There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as 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.
There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.
Po, in Kung Fu Panda
I find it offensive that God sent John to testify about Jesus. If Jesus is God incarnate, why did he need to have some man tell everyone who He was? Why couldn’t he have done that job well enough himself?
Jesus did tell others who He was and why He had come. They didn’t believe Him. But the fact that the Father sent John ahead of Jesus was a mercy and a kindness to the people. It wasn’t a failure or a backup plan. As it says very plainly in the Gospels, John’s whole purpose was to prepare the people for the coming of the Christ. What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, as long as it was going to work. But they didn’t listen to Him!
Well, whose fault was that? It’s not like he tried to hide what he was doing. John told them very plainly that he had come to point them to Jesus.
Well, fine. Let’s leave John to the side for a moment. Even if he was a prophet, he was still just a man. There are many reasons I can imagine as to why the people would have rejected the words of a man. But what about Jesus? Jesus is God, right? Why would Jesus have communicated His message in a way that was misunderstood and ignored? We all know He could have made it abundantly clear who He was and what He was doing.
You mean, like, with miracles and preaching and stories and… rising from the dead?
Oh come on. Even if I grant that everything contained in the Gospels happened as recorded there, it’s obvious that many people who heard Jesus didn’t believe. What about those people?
Again, whose fault was it that they didn’t believe? Are you saying it was Jesus' fault that many people rejected Him?
Hmmm. That sounds a bit strange, but… I guess so. Yeah. If Jesus had the ability to make Himself perfectly understood, which He does, and people still didn’t believe, then wasn’t Jesus the problem?
No. Jesus wasn’t and isn’t the problem when people reject His message. Be very careful here, because you are accusing God of evil. You’re saying that when a man hears the Word of God and rejects it, that’s God’s fault.
Maybe you mean to say, “If God has the ability to make Himself perfectly understood to me, which He does, and I still struggle to believe and obey, which I do, then isn’t it God’s fault?”
Ouch! I guess I hadn’t thought of it like that.
Don’t worry. Each of us have thoughts like that come into our minds, and we have to wrangle them and submit them to Scripture.
Fair enough. I get it: we are wicked sinners, and when I am too lazy or ignorant to believe and obey God, then I should point the accusing finger at myself and not at God.
There are many people who say that they speak for God, though. There were many people saying all kinds of things at the time of Christ. And we know that the religious leaders, the very men who were supposed to lead the people to God, were no help at all! It just doesn’t seem fair. Seems like the deck is stacked against me.
This world is filled with terrible darkness, it’s true. And it’s also true that religious leaders have regularly feasted on their people through the centuries rather than serving and helping them. All true.
But this is why the Proverbs say, “Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding.” It is also why Jesus repeatedly cries out – literally when he was in person at the time, and now through the pages of Scripture – for us to come to him for light and life. This is why it is so important for us to actually wrestle with the text of Scripture and weigh it in our own minds and consciences.
Ultimately, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” This is the promise we have from Him - but we must seek after him like our life depends on it!
I still can’t get past the fact that this all could be so much simpler. I mean, we have the internet now! A single person can send out a message that can be seen by the entire world. They may not have had the internet back then, but God could have communicated by sending the people visions or dreams.
So you think it would be better for God to speak with each of us directly? There are many ways I could go in answering this question, but let me start with a question of my own: Do you think that about the president of the United States, also? You realize how ridiculous your question is, right? Why in the world should the King of the universe feel obligated to talk directly with each one of us? What king ever does that?
And besides, do you have any idea how people through Scripture respond when an angel speaks to them, let alone God? We wouldn’t be able to handle it. We would be utterly destroyed.
In His kindness, God has communicated with us in a mediated way: through His delegates and through His Word.
It’s the part about human delegates that trips me up. Seems like I would be able to follow God more reliably if I had more clarity from God about how to live on a daily basis.
Aside from blaming God again, you’re acting like God’s Word gets into us and operates on us like code in a computer. We are a very technological people, and so its not surprising that our technological tools creep into our thinking in weird ways. We think of our brains as “information processors” like a computer, and so we “download information” to someone and “process” ideas together. But you are not a computer, and the computer metaphor doesn’t go very far. We shouldn’t assume that God should communicate with us the way that Facebooks servers communicate with each other on the network. Instead, we must look at how God has done it and how he commands us to do it.
First of all, as the movie Kung Fu Panda taught us, “There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you.” You are not a computer, and you are not a formula. God is not going to upload your instructions for the day. He’s not going to push a button and have your life work out just right.
Instead, when God speaks, you are supposed to listen. If He has given us a book, we are to read it and study it. If you don’t understand, you are supposed to figure it out. If you don’t know how to figure it out, you’re supposed to find out how to figure it out.
Get the idea?
Remember what Jesus said:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Are Jesus' words like a pearl of great price to you? I can’t imagine they are if you resent them.
Ha! Fair point.
Now lets look back up at our Scripture passage. When God sent the Light into the world, He thought it best to send a man, John, into the world as a witness ahead of the Light to testify about the Light. And with few exceptions in Scripture, this is how God works: to send a message, He sends a person. John the Baptist spoke his message in person. John the Apostle wrote down his gospel to be read. Either way, there is a person on both ends of the communication.
So what am I supposed to learn from that?
The Gospel of God isn’t going to be spread like an email traveling through cyberspace. Nor is it going to be like a bolt of lightning flashing through the sky - that is what Christ’s second coming is going to be like. Instead, the Light is going to spread through the witness of Christians! Men and women who bear witness to Christ with words will be the means God uses to transform the whole world. Remember Scripture:
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
And it starts with you. God has set apart prophets and apostles and evangelists and pastors, to be sure. And those men have a special kind of calling to be a witness to the light. But anyone who has the light of Christ in him can be a witness to the light. Don’t look for some other plan for the spread of the gospel - that is the plan!
So I ask you: are you a witness of the Light? A witness is a person with experience and knowledge that can help establish the truth of some fact that is in dispute. Do you have experience of the Light in your own life? Then tell someone about it!
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.