Scripture: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) John 1:6-8, 15 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, John commences with a declaration that Jesus is eternal and co-authored the material universe (vv.1-2). Therefore, all inorganic and organic matter exists in him (v.3), for he is the very essence of life and thus shows humankind the way forward in this tense-filled world marked by warring spiritual forces of light (good) and darkness (evil), of which his light prevails (vv.4-5).
Today’s devotion covers John the Baptist’s prophetic announcement of the Messiah. John tells us that God sent John the Baptist to witness the light so that all might come to faith through his preaching. But even though he served a critical role, John the Baptist is not the light but solely points others to the light, i.e., bears witness.
As the narrative continues, John returns to the focus of Jesus being the substance of true light (1:9-13) and the incarnate Word (1:14, 16-18) for the remainder of his introduction (which we will address in the following two Daily Focus devotions). Amid the discussion of these two essential attributes of Christ, in verse 15, John inserts a parenthetical detail regarding how John the Baptist testified that Jesus (still unnamed) is preeminent and eternal, even though his ministry follows the foundational work of John the Baptist.
Takeaway: While Luke focuses on the origin and character of John the Baptist, John stresses the role of John the Baptist, a subordinate function. So what our gospel writer emphasizes here is the “sending” of John the Baptist: God sent him to bear witness to his Son. Thus, his role is preparatory, as the three other Gospel writers concur (Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:1-8, Luke 1:17; 3:15-17), for he is not the light but is privileged to attest to the true light. Indeed, as theologian Merrill Tenney surmises, “John came to speak from a human level and to awaken people to their need of God’s revelation” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John, p.31).
The point of John the Baptist acting as a witness would play large with John the Gospeller’s Jewish audience, which would read on to determine adequate witness of two men according to Levitical law (Deuteronomy 17:6). The Holy Spirit, superior to men, will provide the second witness when John baptizes Jesus (vv.33-34). [Please click the above link under our text to read all references cited in Chapter 1.]
Our takeaway? We, too, are compelled, as ambassadors of Christ, to bear witness to him. And, like John, we need to maintain a posture of subordination, remembering that we are the created and not the Creator and that we are privileged to prepare the way for others to see the light and discover the joy of their salvation in Christ. So what does this look like as we engage others with our glorious Gospel? Following John’s good example, we exhibit confidence and humility. We are confident that Christ has commissioned us to prepare the way for others and gifted us with the Holy Spirit, who will guide and empower us to bear witness to others. And we exercise humility in remembering that we are the messengers: the catalysts, not the cause. Embracing confidence with humility will help us stay in the game when we meet resistance or rejection and stay level-headed when we see others come to faith.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the example of John the Baptist, who exhibited confidence in his mission by speaking forthrightly to those in positions of authority while exercising humility in pointing people to your Son. And we are thankful for the privilege of carrying on the mission of proclaiming your Son’s Gospel under the guidance and strength of your Holy Spirit. Still, we confess we are prone to make it all about us, whether we see success or failure from our perspective. So would you please help us find that balance between being confident in our calling and humble regarding the outcome? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling