Day 4 : John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God whose name was John
The language John (the gospel writer) uses of John (the Baptist) comes from the courtroom. John is a ‘witness’ whose job is to ‘testify concerning that light’. In truth, John the Baptist is the first of many eyewitnesses that John (the gospel writer) will call to the bar to testify to us. One after another he stacks up different people from different contexts who all met Jesus (and were not left unchanged).
Remember too that he’s not simply trying to persuade us of Jesus’ identity – as if it were some kind of argument that he was seeking to win, but rather that we might believe in Jesus. Belief in John’s gospel is (a complicated concept but is) more than simply intellectual ascent. John wants us to believe ‘that we might have life in his name’ (John 20:30-31). He wants the reality of who Jesus is, to change the reality of who we are.
And so his job was crucial – he was in a sense the last of his kind, the final prophet before the one they had all been pointing to turned up.
John the Baptist knew of course that he himself was not the main event, he was the best man rather than the bridegroom, he had a clear grasp of his role in the scheme of things. Which meant (even though he had disciples and groupies) that his ministry was marked by humility, forever deflecting attention away from himself and onto Jesus.
That’s clear a little later in chapter 1 as ministry is thriving, his influence is growing and he’s surrounded by a crowd who ask him “who are you?”, and his reply – v20 “I am not the Messiah”.
Or a little later on in chapter 3 he will famously say of Jesus
He must become greater
I must become less.
Which means actually it’s a little un-true to say that John the Baptist is the last of the prophets. Yes, he was the final one before Jesus, but his model is our model. We are prophets, we are to be those whose lives and whose lips testify to the reality of Jesus. We are to be those who, with John, claim He must become greater, I must become less as we follow the one who became nothing for us.