I Have Seen And Borne Witness
Jackson Snyder, December 8, 1995


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Text John 1:6-8,19-27,29-34; 3:34-36


            What if I called a special meeting of all church members and friends, emphasized the importance of the meeting, and got a church full to come?  In the meeting, what if I in all seriousness revealed to you all that I had been sent to this church directly from Heaven - from God's throne - to tell you that I was the forerunner of Christ's second coming?  What if I revealed to you that Jesus had already returned and was here, among the people in this church?

            ...And that, before his identity was actually revealed, he had requested that each member receive a special communion in order to purify themselves for his revelation?

            What if I then told you that, in the course of receiving the special cleansing communion, an angel would appear from Heaven - and that whoever the angel touched on the shoulder would be the Christ?  What would you think?  Would you believe me?  Would you think that I had gone wacko?  Would you stay long enough to take the special cleansing communion and see if what I had predicted really would happen?  How many would get up and leave immediately?  How many would stay because they believed what I said?  How many would stay out of curiosity?

            In order to believe such a far-fetched story, you would have to have an incredible amount of trust in my integrity as a prophet of God.  You would have had to have known me intimately as a man of virtue, honor, and truthfulness; of doctrinal soundness and spiritual wholeness; of moral perfection, before you could believe my message.  You would want to know "who I thought I was, anyway," and what church official gave me the authority to make such an outrageous pronouncements.  Even if you trusted me implicitly, you probably still would not believe my story.

            But this is the claim of the man we call John the Baptist.  He appeared in the desert, and preached the gospel that God had sent him from Heaven to be the forerunner and herald of the Messiah of Israel.  And that the Messiah was already among the people round about, but that his identity would only be revealed through baptism.

            He was an unknown.  Yet over time, he earned the confidence of the common people.  He did not use his God-given gifts for material gain - no - he lived as a poor man in the arid desert, wore the skins of animals, and ate only what he could find.  So he was not afraid to be contaminated by the suffering poor.

            John the Forerunner talked the talk, but the people bore witness that he also walked the walk.  He was an honest man - he said what he meant and meant what he said.  He was not eloquent, nor did he mince his words, but was direct and to the point:  "Repent and be baptized," he urged, "for the Kingdom of God is drawing nigh."  Those round about him saw him as a prophet of integrity, although he was the messenger - his life was also the message - and the people believed him and followed him en masse, even though his report was incredible. 

            Such integrity is not a gift; it is something that must be earned over a long period of time.  Trust does not come easy.  But like the Forerunner, it is imperative that we be people of God - people of integrity. 

            Rev. George Munzing tells of a time he went to counsel a family about their son's drug use.  The father was distraught as he described the impact of drugs upon his relationship with his son.  He said, "The thing that bothers me most about his being into drugs is the fact that drugs have made my son a liar."  A minute later the phone rang and his wife went to answer.  She came back into the room with the message that the call was for the father.  He told her, "Tell him I am not at home."  Rev. Munzing then realized it was not the drugs that had made the boy a liar; his father had.  If we can't be honest and live up to our Christian principles in the small things, how will we measure up in the long run?

            Even when integrity is hard earned, there are some who will just not honor the virtuous man or woman.  The religious Pharisees would have hated John no matter how righteous he might have been.  Why?  Because they were the ones who were supposed to be holy and righteous!  John the Baptist was infringing on their territory - he was proclaiming what they should have been proclaiming, and without their official approval or authority.  "How dare he preach without a license, even in the desert!" the Pharisees might have complained.  And the people had left the legalistic religion of bondage and animal sacrifice of the Pharisees in order to follow this John out to the dessert.

            The Pharisees approached him in the middle of one of his meetings to challenge him to a debate.  There were perhaps hundreds of people there as witnesses.  The Pharisees asked him three questions:  "Who are you?  Why are you baptizing?  And who gave you authority to baptize?"

            Over the course of two days, John answers.  To the first question, "Who are you?" John replies in a voice loud enough to be heard five miles away:  "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord'" (John 1:23). 

{4} Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. {5} And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.... {10} See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him (Isaiah 40:4,5,10).

Everyone who heard John answer this question knew exactly what he was talking about.  The scriptures foretold that, before the Savior came, there would be a forerunner to announce his coming.  They knew when John answered with this prophecy, he was referring to himself as that herald.

            To the second question, "Why do you baptize," John replies: 1:{26} "I baptize with water but among you stands one you do not know. {31} ...the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel. {33} ...the one who sent me ... told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the man...'" (John 1:26,27,31,33).

            John is saying that he was baptizing so that the people might see a sign.  Everyone knew that John was baptizing the promised Savior, because when he poured on the water, the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove descended upon that man and remained - which was exactly what God told him would happen when the Savior was baptized.

