There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
Every book of the Bible was written for a reason; something needed to be said. John’s gospel was written at the end of the first century. At that time, there were some things that needed to be clarified about who Jesus Christ is.
So, John starts off with divinity. Jesus is more than just a man. He is God. He was there in the beginning. Next, John moves to depicting Jesus as light—the descriptor he will use in today’s passage. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Now John brings up John the Baptist. Why? That seems like an odd order of things, but John isn’t writing a chronology; he’s writing an apologetic.
John the Baptist was very well-known and popular in the first century. His testimony carried a lot of weight. John moves to him to build the apologetic foundation of showing who Jesus is. It’s why John the Baptist came in the first place—to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
His popularity was by design.
Notice that up to this point John hasn’t used the words, “Jesus,” or “Christ.” He is introducing Him in abstract form, first as the Word, then as Life, then as Light. This fits Isaiah’s prophesy.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. — Isaiah 9:2
John wants to make one thing perfectly clear; John the Baptist is not the light.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
Isaiah’s prophesy is fulfilled, but with two great twists.
That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
This Light coming into the world means incarnation. John hasn’t yet mentioned His human form, nor His human name, only that the true Light is coming into the world. The true Light is not a created thing.
The other great twist is that the true Light won’t just be for the Jews. It gives light to every man.
This is another thing that, at the end of the first century, John knew needed to be said.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.