約翰福音信息之六---施洗约翰的身份与使命（The Identity and Mission of John the Baptist）
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (John 1:6-8)
I. Introduction （引言）
According to the apostle John, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, the creator, the Life and the true light, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood (or, overcome) it.” (John 1:5)
And later on, in John 1:9, it continues saying, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” So, John 1:9 was perfectly connected to John 1:5 in the stream of the flow.
Then the question arises: why John 1:6-8 was there? It looks like a parenthesis and a kind of interruption.
Remember the purpose of the gospel of John, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
To serve as the proof and evidence, the author of the gospel of John recorded seven miracles and seven ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus Christ. In addition, he also provides seven personal witnesses, among whom John the Baptist was the first and the most important witness.
II. The identity of John the Baptist （施洗約翰的身份）
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.”（John 1:6）
The gospel of John begins with a unique theological prologue, it traces the Word far back even before the universe, the time and the space came into being.
In the very beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was the creator of all things, and Life was in Him, and He was the source of the Light. All these concepts, the Word, the Creator, the Life, the Light, once put together, it clearly reveals the divine nature of the Word---He is the almighty God. (John 1:1-5)
太初有道、道與神同在、道就是神。他是萬物的創造者，生命在他裡面，他是光的源頭。所有這些概念，包括道，造物主，生命，光，放在一起，就清楚地揭示了道的神性-- 他是全能的上帝。 （約1：1-5）
When it comes to John 1:6, “a man” came into the scene: “there came a man.” (John 1:6)
到約翰福音1：6 “有一個人” “一個人”進入了場景中。（約1：6）
It forms a sharp contrast, the author of the gospel of John shifts his focus from the Divine Word now to a mere man, whose name was John, not the apostle John, who was the author of this gospel, but John the Baptist, he came as the witness for the Word, namely Jesus Christ.
Who was this man John the Baptist?
He was not an ordinary man; he was a very special man “who was sent from God” directly---John the Baptist was the very unique witness for Jesus Christ and a very powerful servant of God. His name was given by angel even before his birth---John---the grace of God, which was very fitting, for he was chosen by God to be the prophet and the forerunner of Christ.
他不是一個普通人。他是一個非常特殊的人，“直接由上帝差遣來的”-- 施洗約翰是耶穌基督的特殊見證，也是神所差派的一位大有能力的僕人。甚至，在他出生之前，天使就賦予了他的名字。 “約翰”-即神的恩典，用在約翰身上恰如其分，因為他被神選為基督的先知和先行者。
A. His coming was prophesied （旧约的预言）
“The story of John the Baptist stretches back hundreds of years (750 years) before Christ. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah the prophet of God prophesied about a special person who would arrive on the scene to prepare hearts of Israel to receive their Messiah.” (David Welch)
“A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’” (Isa 40:3-5)
有人聲喊著說：在曠野預備耶和華的路 ，在沙漠地修平我們神的道 。一切山窪都要填滿，大小 山岡都要削平；高高低低的要改為平坦，崎崎嶇嶇的必成為平原。耶和華的榮耀必然顯現；凡有 血氣的必一同看見；因為這是耶和華親口說的。(賽 40:3-5)
The book of Isaiah is divided in two major parts: the first part of the first 39 chapters pronounces the message of judgment for the sin of the nation of Israel; the second part of the latter 27 Chapters declares the message of Comfort of the Redeemer for His people.
So the second half begins with these words: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” (Isa 40:1)
Yet the comfort message starts with a voice calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” (Isa 40:3)
因此，下半部分的開頭是：“你們的神說 ： 你們要安慰，安慰我的百姓 。”（賽40：1）
When John the Baptist came into the scene, the gospel authors Matthew, Mark and Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, unanimously declare that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophesy of the book of Isaiah.
