It seems that the Christmas season brings out the best and the worst in people. News stories will range from anonymous good deeds to store employees getting trampled. It also seems to be the time of year when those who would abolish Christmas altogether come out and make their wishes known. Some people just shake their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about; others say it a shame to have the seasons ruined; while yet others see all the hubbub as a chance to once again share what Christmas is.
Throughout the pages of the Bible, time and time again God reminded His people that they were to remember and to pass on the memories. In Christian lingo, it is called sharing a witness.
As Abraham traversed the Promised Land, he regularly left markers or altars to remind him and his descendants that something significant had taken place in that spot. The monuments left by Abraham were reminders of times when God did something that he wanted to remember and wanted his children’s children’s children to remember. The night the Israelites would be released from their Egyptian slavery, God gave Moses instructions on what would become the annual Passover celebration. Part of the observance came to include a question that would be asked about why the Passover was observed. To this question, the elder of the home would retell the story of God’s great deliverance.
As Joshua and the Israelites were crossing into the Promised Land some 600-plus years after Abraham first traveled there, God told him to have a man from each tribe to pick up a rock from the middle of the Jordan and build a monument with them on the west side of the river. Once again, this would serve as a reminder for the generations to come that God did a great thing for His people.
Sharing a witness means being ready to tell others what you know or believe which motivates you to do what you do. This is God’s plan for sharing the good news about the life-changing sacrifice of Jesus. Even early in the story of Jesus coming to seek and to save those who are lost, the example of sharing a witness is seen. Could it be that from the very beginning God was showing Christians our work in this world?
Our lesson this week comes from John 3:22-29. Take a moment to read and note what is happening in the story told in this passage. Note as well that though Jesus is not there, He is still the center of the conversation.
Since the opening of the Gospel of John, the writer has described who Jesus is (the Word), has shown who Jesus is (a miracle worker) and even questioned who Jesus is (through Nicodemus). In all these, John has been sharing a witness concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God’s Messiah.
As the story continues, the question is raised once again concerning the true identity of Jesus. This time, John the Baptist is called upon to share.
John the Baptizer was doing his work of calling people to repent from their sins and as evidence of that repentance they were to be baptized (3:23). When asked what he thought about Jesus baptizing more folks than he (3:26), John reminds them of three things. First, he tells them that he can only do what God has sent him to do (3:27). He recognizes that he has been commissioned or called by God to do his work. He also recognizes that he must only do what God says.
Next, he says that his work is to announce the coming of the Messiah (3:28). He tells them that he is thrilled because Jesus is the One for whom they were all waiting. John alludes to this when he says that he is not the Christ but has been “sent ahead of him.” In saying this, John is referring to Isaiah 40:3 and the one who would prepare the way for coming of the Lord.
Thirdly, John tells them who Jesus is. John reminds them that Jesus is the Christ (Verse 28) and the bridegroom (Verse 29). To be the Christ is to be the one sent to save or deliver people from something they cannot save themselves from. And to be the bridegroom reminded the people of the relationship that God desires with humanity. In the Old Testament, God was the husband of Israel, which was wonderfully illustrated in Hosea 1-3. This relationship is also seen in the many references to Israel committing “adultery” by worshipping false gods, i.e., going after another man.
In all this, John says that he is absolutely filled up with “calm delight” (joy). He was more than satisfied simply sharing a witness of who Jesus is and why He came. When John said that his joy was complete, he used a word that means to be replete, furnished, filled up, leveled as filled to the brim or fulfilled. In other words, John needed nothing else in his life to satisfy him than to tell others about Jesus.
During this Christmas season, may God’s people share the same sentiment as John the Baptist. May we find our joy complete, not in what we receive but what we share. And not what we share from a store but what we share in a witness. May all believers be ready to give a reason for the hope within us. May we share a clear witness of who Jesus is and why Jesus came.
Next week, we will hear the end of John the Baptist’s witness and find that it really is all about Jesus.
Next week: It really is all about Jesus (John 3:30-36).