Episode 6: Witness | 10 Minutes with the Gospel of John Podcasts (all) [Valid RSS]
John the Evangelist, 10 Minutes with the Gospel of John, StanHarstine.com

10 Minutes with the Gospel of John

Inviting you to Disconnect from Distractions

Episode 6: Witness

Many provide witness to Jesus and his activities

      Anyone who provides evidence to support a claim is known as a witness. This term frequently calls to mind a court room. That description is frequently provided for an overview of the Gospel of John. One reason for this image is that the overall purpose for this gospel is self-described as providing evidence for the claim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Now, to be sure, Jesus did many different signs in the
presence of his followers which have not been written
in this account, but these signs have been written so that
you can trust that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son and
so that those who continue to trust in his name may
experience life. (20:31)

Throughout this gospel there are many opportunities for an individual to metaphorically take the witness stand and provide testimony concerning this Jesus and his activities. These individuals are called to the stand not merely to provide information, but to persuade the readers of this gospel to likewise provide testimony concerning Jesus the Messiah.

In the Old Testament

     Followers of this devocast will occasionally hear references to similarities between the Gospel of John and the book of Exodus. Early in Exodus, Moses appears before God and wonders whether the people in bondage to the Egyptians would even heed him. God replies with a series of signs accompanied by these words.

If they will not believe you nor listen to the testimony
supplied in this first sign (the staff to snake)
they will believe you at the testimony provided by the
second sign (the withered hand). Yet, if they still don’t
believe you after these two signs and won’t listen to
your testimony then take some water from the river
and pour it out on the dusty, dry earth.
Then the water which you took from the river
will become blood upon the dusty, dry earth. (Exodus 4:8-9)

The relationship between signs and the witness of God’s activity has roots descending back to the earliest beginnings of the history of these Judeans whom Jesus encounters.

John’s testimony

     The first witness called to the stand is John the Baptizer, who was sent from God. John serves his primary role as a witness to the Light, the true Light, a Light found in someone other than himself. (1:6-7). Exactly when John encounters Jesus for the first time is unclear. However, after denying that he himself is the Messiah, John sees Jesus for a second time and gives his testimony.

John bore witness saying “I observed the spirit
descending from heaven like a dove and remaining
upon him. Now I did not recognize him, but the one who
sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘The one you
see whom the spirit descends and remains upon,
this one is the one who will baptize with the holy
spirit.’ I have seen and have given witness that this one
is God’s Son.” (1:32-34)

     Later in the Gospel, John makes another appearance and provides further testimony. In response to their concerns about his dwindling popularity, John reminds his followers that they are witnesses to his own declarations earlier regarding himself and the Messiah. The Gospel concludes this episode with more cryptic language about the one from above, whom John refers to as the bridegroom.

One who comes from above is over all others,
one who is not from there is from the earth and speaks
about things that concern the earth. One who comes
from heaven is over all others, He testifies concerning
the things he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his
declarations. The one who accepts his testimony
confirms that God is true. (3:31-33)

     The Gospel of John thus demonstrates the Baptizer’s primary role as a witness to the one who comes from heaven, Jesus, and that Jesus comes from God. The Baptizer’s testimony prepares and challenges the reader to accept other testimony concerning Jesus that will be forthcoming in this gospel.

Elsewhere in John

     Two episodes from this gospel help to highlight the importance of witness as one of its overarching messages. These three are not exclusive; but understanding them prepares the reader to recognize the role other episodes play as witnesses to Jesus.
John 5
     Repetition provides one indication that a concept is important. When a word or theme is spoken of on multiple occasions within a very short period of time the reader is clued in to that theme’s central role. In John 5:31-39, the word witness appears eleven different times as a noun or a verb. This frequency indicates the crucial message being communicated. Yet repetition alone is only one of the factors. In this case various entities provide testimony concerning Jesus, thus reinforcing the theme of witness.

     Jesus begins his discussion to the leaders by indicating that he can provide testimony, but his self-testimony is not sufficient. He then mentions an additional five witnesses: a vague “another one,” John, the works that he does from the Father, the Father himself, and the Jewish Scripture. This passage concludes with a statement confirming that these five witnesses are not sufficient for those opposing him and includes a subtle reminder of the cryptic words from John 3:33 discussed above, “yet you are unwilling to come to me so that you might possess life.” (5:40).

John 8
     A second example comes in response to Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the World. A group of religious leaders called Pharisees inform him that his statement is not true simply because he made it. Jesus needs others to verify his claim. While the words they use are identical to those used by Jesus in his conflict in chapter 5:31, these opposing Jesus’ claim have evidently forgotten the scene where Jesus’ names his five witnesses, who in essence validate his self-testimony. This time, Jesus grounds the accuracy of his testimony on another theme in the Gospel of John, Jesus’ origin or as is often stated, “where he comes from.” He proceeds to back up this statement of authority by calling on a second witness, the one who sent him. This specific identification with God echoes the claim Nicodemus, one of these Pharisees, made about Jesus in his earlier encounter, “we know that you have come from God.” (3:2)

Concluding Thought

     One crucial element in providing testimony is that the witness given must be true. We find this concept both in John 5--in the words of Jesus--as well as in John 8--in the words of the Pharisees, although these both define self-testimony as not true. Yet, this concept forms the conclusion to the Gospel of John.

This one is the disciple who provides testimony
concerning these events and who has written them;
we know that his testimony is true. (21:24)

The book’s final verse indicates that not everything Jesus did was written in detail in this book, subtly reminding the reader of the purpose for John’s Gospel once again--to provide testimony that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. But more importantly is what is not stated as obviously--those who believe Jesus is the Messiah will provide true testimony concerning where he is from and what he has accomplished.

Take 5 Minutes More

     In our society where lawsuits and courtrooms seem to dominate the language realm where witness is used, many face difficulties viewing witness as something they provide daily. We go to work, thus providing testimony of our responsibility. We give recommendations through various methods and means: social media, phone calls, personal communication. Witness occurs when our words or actions show our opinion of something’s value.

     The question is, how do we provide testimony to the reality that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Take a moment to reflect on your past 24 hours. When did you provide witness, positive or negative, about anything you valued? Look forward to your next 24 hours. In what way can you be more prepared to provide witness concerning God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirt? Write down your thoughts and revisit them tomorrow to see whether you had an opportunity to witness to the one you believe in.


Updated August 4, 2022