit us. God will not tolerate sin for one millisecond. Either He will be destroyed or you will.
John did not say, Behold the Lamb of God who came to make your life rosy and sweet…Behold the Lamb of God who will destroy either you or your sin.
When people saw Jesus that day their hearts had been prepared. The mountains of sin were being leveled and the people saw Jesus and followed Him.
The message must be the same today, You are the most wretched sinner the world has ever seen, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. See your sin and then see your Savior…follow Him and live.
Next week, Lord willing, we’ll cover John 1:9-13. This section speaks about the light shinning on the world and yet most of the world did not receive Jesus.
Why do people reject Jesus?
Who specifically are rejecting Jesus in this passage?
What happens when one receives Jesus?
Declaration of Grace
In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
 John Volume 1 by Richard Phillips