In verse 6 the apostle John introduces another witness besides himself. He is continuing to build his case that Jesus Christ is truly the Logos, the Light that came into the world. This next witness is John the Baptist (or baptizer). Here in verses 6-9, the apostle John gives us an introductory description of him.
I. A MAN SENT FROM GOD (verse 6)
John begins his description of John the Baptist by calling him “a man sent from God”. The prophet Malachi, who lived about 450 years earlier, predicted his coming when he prophesied these words from the Lord, “Behold I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me” (Malachi 3:1). It was obvious to the parents of John the Baptist that their son was sent from God. The angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias telling him that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son in their old age. He also told Zecharias the name that should be given to the child, some details about his upbringing and filling with the Holy Spirit, and his occupation or ministry on this earth. What follows are some of the words the angel used to describe their son.
“Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17, NIV translation)
John the Baptist was “sent from God” alright! There is no doubt about that! But there is more meaning to those words. The Greek word used here is “apestalmenos”. It was used in the Greek culture to refer to an envoy: a personal representative with full authority to represent his master. The Greeks used the word to refer to a representative of a king or of one of their Greek gods. So John the Baptist was authorized by God to represent Him. The word “apostle” comes from a form of this word.
As an aside, have you ever wondered when John the Baptist came to the realization that he would be the forerunner of Jesus Christ, paving the way for His ministry? Luke 1:41 tells us what happened when Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, paid Elizabeth a visit: “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe (John) leaped in her womb.” It’s doubtful whether John remembered that experience after he was born, but his mother may have told him about it later on. John and Jesus were probably playmates at the family gatherings. I would imagine that their parents wanted them to get to know each other. I can also imagine that as a child, John had many questions to ask his parents; questions such as: “How come you and daddy are so much older than the other kid’s parents?”; “How come you never cut my hair?”; “How come I’m not allowed to eat grapes or drink grape juice?”; “How come you gave me the name John (which means “gift from God”)?” I’m sure his parents gave honest answers to his questions and he began to gain understanding. Luke 1:80 says “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.”
The defining moment came for John in Luke 3:2, “The Word of the Lord came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” John was then given his commission, his instructions, and the spirit of Elijah. Apparently he was also told to wear the same clothing as Elijah. We will be going into more detail about John the Baptist when we study verses 19 and following.
II. A WITNESS (verses 7 and 8)
The apostle John is the only gospel writer to use the word “witness” to describe John the Baptist. The Greek word is “martyrian”. We get the English word “martyr” from that Greek word. It is a legal term, referring to the verbal testimony which is given in a court of law, and to the person who gives that testimony.
Verse 8 stresses that “John the Baptist was not that light, but was sent to bear witness to that light.” John the Baptist’s relation to Jesus is somewhat like the relationship of the moon to the sun in terms of the light that each sheds on the earth. The moon does not have a glimmer of light of its own. The work of the moon is to act as a giant reflector in the sky, picking up the light of the sun and relaying that light to the earth. The moon’s function is only temporary, for the day is coming. The sun sheds its light directly on the earth during the day, dispelling the darkness in a way that the moon cannot do. As we shall see, John the Baptist’s desire was to reflect the light of the Lord Jesus Christ. As verse 7 says, John’s objective was “that all through him might believe”.
Our lives are also God’s gift to us. What we do with our lives is our gift to God. May our lives become more beautiful and pleasing in God’s sight each day as we grow in our knowledge of Him and as we give our lives wholehearted in service to Him/