I really love the word “testify.” I’m not sure when this love developed or why exactly. Growing up “testify” only seemed to be used in legal dramas on TV and in church. So, maybe that’s where my love comes from — I’ve always like TV shows about lawyers (Boston Legal anyone?) and I’ve been going to church since nine months before I was born.
Another reason why I like the word is that it’s what John, one of my favorite people in the Bible, is always doing. A great example of this is found in John 1.29-34:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
Before Jesus comes on the scene (in John 1.19-28), what does John do? Testify! Then, in the passage quoted above, when John sees Jesus and baptizes him, what does he do? Testify! And in virtually every other appearance of John in the Fourth Gospel, what does he do? Testify!
Pointing to Jesus
You may have noticed that paintings and statutes of John almost always have him pointing. And he’s not just pointing at nothing or at something different each time. Instead, he’s always pointing to Jesus. Painters and sculptors must have read their Bibles because that’s a great visual depiction of what he does with his words in the pages of the Gospels.
We see this very clearly in John 1.29-34. John sees Jesus and screams out that Jesus is the Lamb of God. John says that his whole purpose has been to reveal Jesus, to point to him so that others can see. Then he says that not only does he want to draw attention to Jesus, he wants to testify about him correctly: Jesus is the Chosen One, the Messiah.
Why does what some guy named John did a long time ago matter? Well, to me, it matters for lots of reasons, but there’s one that really stands out: John can serve as an example for us today.
John testified about Jesus, so what should we do? Testify too!
- With Our Words: Don’t be lured into the “preach with your life” trap. We are called to use our words to testify about Jesus. Does that mean we shouldn’t focus on how our lives testify to Jesus too? Of course not! But we must be willing to use our words!
- With Our Attitudes: One of the chief characteristics of John was his humility. He was really popular and his ministry was growing and growing. People knew who he was. He was a regional celebrity. He could have tried to capitalize on this fame. Instead he used it to point people to Jesus, to testify about Jesus. That’s humility!
- With Our Actions: Yes, we should preach with our lives too! How we live matters and how we go about our days can strongly testify about Jesus. But the challenge here is to be intentional about testifying with our actions. In our natural state we’re tempted to be selfish and point people toward how cool we are. But when we are intentionally putting effort into testifying about Jesus with our actions, we’re less likely to be less selfish.
What do you like about John the Baptist? How do you think we should testify about Jesus? Let me know in the comments below!