Summary: Like John the Baptist, God is calling and dispatching us to witness and testify to the way, the truth and the life in Christ Jesus.
This morning, we’re going to turn back to the Gospel of John and dovetail with last week’s message. Last Sunday, we walked down the hallowed halls of Biblical history and gazed upon the portrait of grace embodied in Jesus Christ. We stared intently into the word of God, as the true essence and personification of Father, who came to dwell among us as the One and Only Begotten Son of God.
Today, we’re going to walk into one of history’s courtrooms and observe the man called to point to the portrait of grace and truth we heard of last week. However, before we dig in, let me tell you a quick story, with somewhat of a parallel motif.
In 1981, my father was called as a court witness to testify to a number of thefts that occurred at his employer. Now, we had just moved from Pennsylvania to Minnesota, and dad was brand-new to the job as the corporate purchasing agent. So, dad reports to the CEO on day one, and within minutes his boss says, “Ron, you got big problems in your department.”
The CEO then brought him up to speed on the heists that had transpired in the years before our arrival to Minnesota. What had happened was this: in the course of a few months, a Chicago based company stole two truckloads of a Molybdenum-based steel alloy valued at over $500,000. Furthermore, the prosecutors determined the this company conspired with three men from my father’s employer to pull-off the robberies.
My father was called to testify not against the defendants per se, but rather, as to the value of the steel alloy, its uses, and the impact these thefts had on the corporation. Ironically, though, since dad was new to the job, he knew very little about the alloy. Nevertheless, the CEO tasked my father to serve the company as a witness to testify for them.
In a loose kind-of way, John the Baptist was called by the CEO of the universe to testify for God’s Kingdom concerning the Lamb of God, even though the scriptures indicate John knew him not, so all men might believe the truth and enter into God’s grace and favor. So… with that, let’s open our Bibles to John, Chapter 1, and start our time in verse six.
GOD CALLS HIS WITNESS
READ VV 6-9
Two things are going on that’s calling for our attention. The first being, God is doing the sending, and the second is the reason John the Baptist was sent.
The word used for “sent” translates as ἀποστέλλω — it’s the verb form for the word we know as “Apostle.” So, while we might not think of John the Baptist as an “Apostle” in a formal sense—like the twelve disciples and Paul — John the Baptist was an apostle, sent by God to testify for God. This has implication for you and me.
And while it’s easy to focus on John, the focus truly rests on God the father. For, the word ἀποστέλλω refers back to the one doing the sending. For, what this word really means is to “dispatch someone, or to send out.”
In this case, the dispatcher is God the Father. And that’s an important point. God dispatched John to serve God’s will and carry his message. Now, the task John was dispatched to perform was to serve as the Father’s witness.
We see this word “witness” being used twice in this passage: once in verse seven, and the other in verse eight. In both cases, John was sent to serve as a witness —like one today in a court of law on a witness stand, like my dad — and he was sent concerning the light. Okay, this brings us to the next point — the witness is dispatched by God to testify.
THE WITNESS TESTIFIES
These two words: witness and testify, are wholly interrelated, in more ways than meets the eye. Let’s see how.
According to Webster’s dictionary, a witness is “one that gives evidence; specifically: one who testifies in a cause; one who has personal knowledge of something; and publically affirms something by word or example. I’d say that probably fits the definition most of us understand.
Here’s something also interesting, the first synonym Webster lists for witness is “testimony”. But what’s more interesting, I think, is the definition Webster lists for the word “testimony.”
The first use of “testimony” listed in our English dictionary is this: “the tablets inscribed with the Mosaic law; the ark containing the tablets, and a divine decree attested in the Scriptures.” The definition also states that a testimony is a “firsthand authentication of a fact and a public profession of religious experience.”
That really fits with that which John was dispatched by God the Father to do — to attest to God’s divine decree, to point to the grace for grace in verse 16 we heard of last week.