Witness to the Light
John the Baptist (not to be confused with John, the writer of this Gospel) was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was specially appointed by God to announce Jesus as the 'Light of the world' (John 8:12). Although he drew great crowds, John stressed he was not the Light that people should follow. His role, after 400 years of divine silence since Malachi wrote his prophecy, was to command people to repent of their sin and get ready for God's arrival. John the Baptist was like the prophet Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6) - the purpose of prophecy is always to draw people back to God's covenant in repentance and faith.
The imagery of light is of ‘understanding the truth’, ‘finding the way’, and ‘being rescued from the darkness’ which comes through sin. In the Old Testament, God’s Word was accepted as His revelation of truth (Psalm 119:105). But when Jesus came, He was declared to be the clearest revelation of truth (Hebrews 1:3) and called Himself, “… the Truth” (John 14:6). Jesus, the Light of the World continues to be the Light of truth leading all who will believe (John 17:20) to His eternal kingdom (Colossians 1:12-14).
John's ministry of preaching and baptising was brief. He was specially conceived for the purpose (Luke 1:17 and Luke 1:76-79); but after only a short period of ministry he was executed, because he did not hesitate to tell the King that he should also repent of his immorality (Matthew 14:3-12). But by then, his job had been completed. He had alerted the whole nation of Israel and many were convicted of sin through his preaching; they were baptised to demonstrate their repentance (Matthew 3:5-7). Nobody was in any doubt of his message - that God’s Messiah was coming and they must turn from their evil ways. John brought the light of the Old Testament scriptures back to the national memory, and preached that Jesus was the one who would become the final and complete sacrifice to take away their sin (John 1:29).
John's example is helpful to us. While many people live in darkness all around us, our task is to point people to Jesus who is the Light of the world. The mission of the church is that everybody might believe in Jesus and, as they do so, walk into the light. All of us who have believed, know what is true. We have our hope in Jesus, and we ought to be the witnesses who testify. A witness who keeps silent is still a witness; but if nobody knows, there is no way others will know the truth. So may we have fresh courage today to testify to what we know is true about Jesus, so that people may believe in Him and be released from the trap of darkness.
© Dr Paul Adams