Part 5 – John 1:6–8, 15, 19-28 – John was not Jesus
The other John, John the Baptist as we call him, though he is never called that in this Gospel, flits in and out of this chapter. Reading John 1: 6 – 8 and then 15 and 19 – 28.
First in the prologue, the introduction to the Gospel we read ‘There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.’ This introduces John as that most important person, a true witness giving testimony to Jesus.
Those words ‘witness’ and ‘testimony’ are just about the same in the original Greek, both coming from the word ‘martyr’. John is important in his role as the first and most prominent witness to Jesus. He gets more space than Jesus does in the history of the time written by a guy called Josephus, probably because he acted much more like an Old Testament prophet than did Jesus and so was more easily understood by the Jews of those days.
He is a good reminder to us that we too should be good witnesses to Jesus. As Peter said, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’.
Second: later in the chapter we read that ‘(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.“)’ and then there are several verses explaining how John testified. ‘Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord. ’”
Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
All of which is a sharp reminder that when we witness we should not do it to increase our own self-image to ourselves or to the Lord, but purely for the sake of our Savior Jesus. Such a caution is probably unnecessary if we are witnessing privately to one or two other people, but if we are up on a platform, or behind a microphone, then we may well fall into the trap of glorying in what we are doing. John did not do that.
The people sent down from Jerusalem were fairly sure he was someone very important: the Messiah, Elijah come to life again, or the promised prophet like Moses. No – says John. ‘I am just a voice in the wilderness preparing the way for a much more important person who is to come. Not even slaves were expected to take people’s sandals off but John was prepared to do even that for the one who was to come. You can’t get much lower, more humble than that. And that is the way we should be. Oof!