Witnesses are vitally important in the Bible, but they are also vitally important in the world around us. I say witnesses are important in the Bible because the word is used 164 times in significance places. It is used in the first book of the Bible (Genesis), the last book of the Bible (Revelation), and scattered throughout in everything in between.
We can also see how important witnesses in the world around us as well. Their testimonies can carry much weight in the court of law. When we consider important truths to our lives we evaluate the character of the witness. I sat in a book story this week preparing this sermon and saw a book entitled, Jesus On Trial: A Lawyer Affirms The Truth Of The Gospel. The subtitle is trying to tell us about the importance or significance of the witness. The publisher chose to put the authors title in the subtitle in the hopes the readers will consider the authors profession a valid witness.
Theme: Significant witnesses for Christ always become insignificant.
1. The Significance of the Witness—John 1.6-7.
There is a sense, as you are reading John 1.1-18 that John 1.6-8 and 15 seem like an interruption. But it is our job to give the writer what John Piper calls the Hermeneutical Golden Rule—“do unto authors what you would have them do unto you.” We cannot assume John is a dummy or makes thoughtless ramblings in his writing. There is design in John’s writing, so we should seek to understand him like his original audience.
We must not forget John the Baptist serves as a prophetic bridge between the OT and NT. John the Baptist serve as the last prophet of the OT ministry. Peter helps us understand that ministry:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.—I Peter 1.10-12
This explains to us the ministry of the OT prophets, but in order to fully capture the significance of this ministry we need to look in Deuteronomy:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.—Deuteronomy 18.15-18
The Israelites were waiting all throughout the OT, looking for a significant prophet who would come after Moses, who would be greater than Moses. The Israelites in John’s Gospel actually ask this very idea—READ John 1.21. John the Baptist understands he is an important witness, he is an important prophet, but he is NOT the THEE PROPHET. John the Baptist has been sent to bear witness to the prophet, Jesus Christ. John’s desire is all people will “believe” Jesus is the greater prophet than Moses and all OT prophets.
But this is not the only thing significant we can observe from these first 2 verses. The significance of John the Baptist also reminds us of how significant human witnesses are to accomplishing God’s purposes. John 1.6 says, “There was a MAN.” This was a normal human being like you and me. But John goes on to say he was SENT by God! Think about that for a moment. God sent a regular man like you and me. God chose him to be his witness. What was this witness supposed to do?—READ John 1.7. He bears witness about the LIGHT. He was sent by God to help people understand the significance of Jesus Christ. God uses this witness to help people “believe.”
Understand this, dear friends, if you believe the message of Jesus Christ, if you are sitting here today and you understand the significance of Him, then God has also chosen you to be His witness. God has sent you into the world to bear witness to the light. Jesus actually prays this for us in John 17, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” Then in John 20 Jesus says, “As the Father sent me, even so I am sending you.” Each one of us is a significance witnesses. We cannot run from it. We are either a good witness or a bad witness. Some of us are bad witnesses because we think we are not, but others because we are not prepared. Lawyers practice with their witnesses before they take the stand. To be a good witness you will need to practice, get some coaching, learn how to be a good witness.
2. The Message of the Witness—John 1.14.
While any witness is significant it is their testimony, or message, that people really pay attention to. So what is the message of our witness? Previously God sent human witnesses to witness to other humans. But John’s Gospel tells us God is doing something He has never done before—READ John 1.14. At this unique point in history, God did not send merely another human witness, but God became the human witness Himself. The message became the messenger.
The entire Bible is about God. Much of the Bible is about human’s experiencing the majesty of God in the world. But what is happening here is John’s Gospel is telling about the majestic experience of God in our world. The past two weeks we have talked about the greatness of the Word, the greatness of the Light, and now the great Word and Light takes on a human form and lives in our world. This is why John says, “…and we have seen His glory.” Later in John 14 there is a conversation between Jesus and Philip. And Philip asks Jesus to show him God, and Jesus says if you have seen me you have seen God. Another way of saying this is if you understand Jesus you understand God. The message of this witness the supreme God of the universe has arrived on planet earth to redeem His people. The message is so significant, the message is so powerful, the message is so bright, the witness fades into the background.
3. The Insignificance of the Witness—John 1.8, 15.
The message of the witness ends with the insignificance of the witness. With a good witness it must always be this way. John understands this idea—READ John 1.8, 15. Why does John feel the need to negate what he has already said? I think it is to continue to highlight the significance of the message and not the messenger. This is why he says, “..He who comes after me ranks before me.” He will later go on to say in John 3.30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
From my experience it is this idea that fuels our evangelistic efforts. The reason we go ahead telling people about Jesus is because we must decrease and He must increase. For the extrovert they will have to guard against their personality, their out-going spirit, deterring someone from coming to Christ. They can turn people off by overbearing, rude or arrogant. But they can also be so friendly, so much of a people pleaser, that people are becoming their friend and not a friend of Jesus. For the introvert they go so much into themselves that they forget life is not about them. They will say things like, “I just don’t know how to talk to people,” “I am afraid, I am afraid they might like me, I am afraid I will mess it up.” The problem is the most common phrase in all of that is “I.” They use their seemingly false humility to keep their gaze on themselves.
Friends the only motivation that will help you be a witness for Christ is if you understand your significance must become insignificant. And the only way you will ever understand your insignificance is if you understand what John is communicating to us. I told at the beginning of this series that John wrote his Gospel at the tail end of his life. While the other Gospel writers start with the humanity of Christ, John starts his Gospel with the divinity of Christ. What that means for John is spiritual maturation means Christ becomes SUPREME. For John over time Christ becomes bigger and bigger. The only way we will talk to other people about Christ is if He is SUPREME. I said toward the beginning of this sermon everyone is a witness. We cannot run from this. Some of us our witnesses for “Parks and Rec” others for the latest “Apple” products, or food, an app, or any other thing. Being a witness is about what you would stake your reputation on—your life on. If Christ is to become supremely significant than everything must fade into the background.