Summary: Are you a true witness for Jesus? How can you tell? What does it take to be the kind of witness God has called you to be? We’ll answer those questions as we look today at the example of John the Baptist.
The John that is in our passage this morning is not the same John that wrote this Gospel. The John that wrote this Gospel is the brother of James. Jesus called him a son of thunder. He was the one whom Jesus loved. But that’s not the John in our passage. The John in our passage is the one we call John the Baptist. John was a true witness for Jesus. Do you know how you can tell? You can tell because of what happened in verses 22-26 of our passage. John had enjoyed a thriving ministry for a while up until this point. You remember how he did it. He didn’t have a big marketing program. He didn’t have seeker-sensitive services. As a matter of fact he made it tough on people. He purposely set up away from town, so they had to make an attempt to come to him. And then when they got there, he didn’t hold back any punches. He even called the religious leaders a bunch of snakes. He called them a brood of vipers. But in spite of all that, he was attracting huge crowds. He had a thriving ministry. And then what happened? Then Jesus came to town with His disciples. John knew Jesus. He’d even baptized him and sent some of his disciples off with Him. He told the people that Jesus was the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world. And then Jesus went off to Jerusalem and things went on as usual for John. He’d done what he was supposed to do and now it was time to get back to his growing ministry. And it kept growing and it kept growing. To the point that he became famous throughout the land. He was well-known. He was respected as a prophet. So, why in the world did Jesus and His disciples come and set up right down the road from him? That’s what John’s disciples were asking. After this went on for a while, they came to John and told him about it. Like John didn’t already know. They said, “That guy that you told us about is horning in on your business.” “He’s right down the river doing the same thing you are.” “And you know what the bad thing is, John?” “Your people are going over to where He is.” “You’re losing your crowds.” As a matter of fact, they did what people tend to do in situations like that. They exaggerated. They said, “Everybody is going over to Him.” You see, they didn’t have the nature of a true witness. Because a true witness isn’t in it for himself. A true witness isn’t in it to build his own kingdom. He’s in it to build the kingdom of Christ. John was a true witness. When he saw what was going on, it didn’t make him jealous. When he saw his numbers go down, it didn’t make him angry or envious. When people came to him and tried to egg him on, he didn’t bite. He knew that the kingdom of God isn’t a competition. But that’s tough, isn’t it? It’s tough to be like that. It’s tough to put aside our competitive natures and empty ourselves of pride and jealousy and envy, isn’t it? So how can we be like that? How can we have the nature of a true witness like John did? The only way we can truly be like that is to know four things. We have to know our source. We have to know our role. We have to know our joy. And we have to know our goal. First, we have to know our source. Look at verse 27:
As a true witness, John the Baptist knew his source. When those disciples came up to him and tried to prod him into competitive jealousy… he remembered where he came from. Have you ever met anybody who got real big and famous and forgot where they came from? John didn’t forget where he came from. But I’m not talking about his hometown. I’m not talking about his parents. I’m talking about where his ministry came from. When John’s disciples told him that he was losing his ministry to Jesus, what did he tell them? He told them that it wasn’t his to begin with. He told them that the only reason he had that ministry in the first place was that God had given it to him. What a tragedy it is to hear pastors talk about “my” church. Or to talk about “my” ministry. Or to talk about “my” people. Guess what? It isn’t mine. This isn’t my church. This isn’t my ministry. You aren’t my people. The minute I start thinking that way is the minute I’ve lost what it means to be a true witness. Because a true witness understands that it’s all God’s. He gave a ministry to John and expected him to be faithful in that ministry. And He gives me a ministry. And He gives you a ministry. If Jesus has saved you here this morning, He has given you a ministry. The Great Commission that we talk about so much in Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” When it says, “go ye therefore,” many times we think of setting up some special trip somewhere. We think of a missionary trip. But that’s not what the thinking is there. The thinking in the original is a continual, ongoing action. In other words, “As you are going.” If Jesus has saved you, He has given you a ministry. He’s called you to be a witness for Him. Not necessarily in a foreign field. Not necessarily behind a pulpit somewhere. But as you are going. As you are going about your daily business. As you do your job at work. As you are in school. As you meet with friends and neighbors. As you shop in the grocery store. As you go… you are a witness. You’re a witness because your source has called you there. If you believe that God is truly in control, then you have to understand that the things in your life happen for a reason. They happen so that you might bring honor and glory to Jesus in everything. They happen that you might be a witness for Him in everything. As a true witness, you know your source. You know the source of your circumstances. And you know the source of the witness that comes from those circumstances. No room for pride. No room for feelings of defeat or inadequacy. No room for jealousy. No room for discouragement. When you know your source, there’s only room for faithfulness. To be a true witness, you have to know your source. You also have to know your role. Look in verse 28: