“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe” (John 1:6–7).
Why does the writer of this gospel introduce John the Baptist like this? It seems abrupt. Verse 5 is talking about the light shining in the darkness and the darkness not overcoming it, and verse 9 goes on to talk about the Light coming into the world. And verses 6–8 seem like an interruption. Why not get Jesus all the way introduced, and then introduce John the Baptist?
Well, the effect of the way he did write it is to make crystal clear from the very outset that God’s way of letting the light of Christ shine in the world is by human witnesses. God’s way of pushing back the darkness is by human witnesses. It didn’t have to be this way. God could have caused the light of Christ to spread in some other way. He could have done it with angels. He could have written the gospel in the sky with big puffy white letters made out of clouds. He could have caused the wind to talk. But instead God chose to call and send human beings to bear witness of the Light.
This general principle is even more clear because John was sent to testify to the Light while the Light was there. As soon as the Light was in the world—as soon as Jesus came—God prepared and sent a human being right alongside the Light to bear witness to the Light. Jesus did not need John the Baptist to make Him known. He could have managed by Himself—He was the light of the world. But evidently God’s wisdom dictates that His Son should be heralded, announced, and proclaimed by people that He sends.
There are at least two implications of this for you today.
1: Be alert to the call of God in your life. All Christians are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:16). All are called to witness to the light (Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 2:9). But God still calls some in a special way and for special tasks. “The Lord of the harvest … will send forth labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38). “How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14–15). “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28).
It may be a vocational sending to the ministry. It may be a single or periodic sending for some special mission (across the ocean or across the street). But it is God’s way to speak to a person and send that person to testify of the light. Be ready and open to hear that call and accept that commission. Don’t assume that what you are doing now is your only mission for the future.
2: Be ready to hear the testimony of others sent to you. God means to communicate to you not merely through your own private Bible reading, but also through other people. He means to communicate to you through preachers and teachers and through godly people in your life. We should be aware that it is God’s way to communicate with us through those that He calls and sends. Otherwise, why send them if He has nothing to say to us through them?
I pray that by the time my life is over on earth, thousands of people will have heard such a decisive, life-changing word from God through me that they will say, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John Piper.” And I wonder how many will say, “There was a person sent from God whose name was you”?
—John Piper, adapted