            To the third question, "By whose authority do you baptize," John doesn't give an answer.  When you are a person of godly authority and impeccable integrity, sometimes the best answer is no answer at all.  Besides, if they couldn't see by what authority John baptized, you'd have thought that the Pharisees had enough sense to know that John wasn't concerned about their claim on the authority of God.

            Rather than answer about his authority, while the crowd is silent and the Pharisees are too angry to say any more, John the Baptist proclaims his testimony:

            First, he testifies that he had been sent by God as a witness to the coming of the Lord.  He uses the title "Lord" to signify to the people that the Most High God Yahweh was coming to earth, and that all creation would make the path of his coming straight.  In John's time, it was forbidden to say or even write out the sacred name of Yahweh.  But when John quoted the scripture from Isaiah 40, every Jew knew exactly who was to come.

            Second, he testifies that the Son of God had made himself known to him.  In John's time, the son, especially the first-born son, was to take the name of the father, and have all the power and prestige of the Father.  The son was an equal of the father.  John is saying that the Lord which was to come in the flesh of mankind was equal with Yahweh/God, and was in fact God coming in flesh.  And that God in flesh had revealed himself to John - John had touched him and baptized him and had seen the Holy Spirit descend upon him.

            Thirdly, John testifies that the Lamb of God had come into the world to take away the sins of the world.  By calling him "the Lamb of God," John reminds the people of the Passover lamb, whose blood, which was painted onto the door of each Israelite's home in Egypt, would protect the household from the angel of death, which was coming to take the firstborn son of every Egyptian family.  The Lamb of God would give his life for the sins of the world - so that every person who believed in him and appropriated the precious blood would be saved from their sins and saved to eternal life.

            Finally, John testifies that the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit would be empowering all those who believed in his coming.  John is telling the people that the same power that divided the waters of the sea and brought forth salvation from Egypt would be theirs again, indwelling them and authorizing them to do the same works as Moses and the great prophets before them; in addition, the baptism in the Holy Spirit would bring rest and assurance to each soul (Is 63:11-14).

            Eye witness testimony, especially from a man or woman of integrity, is a powerful, god-inspired witness to truth.  Eye witness testimony is convincing, it is uplifting and believable.  Sometimes eye-witness testimony is a matter of self sacrifice, whereas that which you testify to increases and you decrease.

            Take for instance the self-sacrificing husband whose wife got up and gave her testimony one night in church.  She said, "I'm living in a wicked place. I've had a terrible fight with the old devil all week."  The self-sacrificing husband then stood up and added: "It's not all my fault; she's tough to get along with."

            Our faith and our Lord Jesus Christ exist for the purpose of those who share them to testify about them.  Christianity is something which is meant to be seen, and Christ is somebody who was sent to be shared.  As William Barclay has said, "There can be no such thing as secret discipleship, for either the secrecy destroys the discipleship, or the discipleship destroys the secrecy."  A person's faith in the Son of God should be not only perfectly visible to all, but should be called attention to, or it will call attention to itself.

            And the testimony we bring to our family, friends, neighbors, and enemies is not so different than that of Jesus' forerunner, John the Baptist.  In fact, he has given us in these scripture passages a model for our testimony.  We can say with truth and integrity that (1) the Son of God has come into our lives.  Jesus has made himself known personally to us, and has accepted us as we are. 

            (2) He has come to us as the Lamb of God, who has taken away our sins, and has made us worthy to approach the throne of God in prayer, and the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven when we die. 

            (3) For this reason, we have, through our love for him, made him the Lord of our lives.  We follow his commandments, we love one another.  We love ourselves, and we show loving actions toward even our enemies.  And he is our Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. 

            (4) He has endued us with power and grace for righteous living, for boldness, for healing, and for prosperity, that we might give of our gifts and time and talents to others who so desperately need them.

            Oh friends, why can't you share his love in the season of his birth?  Oh why can't you be like the shepherds of old, noising the good news abroad?  Oh why can't you live as a testimony to his grace, love, and power for righteousness?

            You can!  And do you realize that in this final page of history, you and I and thousands like us are the John the Baptists of our time?  Forerunners of the return of the Savior?  And do you know that for each day that goes by that we do not share his love, there will be people who never will experience it, nor know him when he comes?

            Once upon a time there was a businessman who one night turned his life over to Jesus Christ.  After struggling along on his own strength, the next morning he was late for his train. In his hurry, he bumped into a small boy with a box of puzzle pieces in his hands, scattering the pieces across the sidewalk.  Instead of rushing on, he stopped, stooped down and helped pick up the puzzle while the train moved out of the station.  After he had finished, the little kid, who wasn't used to such kindness, looked up into his face and asked, "Mister, are you Jesus?"  Then said the man, "I realized that at least in some small way, Christ truly was in my heart" (Keith Miller, Second Chance).

            What witness of Christ shows through your life?


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