Summary: Three words summarize our next guest. Those words are “love”, “witness”, and “believe”. The Renaissance painters all portrayed the Apostle John as doe-eyed, pale-skinned and effeminate. This they did to accentuate the “love” part of John’s character. In d
Three words summarize our next guest. Those words are “love”, “witness”, and “believe”. The Renaissance painters all portrayed the Apostle John as doe-eyed, pale-skinned and effeminate. This they did to accentuate the “love” part of John’s character. In doing so, they ignored the other parts, for the most part.
I want to discuss those parts first.
The word “witness” in the New Testament (martureo) is the word we get our modern English word “martyr” from, and it means to testify, to bear record of, to give true testimony, to give evidence for. I mention this because this is a word that Matthew records for us eleven times, seven of which are in the context of a false witness or a witness against; Mark uses the word nine times, five of which are in the negative; Luke uses the word five times, once in the negative context, but John uses the word seventy-three times, and not once does he use it in the negative.
When I say, “I was a witness,” what do you take that to mean? That I saw something, that I remember it, and that I can tell you about it, right? Okay, now if I say, “I’m going to testify because I was a witness,” what do you take that to mean? That all of those things are true, and that I am going to go to court and “bear witness” or reveal the truth of what I observed, right? It is in this sense that John uses the word martureo. Think about all of the people who have borne witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and been martyred in the process. Think there was any doubt in their minds as to what they knew? Think there was any question in the minds of those who witness their being burned alive or torn apart by wild animals while they were still alive about what they believed?
Just in the gospel he wrote, John uses the word “believe” ninety-eight times. To believe is not to intellectually acknowledge, but to totally trust in, depend upon, and rely upon. That is what is meant by John in the most famous verse in all of the Bible: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Natural-Born Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” It is not just people who give a mental nod to the existence of Jesus Christ who are saved; it is those who put their complete faith and trust in Him for their salvation.
It is those whose faith in Jesus Christ cannot be shaken or unhinged, those who will not deny Jesus Christ under any circumstances who truly believe.
John believed what he witnessed, loved the truth that He believed, and loved the Savior that he believed in. He bears witness to all of this “so that you might believe (John 19:35).”
So, what is a witness? Someone who gives an account of or who testifies (bears witness) to the truth. Truth is of vital importance – Jesus said, “For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to bear witness [testify] to the truth (John 18:37).” So, being a witness to the truth was also crucial to John, as it should be to all of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ.
Now, what does raw truth look like, the kind of truth that has no regard for the feelings of those who hear it or read it or see it? What does it sound like? How does raw truth treat people? What does truth need in order for it not to be cold and impersonal legalism?
It needs love, of course.
This is the other word that summarizes John’s character: “love”. John uses the word “love” 105 times! In fact, the epistle he wrote that we know as 1 John contains the word love and its variants forty-seven times.
We saw last time that, along with his brother James, John was called a “Son of Thunder” by Jesus. We saw that these two brothers were pushy, self-seeking, unyielding, uncompromising, fiery proclaimers of the truth as they saw it. We saw that they were men who would be in the midst of turmoil, whether they caused it or not, and this would be especially so if it had to do with the “truth”. They were explosive men, men of strength and ambition, men to be reckoned with in any context.
Remember that the one and only time John is mentioned alone is the occasion we looked at briefly last time when he came to Jesus bragging about forbidding someone who wasn’t part of their little circle to cast out demons in Jesus’ name.
Go back to Luke 9:46-56. Let’s read this again.