John’s Witness to Christ
Alan H. Linton, Bristol, England
Outstanding among John’s many ministries as the forerunner of the Saviour was his witness to Christ. ‘This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light...the true Light...’, John 1. 7, 9. We, too, are called to be witnesses, ‘You shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’, Acts 1. 8, and there is much we can learn from John’s witness to Christ. Let us consider four aspects.
JOHN WITNESSED TO CHRIST'S COMING
John’s public ministry commenced about six months before Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. Throughout this time he ‘prepared the way of the Lord’, Isa. 40. 3, by warning the people that the Messiah was soon to appear; ‘Repent . . . for the Kindom of Heaven (i.e. the Rule of Christ) is at hand’, Matt. 3. 2; ‘There comes One after me . . . ’, Mark 1. 7; ‘He who comes after me . . . ’, John 1. 15.
An essential part of our witness is to declare without reservation that the Lord Jesus will soon return, and men and women should prepare for this imminent event by repenting of their sin. The message is more relevant now than ever. Nearly 2000 years ago Paul wrote; ‘Knowing the time . . . that it is high time to wake up to reality . . . the night is nearly over . . . the day has almost dawned’, Rom. 13. 12, JBP. Christ’s return for His church should be an integral part of our witness.
JOHN WITNESSED TO THE NATURE OF THE COMING MESSIAH
Both before, and after, John identified the Messiah he testified to the nature of the person of Christ. This included:
i. His POWER – ‘He who is coming after me is mightier than I’, Matt. 3. 11. Our Lord said of John, ‘ . . . among those born of women there has not arisen one greater than John the Baptist’, Mat. 11. 11, but John said of Him, ‘He is mightier than I’. Thus, John witnessed to His omnipotence.
ii. His PRE-EXISTENCE – ‘After me comes a man who is preferred before me, for He was before me’, John 1. 30. Jesus was born after John, yet he testified that He was ‘before me’. Later, Jesus claimed, ‘ . . . before Abraham was, I am’, John 8. 58. John witnessed to His pre-existence.
iii. His PRE-EMINENCE – ‘He who comes from above is above all’, John 3. 31. John was of the earth – Christ was the Lord from heaven. John witnessed to His pre-eminence.
iv. His PERSON – After obeying the request of the Lord to baptize Him in the Jordan, John is given the signs by which he could identify the Messiah. These included the visible descent of the Holy Spirit and the audible voice of the Father from heaven. Luke records that this occurred as Jesus prayed, Luke 3. 21. The Father’s unique testimony to the Lord Jesus incorporated two Messianic statements; the first from Psalm 2. 7 – ‘You are my Son’, and the second from one of the Servant passages, ‘ . . . my elect one in whom my soul delights’, Isa. 42. 1. No wonder John testified to our Lord’s deity, ‘I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God’, John 1. 34. Today, the person of our Lord Jesus Christ is being denigrated; how important that we, too, must witness to His deity.
JOHN WITNESSED TO THE UNIQUE MISSION OF THE MESSIAH
After His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. Meanwhile, John continued his ministry at the Jordan. Six weeks later, Jesus returned in the Spirit to the Jordan and the next day John presented Him to the nation, with words which indicated a unique insight into the nature of His mission, ‘Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’, John 1. 29. To Jews, the title ‘Lamb of God’, would remind them of the Lamb of History, Gen. 22, the Lamb of Sacrifice, Exod. 12, and the Lamb of Prophecy, Isa. 53. The words, ‘to bear away the sin of the world’ would remind them of the Day of Atonement when the ‘scapegoat’ bore away the sin of the nation, Lev. 16. 22. John perceived that Messiah’s role would be fulfilled through suffering and sacrifice. John also foretold that the Messiah would bestow the Holy Spirit;’ He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’, Matt. 3. 11. Hence His two-fold mission was to be the ‘Remover of sin’ and the ‘Bestower of the Holy Spirit’.
JOHN WITNESSED TO THE EVER INCREASING GLORY OF THE MESSIAH
The ministries of John and Jesus overlapped and, as Jesus’ ministry increased, it is not surprising that some of John’s disciples were jealous for his honour, John 3. 26. John’s reply stands out as one of the greatest sayings of his career – he refused to enter into a dispute over the greatness of Christ! Notice three components of his reply.
i. ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven’, John 3. 27. John recognized that he cou