Testimony to the Light
When you read through all the books of the Jewish Scriptures and come to the final two verses, you find that the last thing God said to his people was a promise: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.”
Since the writing of those verses in the book of Malachi around 430 B.C., Jewish people have been hoping for the arrival of Elijah to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Even today, when Jewish people celebrate Passover, they set an extra chair at their table, in hopes that Elijah will come and fill that seat. Every year, during the meal, someone will get up from the table, go to the door, and look to see if Elijah has come.
Just a few verses into his story of Jesus, John points our attention back to the promise of Malachi 4:5-6, that God would send his servant to prepare the way of the Lord. John writes, in John 1:6-9, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
How did John go about the task of preparing the way of the Lord? How did he go about the work of testifying to the light?
John fulfilled his assignment by doing two key things: He strove for what is good and just, and he pointed to Jesus.
In striving for what is good and just, John called people to repentance. He told people to turn away from their sinful ways. He told them to act with integrity and with compassion. He even told Herod Antipas to repent of his corrupt relationship with his brother’s wife.
In pointing people to Jesus, John spoke of Jesus as one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, and as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. And John stressed that he must decrease so that Jesus would increase.
John the Baptist had a unique role in history. He was the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. But John also sets a model for us to follow, for we, too, are given opportunities to point people to Jesus.
How are we to do it? It seems that we are to do what John did. We are to strive for what is good and just, and we are to point people’s attention to Jesus.
We live in a world where integrity is often lacking, where hypocrisy is frequent, where cruelty is too common, and where apathy often reigns. We live in a world where people long to find individuals who act with care and kindness and sincerity and trustworthiness. A life like that draws people to Jesus.
The story is told of a woman who was crossing a street at London station when an elderly man stopped her and said, “Excuse me, Ma’am, but I want to thank you.”
She looked up and asked, “Thank me?”
He replied, “Yes, Ma’am, I used to be a ticket collector, and whenever you went by, you always gave me a cheerful smile and a ‘Good morning.’ I knew that smile and kindness must come from inside somewhere. Then one morning I saw a little Bible in your hand, so I bought one too, and I found Jesus.”
When we show genuine care for others we attract people to Jesus.
Madeleine L’Engle suggests, “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”