John Bears Witness

Scripture     John 1:29-34


John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and declared

“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me

because he was before me.’

I myself did not know him;

but I came baptizing with water for this reason,

that he might be revealed to Israel.”



This week’s Gospel is John the Evangelist’s account of the Baptism of Jesus. Last week we prayed with Matthew’s Gospel on the Baptism and emphasized the aspect of Jesus’ transition, Jesus’ ‘vocation’ and his movement into public ministry. In John’s account of the Baptism he emphasizes and celebrates the role played by John the Baptizer. He is the announcer, the one bearing witness and the one testifying to what he knows to be true. His singular purpose in life was to launch the reign of the Lamb of God.


What was John's witness? A command and a statement. The command was "Look." The statement described the object of the command:  “Here is the Lamb of God, the one taking away the sin of the world.” In our culture, a good witness gives first-hand information. We are consumed with getting and reporting all the "facts." But, in Jesus' culture, a good witness had a good reputation. The quality of their witness depended upon the quality of their character. John the Baptizer placed his reputation, his character, and his very life at the service of his witness. His willingness to defer, to be humble, made John's witness all the more powerful.


The Unexpectedness of the Witness: And I did not recognize Him. Once again, John indicates that he did not have prior knowledge as to who the Messiah was supposed to be. He was as surprised as anyone else when it turned out to be his cousin, Jesus. How, then, was he supposed to be able to identify the Messiah? It was through a sign that had been predicted.  The sign given to the witness was: He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' This is the sign that was to authenticate the Messiah to John. It was by this sign that John was able to confirm that Jesus was indeed the One who had been promised. John the Baptist baptized a lot of people. That is how he got his name. But only in one case did the Holy Spirit descend and remain upon someone. That was Jesus. When John realized Jesus was God's Word, he experienced the divine. John saw he was only a tiny part of God's plan. But, Jesus was God's plan. Jesus existed before John and would exist after John.


The Testimony of the Witness: And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. This is the first time John the Baptist has made this statement. He has called Jesus the One who is coming. He has called Him the Lamb of God. But this is the first time that John the Baptist has called Jesus the Son of God. How did John know Jesus was the "Lamb of God?" God revealed it to John. Twice, John declared his prior ignorance. Twice, John pointed Jesus out. The first time, John stated that he baptized in order to prepare the people for the Greater One. The second time, John said the "One who sent him to baptize" told him to watch for "He upon whom the Spirit remained." Only when God opened his eyes to the truth could John see his purpose in the world: to prepare and declare Jesus as God's Son. 


Jean Vanier writes in Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John:

John the Baptizer and the beloved disciple, and the first disciples, and all the disciples of Jesus throughout the ages, are called to be witnesses and to point towards Jesus, saying: “He is the chosen one of God.”
He is the one who came to heal our broken hearts, to give us peace and to lead us further into the truth. Those who are witnesses to Jesus do not give out ideas, ideologies or even doctrines.
They do not seek followers for themselves and their own glory.
Rather, they seek to lead people to Jesus.
They do not manipulate people or impose their ideas or way of life on others.
They believe in the compelling power of the truth and the freedom of people to welcome the truth or not. They speak of what they have lived, experienced, seen and heard in their hearts.
They speak out clearly, truthfully and with courage, even in the face of opposition or mockery.
They tell their story.
They tell how Jesus is healing their hearts of stone, giving them hearts of flesh, leading them into the world of universal love and compassion and breaking down the barriers of culture, fear and sin that close them up in themselves.
Witnesses tell how Jesus is transforming their lives and bringing them a new inner freedom, peace and joy. People in our world find hope when they find credible witnesses, men and women with living faith, bearing witness to the presence of God – more by their lives, their growing compassion and their dynamic love than by their ideas or their words.
Jesus said that people will know his disciples by the love they have for one another.”


Today’s Gospel challenges us to think in terms of the ‘nitty gritty’ of daily commitment. Through the call, consecration and commission of our Christian baptism, we are to understand ourselves as personally responsible for participating in and witnessing our genuine communion with God. This election demands daily attentiveness and, when necessary, daily change, conversion and growth. But we are also to recognize that baptismal commitment is a cooperative, not an autonomous endeavor. Called by God, we are also consecrated and graced by him; thus equipped for any eventuality we are commissioned by him for service. In a word, we are called, consecrated and commissioned to be a light in this world. To be light means that by our lives we illuminate and not cloud or dim his truth. As light, we become clarifiers of the values and priorities put forth in the Gospel. To be light means to be a place where others can meet and know God.  Let us awaken to our ultimate purpose - become more like John daily; totally transparent.  We will have lived well if we have become so translucent that people look completely through us and see Jesus. Here is a statement of faith that should remind us of a true Christian’s work.  John literally says, “The Messiah was not revealed to me yet; but I still did what I was supposed to do.” Our task is no different than John’s: by the way we live, point the way to Christ!

Carrying Grace           Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!



#3 arletteh 2011-01-16 12:19
And in finding, I see! And then, there is the process. As was pointed out last week, the wilderness is part of it! And this week, is it not interesting to note how so early in his gospel, John introduces Jesus as the Lamb of God .Suffering. In allowing it to transform us ,to mould us, to melt us ,we will become transparent! And then we have done the work of the Baptist: pointed to Jesus, by being Jesus for our world .Thank you all so much!
#2 arletteh 2011-01-16 12:13
To be “transparent”!T hat others might see Jesus, the Christ in us! I have often pondered these words of John’s , the Evangelist : “We shall become like him, for we shall see him as he is.”--- “Blessed are the pure in spirit, for they shall see God.” Oh, for that refinement of the spirit, so as to see God!That saying of John’s is sometimes also expressed as: “We shall see him as he is, for we shall be like him.” Ah, yes, what do I contemplate? I search for the Desired of my soul, my Beloved! And in searching, I find
#1 Mark Dickinson 2011-01-15 17:45
A beautiful reflection, Rosemary .. it's a message that truly speaks to the heart of who we are .. .and who we are to become. THANK YOU!

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