John’s Witness of Jesus

The birth of John the Baptist is recorded in extensive detail in Luke 1-2. Like Samuel of old, John’s birth came to a formerly barren woman whose womb was opened in response to fervent prayer (1 Sam. 1:10-11; Lk. 1:13). Both were destined to have tremendous influence among their people. John the Baptist witnessed of himself, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight  the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). Zacharias, John’s father, was informed of the role his son would play when the angel who announced to him his wife would bear him a son told him, “and he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him” (Luke 1:17).

John lived with the knowledge that his role would be a diminishing one. “He must increase but I must decrease,” he said (Jn. 3:30). John bore witness of him and said, “This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me for he was before me” (Jn. 1:15). All three of the synoptic gospels record John’s testimony that the coming Messiah was mightier than he, the latchet of whose shoes John affirmed he was not worthy to untie (Matt. 3:1; Mk. 1:7; Lk. 3:16). All three record John’s statement that Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit, and while John’s statement that Jesus was mightier than he might imply something of His divine nature, John’s words in the gospel of John leaves no doubt that he knew Jesus was divine or God. Twice John said, “After me cometh a man who is become before me, for he was before me” (Jn. 1:15, 30). And while Matthew records John saying, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I,” that does not necessarily imply Jesus’ pre-existent nature as Jn. 1:15, 30 do. Some could have concluded John’s reference was to the fact that he worked no miracles while Jesus would work astonishing, mighty ones (Jn. 10:41).

There is no doubt the gospel of John shows John had a fuller knowledge of the nature and work of Jesus that the synoptic gospels reflect. Given that the statement, “There is one coming after me, who is become before me, for he was before me” strongly shows that not only the popularity and influence of Jesus would have on His people would eclipse that of John, the statement of John in 1:34, “I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” leaves no doubt: John knew Jesus was God’s Son.

John’s gospel reveals another facet of the work of Jesus when John saw Jesus and announced, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:15), and, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:30). Seven hundred years earlier Isaiah had written, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” heralding both Christ’s innocence and His willingness to “lay down His life for my sheep” (Jn. 10:15). Peter wrote, “Knowing that ye are redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver and gold from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with precious blood, as of a Lamb without spot and blemish” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Paul urged the Ephesian elders to “feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Years later, after both Paul and Peter’s tongues were silenced by their martyrdom, John saw in a vison a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain and of which the four living creatures and twenty-four elders praised by singing, “Worthy art thou to take the book and to open the book, for thou was slain and didst purchased unto God with thy blood, men of every tribe and tongue and people and nations, and madest them to be unto God a kingdom and priests and they reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10). Truly Jesus is “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” (Jn. 1:29). This was the witness of John the Baptist about Jesus.

Jim McDonald