"Witnesses to Light" Bible Study on John 1:6-8, 19-28
December 10, 2020, 10:08 AM

Dear Members & Friends:

I invite you to read the following passage from John 1:6-8, 19-28 (Common English Bible).

A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.

19 This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”

20 John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

John said, “I’m not.”

“Are you the prophet?”

John answered, “No.”

22 They asked, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied,

I am a voice crying out in the wilderness,
    Make the Lord’s path straight,[a]
    just as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 Those sent by the Pharisees 25 asked, “Why do you baptize if you aren’t the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”

26 John answered, “I baptize with water. Someone greater stands among you, whom you don’t recognize. 27 He comes after me, but I’m not worthy to untie his sandal straps.” 28 This encounter took place across the Jordan in Bethany where John was baptizing.

Last week in our Bible Study and Worship Service, we heard a very different John the Baptist than the one that John's Gospel introduces us to this week.  In fact, the John of John's Gospel is never called "the Baptist."  This week, we meet John the Voice, John the Witness who points to the coming Light of the World.  John doesn't baptize Jesus in the Fourth Gospel's account.  His role is not to baptize but to testify to the Light coming into the world.  The advent of Jesus, so John says, is an event of world changing significance.  It's even cosmic!  That cosmic transformation is announced by a thoroughly human witness named John.

One of our Bible Study participants pointed out just how human John is.  John comes across as a very humble servant.  It's as if John is trying to say, "I'm just trying to carry the mail and get it to you."  Metaphorically speaking, anyone who volunteers for any organization that helps individuals is like a John figure.

Notice that John is identified as a witness by descriptions of what he is not.  When questioned by his interrogators from the religious establishment, John says that he isn't the Light; he can only bear witness to the Light.  In verses 19-28, John answers the question of "Who are you?" with "I am not the Messiah, I am not Elijah."  John says of the Christ, "he must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).  John is a witness (in Greek, martyria - John 1:7) who testifies (martyreo - John 1:7, 19) to the good news of Jesus Christ.  These words are used more than forty-five times in John's Gospel.  The Christ comes, but not alone.  Witnesses are needed, witnesses like John, witnesses like John's Gospel.

In a sense, John makes clear that he is of no special significance in himself but only in his relationship with Jesus.  In the words of another Bible Study participant, "John is a road worker.  He's part of Jesus' road crew.  He fixes the way and levels the roads to prepare for Jesus' coming."  Indeed, throughout the Gospel of John, on certain momentous occasions, Jesus will forthrightly declare, "I AM."  John straightforwardly says, "I am not."  Neither Messiah nor Elijah nor the Source of Light coming into the world, John identifies himself on the basis of how he identifies Jesus.

Commenting on the importance of John, one Bible Study participant remarked, "Anyone who survives on locusts has to be a hero."  And yet, John points away from himself toward the one who is coming.  His sermon is short: "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  We are told, in the opening of this gospel that the Word will be "The Light that shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it."  Even in the dark and divided times in which we live, this world is not left to its own gathering darkness, for a Light shines.  John points toward the Light coming into the world.  What do we need to do, in this time of Advent, to prepare for the coming of Christ?  All we need to do, according to John the Voice, John the Witness, is to look for the Light streaming in among us.  The Light streams in through so many ways:  Christmas cards sent to residents of the Fairport Baptist Home; phone calls of concern; voices that say, "I miss you.  Don't worry, everything will be okay.  Smile, God loves you."

Can we give testimony that having received the Light (Christ Jesus), through witnesses like John, we are sent out as witnesses to share the Light?  We are led to Emmanuel by the thoroughly human, humble witness of John.  Might we see ourselves as thoroughly human, humble witnesses through whom the Light of the World shines?

"May your light so shine before all people, that they may see your good works and give glory to God who is in heaven"  (Matthew 5:16, adapted).

Peace & Light Through Christ our Sovereign,

Pastor Greg Rupright 


12-12-2020 at 9:59 PM
Pat May
This passage is much easier to understand after thorough discussion in Bible Study!
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