There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.John 1:6-9
This part of John’s prologue has always bothered me a bit. To clarify: I love the way John begins his Gospel account, hearkening back to Genesis 1 when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1:1). Matthew and Luke give us the details of His birth, along with the genealogies; Mark begins with an adult Jesus proclaiming the nearness of the Kingdom. But John’s approach is epic in its sweep. He situates the story of Jesus in the context of the grand story of creation. With his allusion to Genesis 1, John is saying that new creation has come through the Word of God — Jesus Christ.
So in the midst of such a grand opening, I’ve always found these verses about John the Baptist to be somewhat of a distraction, too localized alongside such a cosmic introduction. I mean, we’re talking about creation and new creation; the stakes don’t get much greater. And then John the author zooms in for a couple of verses about John the baptizer? I’ve always found that juxtaposition to be jarring. But after reading it this morning, I’m starting to see this passage in a different light.
I think this passage is a primer for mission. John is presented as one who bears witness, as one who testifies to that which he has seen. He was not the light, merely a reflection of it. And rather than reading this as an incongruous detour, I think John’s point is that all who see this same light — all who hear this same Word — are likewise sent to bear witness. I am to follow in the footsteps of the baptizer, recognizing that I am NOT the light, merely one who reflects it. This is the testimony we bear. When read this way, John 1:6-9 becomes an essential part of the Gospel story John is telling.
To illustrate my point, try applying this text to yourself in this way:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was Jason. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Certainly John the Baptist had a unique calling from God that extends far beyond our ability to fulfill. I get that. And yet, I still find this reading helpful in that it helps me to understand my story in light of the Gospel. Specifically, it gives me a deeper appreciation for my localized role as a witness to the universal light of Jesus.
Fellow believer, you and I have been sent by God to bear witness to the light of the world, Jesus Christ. May we embrace this role, to reflect the light we have seen, the light which illuminates everything else.