George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
John the Witness-Bearer
John bear witness of him and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me--Joh. 1:15
The Large Place Witnessing Has in Scripture
The thought of witness-bearing finds ample expression in the Bible. "Witness" is one of the key words of the Scripture, occurring in the early records of Genesis and in the writings of prophets and apostles. It makes an interesting study to collect the passages in which the word "witness" is found. Sometimes it is God who is the witness; at other times it is the arching heaven above us. Then we read that when Joshua had made a covenant with the people, he took a great stone and set it up under an oak tree, and said, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us" (Jos. 24:26-27). Christ Himself is spoken of as a witness--"Behold I have given him for a witness to the people" (Isa. 55:4); Paul tells us that God had never left Himself without a witness (Act. 14:17); and it was at the feet of that same Paul that the witnesses laid down their clothes in the hour when Stephen cried, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Act. 7:59). Let us remember, too, that when we believe on Jesus, there is a witness which we have in ourselves (1Jo. 5:10). Such passages as these help to make plain to us what a large place the witness has in Scripture. The Baptist is not isolated in his witness-bearing; he is one of a great and evergrowing company. Let us try, then, to gather up some of the things to which John bore witness. It may be that we also, like the Baptist, may be sent to be the witness-bearers of Christ Jesus.
Witness to the Presence of Christ
First, then, John bore witness to the presence of Christ. The Jews were eagerly expecting the Messiah. They were thrilled with the hope that He was coming. God had awakened such a longing in their hearts that they knew the advent was not far away. So were they straining their eyes to the east and to the south; so were they anxiously awaiting some splendor of arrival; and John bore witness that the Christ they looked for was standing among them even while he spoke (Joh. 1:26). He was not hidden in the clouds of heaven; He was not lurking in some far concealment; He would not burst upon them in any visible glory, nor with any credentials that would be instantly accepted. Even while John spoke the Christ was there, moving among them as a man unknown--John bore witness to a present Lord. Now that is a witness which we all may share in. We may show our neighbors that Jesus is among them. We may make it plain to our visitors, as John did, that Jesus of Nazareth is not far away. And we do this not so much by speech or by having the name of Jesus on our lips as by revealing His love and power and patience in the general tenor of our lives. There are some men who immediately impress us with the fact that they walk in the company of Christ. There is no explaining the impression that they make unless it be that they are living with Jesus--their secret is, they have a Friend. That is true witness-bearing, and it is like the Baptist's. It is a witness to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Witness to the Greatness of Christ
Again, John bore witness to the greatness of Christ. Of course the Jews were expecting a great Savior; all their long history made them sure of that. The threefold dignities of king and priest and prophet were to mingle in the person of Messiah. But greatness has diverse meanings; it is touched with a thousand differences on a thousand lips; and when a nation falls from its high ideals, as the Jews had fallen in the time of John, the great man of the popular imagination is not the great man in the sight of God. Now this was part of the witness-beating of the Baptist, to reveal the true greatness and glory of Messiah; to single Him out as He moved amid the people, and proclaim that He was greater than them all. There were no insignia on Jesus' breast; He was not clothed in any robes of state; there was nothing in His adornment or His retinue to mark Him off as one who was truly great. And it was John's work to pierce through all disguise and see the grace and glory of the Man and cry that though He had no beauty that men should desire Him, yet none was worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet (Joh. 1:27). In different ways, and yet in the same spirit, we should all be witness-bearers to Christ's greatness. It is always possible so to think and act and live that men will feel we serve a great Commander. He who thinks meanly and does petty and foolish deeds and has no lofty ideals clearly before him is not commending an exalted Savior. It is in a spirit that is so touched to reveal spiritual greatness, however humble be the believer's daily round, that witness is borne to the greatness of the Lord.
Witness to the Lowliness and Gentleness of Christ
Once more, John bore witness to the lowliness and gentleness of Christ. I think that if John had been a time-server, and had cared only to flatter Jewish prejudice, he would have told his audience that the Spirit had descended, not like a dove, but like an eagle. It was not a dove for which the Jews were looking. They wanted a power to expel the Romans. What a chance for a false prophet this would have been, considering the symbolism of the Roman eagles! But John could only tell what he had seen--a faithful witness will not lie (Pro. 14:5)--and he bare record saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove" (Joh. 1:32). That means that almost in the teeth of his own stern heart, John bore witness to a dovelike Savior. There was to be a brooding peace about Messiah, a lowly gentleness, a still small voice. And when we remember what John's own nature was and think of the Christ of common expectation, we see how true and faithful was this witness-bearing. May not we, too, bear witness in our lives to the lowly tenderness of our Redeemer? May we not make it plain, as John did, that the Lord whom we know is filled with the dovelike Spirit? We do that whenever we master temper or check the bitter word or take the lowest place. We do that when our unforgiving hearts and our stubborn and proud and selfish wills become imbued with that love and thoughtful tenderness which is the very spirit of Christ Jesus.
Witness to the Sacrifice of Christ
Lastly, John bore witness to the sacrifice of Christ. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Joh. 1:29). John had roused the conscience of the people; he had awakened in them the sleeping sense of sin. Jewish missionaries tell us that today that is still the first thing they strive to do. But when the sense of guilt was roused in them--what then? Then John's great work of witness-bearing reached its peak. So it may be with every one of us. We, too, may be witness-bearers of the sacrifice. We may so hate and abhor and shun all sin, we may so feel the price of our redemption, we may so live in the sweet sense of pardon, we may be so hopeful for the lowest and worst men, that our life (unknown to us perhaps) shall be a witness-bearing to Christ crucified.
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