If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you know how much I love the opening chapters of the Bible. Every school year starts with reading Genesis 1. So naturally I was pretty excited that the Bible Reading Challenge #samepagesummer started today with John 1-4. No one can read the opening verses of John’s Gospel without hearing echoes of the creation account.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
In verse 14 we read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” So we know that that Word is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the light of Genesis 1 and John 1 and John 8 and 2 Corinthians 4:6. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our own hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
All these passages resonate with tones from the creation narrative–beginnings, creation, life, darkness, and light. All these passages bring us face to face with the Triune God–Father, Son and Spirit. And how could it be otherwise? Jesus is the Word–the same Word that was used to speak the universe into existence, the same Word that is revealed in the pages of Scripture. The God of Genesis 1 is the same God of John 1, so of course we are going to see nothing but consistency of character within the pages of Scripture from beginning to end. As the creation narrative unfolds, we are bound to see hints of God’s redemptive purposes, which according to 1 Peter 1:20 and Ephesians 1:4, were ordained before the foundation of the world. And as the gospel narrative unfolds, we are likewise going to see the back drop of creation, the stage upon which the great drama of redemption plays out.
So when in John 1:6 we are introduced to this new player I couldn’t help but see hints of a similar character in Genesis 1 as well. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” In verse 15 we read “John bore witness about Him and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.” He continues by affirming that he was not the Christ, nor a prophet but rather “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.” Verses 24-34 give us even more insight into John’s person and role. We read there that John came baptizing with water for the purpose “that He might be revealed in Israel.” Again we have John bearing witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
When you consider the role of the Holy Spirit as the Supreme Witness–the one sent to testify to the glory of the Son, the member of the Trinity always at work exalting the person of Jesus Christ–doesn’t it make sense that our first introduction to both He and John are with the backdrop of wilderness, darkness, water and then glorious Light!
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Think about the fact that we get “without form and void” from the Hebrew tohu wabohu, meaning an empty, unformed, chaotic wilderness. And then consider that the description of the Holy Spirit’s movement over the waters comes from the Hebrew rachaph, which is to brood, like a bird over her nest of eggs. So when you have John, the voice of one crying from the wilderness, baptizing with water for the purpose of revealing the Son of God, testifying to the Light come into the world, and this same John sees with his own eyes the Spirit of God descend like a dove over the waters of Jesus’ baptism, well I just have to assume this John the Baptist guy ain’t your average witness.
In fact Jesus Himself said that “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11).” What made John so great? Luke 7:28 seems to indicate that it was his becoming the least that made him so great and indeed his words in John 3:22-36 bear evidence to his role as the lesser bearing witness to the greater. Indeed, John’s assertion “He must increase, but I must decrease” should be the believer’s mantra each and every day.
We often hear of Christ figures, and we read of types and shadows in the Old Testament that point us to the Messiah in the New. John the Baptist is indeed an Old Testament figure in that he appears to us before the coming of Christ. But his role as witness, testifying to the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world, seems to be couched in terms that point us to none other than the Holy Spirit. When we read of John’s humility, we should be overwhelmed by the Spirit’s humility. The Spirit who is God Himself, and yet seeks not His own glory, but rather testifies and bears witness to the glory of another.
It is this same Spirit that breathed out Scripture, giving us the glory filled revelation of God in the face of Christ Jesus. It is His testimony IN HIS OWN WORDS! Won’t you listen to what the Holy Spirit has to say concerning the person of Jesus Christ? Just for 5-10 minutes a day? You can do so and be on the same page as thousands of other Christians each day through the Bible Reading Challenge. By reading 4 chapters a day, 5 or 6 days a week, you can finish the entire New Testament but the end of the summer!
To whet your appetite for the book of John and every page that follows here are a couple links to some messages worth every minute of listening to.
Click here and here for an excellent 2-part series by Christopher Ash called “Word and Spirit in John.” And click here for a stunning message by John Piper about John the Baptist called “He Must Increase, I Must Decrease.”