The witness! — John 1:6-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 7, 2014
Testimony is built not only upon what people think they saw but also on the forensic, that is the physical tangible material evidence as well. Dennis Fisher writes in RBC about a young boy Yves Congar. He was just 10 years old when World War I began and the French town where he lived was invaded by the German army. His mother encouraged him to keep a diary, and what resulted was a clear description of a military occupation, complete with written narrative and colored sketches. His diary recorded a disaster from a child’s perspective. He was a personal witness to what occurred. His witness had such a deep effect on him that he felt called to share Christ with others.
The other day the news interviewed several people concerning a shooting and they soon discovered that while each one saw it occur, each person had a different perspective. In fact, each one brought into it their eyewitness testimony their own version of the events that took place! No wonder the police have such a difficult time trying to figure out what happened. The four gospels are such witnesses to an event that changed everyone’s life that were associated with what occurred; this why we get similar narratives, but each is from a different personal perspective of the person relating what they saw and heard. In these next few verses, John is trying to relate the witnesses involved and how each one bears testimony to what they saw concerning Jesus. Let’s see what John wrote…
We find on the pages of history certain men who stand out simply because of what they did, their integrity, and the strength of their personal presence. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or Jeremiah and Moses. Here we discover such a man from the pages of the gospel of John. We find…
I. The witness of John! (Vv. 6-8)
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
1. The first witness John introduces to is John the Baptist. He writes that “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron who was barren, and Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. John, therefore was in line to be a priest of God himself. Luke tells us that both parents “were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. (Luke 1:6-7 NIV)” God sends an angel to tell Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would indeed give birth to a child and they were to name him John. In fact Zachariah was promised, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:14-17 NIV)” This is why John wrote, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John the Baptist would have a specific task given him from birth! He would be the one written about by the prophet Isaiah “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:2-4 NIV)” John reminds us that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” We find here the witness of John!
EXAMPLE: John McCasland writes for the Radio Bible Class, “‘Movers and shakers’ are people climbing the ladder of influence and success. Luke 3 mentions seven prominent leaders who exercised control in the society of their time. Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar held the power of life and death over people in his far-flung empire. Pontius Pilate represented Rome as governor of Judea; while Herod, Philip, and Lysanias kept people in line at the regional level. Annas and Caiaphas served as high priests, taking their religious authority seriously. While these power brokers flexed their political muscles, ‘the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness’ (Luke 3:2 NIV). Who could seem less important than this obscure man living in the desert and listening for God’s voice? What could John the Baptist possibly accomplish by ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’? (v.3). Yet multitudes came to John seeking truth, turning from their wrongs, and wondering if he could be the Messiah.” In fact, John would tell them, “one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16 NIV). “John’s life helps us understand what it means to be significant in God’s eyes.” We have the witness of John!
Sometimes when we come from a darkly lit place into a brightly lit one we can become blinded by the brightness of the light. Such was the case of the Light of God entering into the world. John next testifies concerning…
II. The witness of the Light! (Vv. 9-11)
The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
1. John the Baptist was not the Light; he was only a witness to the Light coming into the world. We find that when asked by others if he was the Messiah, he would answer “I am not.” (John 1:20) John was a witness sent ahead to tell us that the Light had come. This was “The true light that gives light to every man” who “was coming into the world.” Quakers misunderstand this text as do many heretical teachings, such as Theosophical Society, Unity, Unitarian, and Christian Science. They stress an inner light that they believe every human is supposed to have and discover. All you have to do is to let it shine through good things you do, this is totally wrong. The true light gives light to the truth of the gospel message. It does not mean universal salvation, general revelation, even or inner illumination. What John means is that Jesus, the Messiah, as the Light shines on everyone either in salvation or in enlightening him to his sin and coming judgment! God allows us to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. This is why John continued by relating, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” Those caught in sin’s dark sway often do not recognize the one who can save them. People’s love of themselves, their sinful condition, and the filth of their sin holds them in darkness. They can be blind to the light! Paul would say, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)” Jesus would declare about himself, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:19-21 NIV)” Sadly, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Even the Hebrew people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. John teaches us about the witness of the Light!
EXAMPLE: We all know that one little candle can light up the darkest room. Jesus was and is such a light in a sin-darkened world. While all other religions say we have to better ourselves, appease or do something in order for the god or gods to even give us a nod. No matter how hard we try to become one with the whole, we can never fill the gap of our sin nature that exists. Jesus did not just teach good pithy platitudes, he told us exactly who he was and then proved it by dying on a cross and coming back to life. Jesus bluntly stated, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the witness of the Light!
We discover that the testimony of John concerning Jesus brings us to the point of his testimony. Jesus came so that he could produce spiritual progeny. John introduces us to…
III. The Children of the Witness! (Vv.12-13)
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
1. Here is a wonderful beautiful truth that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”! Paul would rejoice that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus… Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Galatians 3:26; 4:6 NIV)” John would later declare, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)” Praise God there are some who do believe and because of their willingness to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the light, they become God’s children! Paul relates why this is such a wonderful thing, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)” Now, I do not know about you but I am kind of glad I am an heir, and inheritor of God! When we come to Christ we become “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” People are not naturally born children of God, although there are those who would try to convince you otherwise. They think that we all have some kind of god-stamp on us and all we have to do is discover it; this is wrongheaded. We know the Bible teaches us that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. However, we can become a child of God by receiving the gift of the new birth. Since we have done so, we are witnesses of the light. John would later write, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:10-12 NIV)” We who are born of God need to testify, witness, concerning our inheritance! Christians are children of the Witness!
EXAMPLE: If you met him you think he was just an ordinary guy. He quietly served in a church I attended years ago. He helped prepare the Lord’s Supper, he swept the church sidewalks in the fall, and mowed the church lawn in the summer. He spent time with others sharing his faith. I often heard him telling people at church in his quiet way how good the Lord was to him. During prayer meeting he didn’t talk much about himself but would ask us to pray for those he was sharing Jesus with. Folks knew that John the Baptist “never performed a miraculous sign. (John 10:41 NIV)” And this is a wonderful thing: God takes ordinary folks like you and me to be his witnesses! This ordinary man came as a witness of the Light because he was a child of God. Like this man we who believe are now children of the witness! With our actions and personal testimony, let’s point others to the Light!
We discovered the witness of John! Jesus is the witness of the Light! Christians are children of the Witness!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.