John 1:6-7-There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through him might believe. NKJV
Growing up, I was fond of legal dramas, especially Perry Mason. Perry Mason was a defense attorney who worked with his secretary Della Street and a private investigator named Paul Drake. Between the three of them, they could effectively win cases that seemed hopeless to those charged with a crime. On the witness stand, you got to see Mason at his finest hour, for it was there he often tricked his witnesses into divulging the truth of their crimes.
The witness stand, in a courtroom, is where witnesses are called to give testimony to an event or situation that they have firsthand knowledge of. In the book of John, we encounter several witnesses that proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God. Each witness is considered a true witness with exceptional character and unquestionable knowledge. Today, I want to address the nature and evidence of our first witness. Our first witness to the stand is John the Baptist!
The apostle John wrote that John the Baptist was sent by God to bear witness to the Light.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believeJohn 1:6-7 NKJV
The whole purpose of John the Baptist’s prophetic ministry was to act as a witness for God and to point the people to the Light so that they might believe in Him.
If you recall, John the Baptist was a cousin to Jesus. Elizabeth’s pregnancy was tied to Mary’s, and the boys were born months apart. When Mary visited Elizabeth during her confinement, Elizabeth shared an unusual greeting:
Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?Luke 1:42-43 NKJV
Elizabeth acknowledged from the beginning that the Babe in Mary’s womb was her Lord. Therefore, John, the baby Elizabeth was carrying, was in submission to the Babe Mary carried.
On the day that John the Baptist was born, his father, Zacharias, prophesied these words over him:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our GodLuke 1:76-78 NKJV
After 400 years of silence from God, we see John the Baptist on the scene declaring prophetic words to the children of Israel that they are to repent and be baptized, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Fulfilling the prophetic word his father spoke over him. John acknowledges that he was sent to prepare the way of the Lord:
He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:John 1:23 NKJV
“Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
John states that he is not that Light but a witness to the Light. John the Baptist continues to bear witness concerning Jesus when he was asked why he was baptizing people:
“I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”John 1:26-27 NKJV
John makes it perfectly clear to the people that he is not in competition with Jesus but in submission to Jesus. He isn’t vying for a position of power over Jesus because he is not even worthy enough to untie his shoelaces.
The next day, John saw Jesus again and spoke these words:
“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”John 1:29-31 NKJV
I find several exciting statements in these verses. First, John said that Jesus was before him. We know that John the Baptist was born first. However, John is obviously referring to the divinity of Jesus, that He was before John ever was. Secondly, John said that he did not know Him. We know that’s probably not a reference to actually knowing Jesus, the person, but to not knowing His true identity. Thirdly, it appears to me that John is stating that he began to baptize people with water because of something he had previously seen by the Spirit of God:
And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”John 1:32-34 NKJV
John recalls seeing the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and remaining on the one who was the Son of God. I believe John had a vision or a dream that allowed him to have this experience. Therefore, in obedience to the dream or vision, he began baptizing people with water, realizing that one day, he would baptize the Son of God.
Some believe John’s explanation of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove is metaphorical. In other words, he saw, by the Spirit, the Spirit of God descending on Jesus much in the same way a dove would descend on an individual. Others believe that he saw the Spirit, in the form of a dove, descend upon Jesus. However, he meant it; John knew that when it happened, it would be a witness to him that he had baptized the Son of God.
So as God would have it, Jesus went to John to be baptized. It is in Matthew’s gospel that we have a record of the baptism of Jesus. At first, John was hesitant to baptize Jesus, realizing that Jesus was the Son of God, but Jesus told John it needed to happen this way. (See Matthew 3).
John’s primary mission was to be a witness before the people for God that Jesus was the Son of God. John gave testimony to what he saw and experienced during his prophetic ministry of preparation that bore witness to the identity of the Son of God. His testimony was true!
Imagine the moment for a minute. It is finished! Everything that God had assigned John to do was complete. He had prepared the way. He had prepared the hearts of the people to repent. He had set the stage! Then God gave him the privilege to be a witness that the Son of God had indeed come, and He was in their midst. And he, John the Baptist, had been chosen before his birth to provide testimony to the true identity of Jesus, the Son of God! Wow! It had to be an incredible moment for John!
The good news for us is that we, too, have the same privilege that John the Baptist had. Not to baptize Jesus but to tell the world that the Son of God has indeed come to live not amongst us but within us by His Holy Spirit. We have the word of God with its many infallible proofs that point to Jesus as the Son of God. We have John’s witness from the Word of God. The only thing that may be lacking is our conviction that his witness is true! In a court of law, even Perry Mason couldn’t convince him otherwise! Wonderful Jesus!