John, on his mentor John, in the Gospel of John
I had read the Gospel of John several times, but somehow missed the verses at the end of chapter 10 until I spotted them on a gravestone! I was in Bangor in Northern Ireland and went to see the graves of a friend murdered by the I.R.A., and, very near to it, that of W.P.Nicholson, who was so greatly used by the Lord, to win thousands to Christ, over 50 years ago. Engraved on his gravestone were the words,
‘“John did no miracle, but all that John said about (Jesus) was true.” And many believed on Him there.’
John, the Gospel-writer had been a follower of John the Baptist, but had left to become a disciple of Jesus. John had always esteemed John the Baptist greatly, referring to him several times in his Gospel. The mention in chapter 10 is the final reference to him. John is given high praise, yet shown to be subordinate to Christ. (Successive references to John the Baptist from chapter 1 through to 10 in John’s Gospel are shorter – a curious illustration of John the Baptist’s own words regarding Jesus that “He must increase; I must decrease”!).
Jesus had left Jerusalem, which He was not to visit again until Palm Sunday, three or four months later. He went to Bethany, beyond Jordan, where John had born testimony to Jesus at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It was here that the crowds came to Jesus and he said what he did. There are at least three insights learned about John from these verses:
1. What he did was simple – “John did no miracle”
There was nothing sensational about John’s life and ministry. His lifestyle could not have been more humble, and his preaching was far from self-centred. No miracles were done, nor attempted, nor needed. His concern was not whether or not he was living a great life, but rather to point people to Jesus. It was preaching Christ that made him great in the sight of God. However, we who trust in Christ crucified and risen, experience something more wonderful, such that even John did not enter in to (cf. Matthew 11 v.11).
It was Jesus who was to perform miracles, and the Gospel of John makes much of them. The signs of Jesus, which John points out, give authenticity to Jesus’ claims of deity. They demonstrated the truth of who Jesus is. John the Baptist did not focus attention on himself, but on Jesus, so there were no miracles.
In a media manipulated society let us not fall into the trap of believing that the sensational, which attracts attention, is what pleases the Lord. It may not be. To simply obey Jesus; to live lives uncluttered by the things that seem both attractive and even necessary; to spend time with Jesus and speak of Him, are in the sight of the Lord of great price.
2. What he said was true – “all that he said about Jesus was true”
As a herald, it was John’s duty to raise his voice in repeated proclamation of the King. John did little else than speak of Jesus, but this was sufficient. It was all that he was required to do.
He spoke of Jesus privately – to two disciples as they stood beside him. He also spoke publicly to crowds, which included soldiers and tax collectors. And all that he said was true.
John said that Jesus was from heaven, and above all things it was true.
John said that Jesus was the Bridegroom of all men and women who trusted Him as their Lord and Saviour: and it was true.
John said that the Father would not give the Spirit by measure to Jesus: and it was true.
John said that His fan would be in His hand, and He would thoroughly purge His floor: and it was true.
John said that He would be the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world: and it was true.
What John had said prophetically, we can declare knowing that in time and history, “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15 v. 3 & 4).
It is our responsibility to ensure that what we are proclaiming is “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, then God will help us as we tell others about Jesus. Trying to be politically correct and inoffensive in our witnessing robs us of God’s blessing, and in effect says that we know better than God in what to communicate. God uses the people who have confidence in Him and His Word. We must communicate , in 21st century language, relevantly, prayerfully, passionately and truthfully.
3. What he accomplished was significant - “Many believed on Him there.”
In his lifetime, John saw people repent, believe and be baptised. Yet there was more. The incident here at the end of John 10 happened at least two years after the martyrdom of John. Clearly, his words and witness remained in the people’s minds and hearts, for it was they who made this comment. This in itself is enough of a miracle in which to be glad. It is a very precious thing to be able to give thoughts and truths about Christ that cause people to consider Him, and to believe in Him.
God honoured John’s faithfulness with fruitfulness. Despite the indifference toward the Lord that we daily encounter, we should expect to see fruit. Our age may not be easy, but neither was John’s. He was beheaded for speaking the truth, and Jesus was crucified. Today we face both apathy and antagonism, but there are those who want to know the meaning of life, and the way to peace with God. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this year we could each be involved in meeting someone who is to believe in the Lord through our witness? Surely, it would be the highlight of the year!