The prologue to the Gospel of John (John 1:1-18) serves as an introduction and outline to the main truths that the apostle John wanted to communicate to his readers. First, the apostle John mentions the deity of Christ (John 1:1-5). He is co-eternal and co-equal with God and He was coming into the dark world of sinful men to be the light of men. Second, the apostle John mentions the witness of John the Baptist (John 1:6-8). John the Baptist was sent from God to testify about Christ so that all might believe through him. Third, the apostle John mentions the incarnation of Christ, different responses to Him, the new birth, and Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Tabernacle (John 1:9-14). Fourth, the apostle John mentioned the testimony of John the Baptist for a second time (John 1:15). Fifth, the apostle John mentioned the ministry of Christ in explaining God as Father (John 1:16-18).
How does this outline work itself out in the rest of the Gospel of John? First, all through the Gospel of John the deity of Christ is established. I mean He turned water into wine and not over months or years but in an instant (John 2:6-10). He told a Samaritan woman everything she had ever done on His first encounter with her (John 4:29). He healed a royal official’s son from many miles away just by speaking three words, “Your son lives” (John 4:53). He healed an invalid of thirty eight years simply by saying, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (John 5:8). He fed five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (John 6:9-13). He walked on water during a storm to rescue His disciples (John 6:15-21). He healed a man born blind (John 9:1-11). He raised a man from the dead that had been dead and buried for four days (John 11:39-44), just to name a few. Second, John the Baptist witnesses about Christ (John 1:19-34) as a parallel to John 1:6-8. Third, the different responses to Christ begin to be revealed. Christ’s first converts are mentioned (John 1:35-51). Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Tabernacle is mentioned (John 1:29, 36), along with many other references to His fulfilling all the other elements of the Tabernacle. Jesus discussed with Nicodemus the necessity of the new birth and how it happens (John 3:1-15). Fourth, John the Baptist testified about Jesus again (John 3:22-36). Fifth, Christ revealed God as Father, willing to forgive, over and over through John’s Gospel.
Here (John 1:19-28) we have come to the portion of the Gospel of John that begins the first testimony of John the Baptist. This is very important for several reasons. First, the Bible makes it plain that every fact was to be confirmed by the testimony of at least two witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; John 8:17). John the Baptist was a witness to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light (John 1:7-8). God saw to it that Jesus was not alone in testifying about Himself (John 5:31). So, to confirm the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, John the Baptist testified to the truth that Jesus is the Christ; the works of Jesus testified to the truth that He is the Christ; the Father testified to the truth that Jesus is the Christ; and the Scriptures testified to the truth that Jesus is the Christ (John 5:33-47).
A second reason the testimony of John the Baptist is very important is because it reveals the characteristics of true witnesses about Christ.
I. True witnesses do not seek their own glory (John 1:19-23).
A. He is not the Light – (John 1:19-21)
1. The Jews expected the coming of Christ (1:19-20; Malachi 3:1)
2. The Jews expected Elijah to precede the Christ (1:21; Malachi 4:5-6)
3. The Jews thought John the Baptist was surely the Christ (1:21). Asking the Baptist if he was the Prophet meant that this delegation sent from the Pharisees (1:24) thought for sure he was the Christ because that is what the Pharisees at the time speculated. If he was the Christ, the Pharisees were sure that he would need them to put their stamp of approval on his ministry and through that get his stamp of approval on theirs.
B. He is only a lamp – (John 1:22-23) see also John 5:35
1. The committee had been sent by the Pharisees, who speculated that the Baptist might be the Christ, to verify their speculation and get his stamp of approval on their importance (1:22). Having thoroughly deflected the accolades the religious establishment was willing to lay at his feet, the committee insisted upon an answer from the Baptist– “What do you say about yourself?”
2. His answer was that he was not the Light but a lamp. He was not the Word but a voice. He was not the Prophet but a preacher. John would not receive their glory nor would he give them any glory. The Jews were willing to rejoice for a while in his light thinking that he would give them glory (John 5:33-35). The temptation to receive glory from the religious establishment and stay in good standing with it by giving it glory is more than many supposed witnesses can resist. True witnesses do not seek their own glory.
II. True witnesses do not reverence men they reverence God (John 1:24-28).
A. They do not bow before the authority of the religious establishment (John 1:24-25)
1. This welcoming committee was backed with the authority of the most dedicated and most powerful in the religious establishment – the Pharisees (1:24). This was a powerful committee.
2. The welcoming committee quickly became the cold-water committee questioning the Baptist’s authority (1:25)
B. They bow before the authority of God (John 1:26-28).
1. The Baptist told them that they do not KNOW the Christ and therefore they would be unable to accept the origin of his authority (1:26). He did not need their approval to be a minister of God (see Luke 20:1-8).
2. The Christ is the one to whom the Baptist bows (1:27)
3. This was happening on the doorsteps of the religious establishment. Bethany was located on the eastern slope of the Mt. of Olives about two miles southeast of Jerusalem – about a 55 minute walk.