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’” (Matt 3:1-3)
那時 ，有施洗的約翰出來 ， 在猶太的曠野傳道 ，說：“天國近了 ，你們應當悔改！”這人就是先知以賽亞所說的。他說：“在曠野有人聲喊著說：預備主的道，修直祂的路！”（太3：1-3）
In addition to the book of Isaiah, the book Malachi also recorded the prophesy concerning John the Baptist. “See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.” (Mal 3:1)
除了以賽亞書之外，瑪拉基書還記錄了有關施洗約翰的預言。“萬軍之耶和華說： “我要差遣我的使者在我前面預備道路。你們所尋求的主必忽然進入他的殿；立約的使者，就是你們所仰慕的， 快要來到 。”（瑪 3：1）
And the book Malachi ends with this prophecy concerning the Lord’s messenger, that is John the Baptist. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." (Mal 4:5-6)
瑪拉基書以關於主的使者，即施洗約翰的預言結尾。“看哪，耶和華大而可畏之日未到以前，我 必差遣先知以利亞到你們那裡去。他必使父親的心轉向兒女，兒女的心轉向父親，免得我來咒詛遍地 。”（瑪4：5-6）
Notice the uniqueness of John the Baptist, who else in human history was prophesied 750 years ahead before he came into the world? Who else in human history will be called the very messenger of the Lord God? Who else has such a privilege and honor to be the forerunner for Jesus Christ the Savior of the world?
Therefore, Jesus Christ ever commented on His forerunner John the Baptist, “Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt 11:9-11)
因此，耶穌基督曾这样評價他的先行者施洗約翰。“你們出去究竟是為甚麼？是要看先知麼？我告訴你們，是的，他比先知大多了。經上記著說：我要差遣我的使者在你前面預備道路，所說的就是這個人 。我實在告訴你們，凡婦人所生的，沒有一個興起來大過施洗約翰的；然而天國裡最 小的比他還大。”（太11：9-11）
B. His birth was foretold （出生的預告）
Luke 1 gives the significant background of John’s family, his father Zechariah was a priest, his mother Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they were childless, because Elizabeth was barren.” (Luke 1:6-7)
Once when it was Zechariah’s turn to serve as priest in the Temple, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. …he will be great in the sight of the Lord, …and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. …And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:13-17)
當撒迦利亞輪到聖殿中擔任祭司時，耶和華的使者向他顯現，“撒迦利亞，不要害怕，因為你的祈禱已經被聽見了。你的妻子以利沙伯要給你生一個兒子，你要給他起名叫約翰 。 …… 他在主面前將要為大，…… 從母腹裡就被聖靈充滿了。…… 他必有以利亞的心志能力，行在主的前面，叫為 父的心轉向兒女，叫悖逆的人轉從義人的智慧，又為主預備合用的百姓。”（路1：13-17）
Notice that the angel’s declaration also pointed back to the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6, John the Baptist will have the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah, to prepare the way for the Lord.
“John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matt 3:4)
John the Baptist was unique in every way: He was filled with the Holy Spirit even when he was in his mother’s womb. When he started his ministry, his lodging place was rough in the desert, his diet was as simple as locusts and honey, his dress was unconventional of camel’s hair, yet his message was powerful urging the Israelites to repent from their sins, his boldness was confrontational like his predecessor Elijah that he even boldly stood up against the king Herod which eventually costed him his life.
III. The Mission of John the Baptist （施洗約翰的使命）
“He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” （John 1:7-8）
A. John testified concerning the Light（为光作见证）
All the four gospels begin with or include John’s ministry. (Matt 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 1:11-17; 57-79; 3:2-6; John 1:6-8)
“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—a voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:1-4)
After 400 years silence, God sent a voice in the wilderness to pave the way for the Christ.
According to Mark, the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, starts with John’s preaching a baptism of repentance of sins.
It is the same with the gospel of John, when it comes to the account of Jesus ministry on earth, it begins with the ministry of John the Baptist.
The apostles Peter and Paul also affirmed this remark. When the apostles cast lots to choose one to take over the apostolic ministry in the place of Judas, Apostle Peter insisted that the qualification for this apostolic position is to be always with them and to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, beginning from John’s baptism.
“Therefore, it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." (Acts 1:21-22)
Paul preached at the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch, “Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.” (Acts 13:24)
The word “witness,” was used in gospel of John for 47 times, 14 times as noun for witness, 33 times as verb to testify.
What did John the Baptist testify? He testified concerning the Light, Jesus Christ.
“John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’” (John 1:15)
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me. I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31)
“Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. I would not have known Him, except that the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)
“So that through him all men might believe.” (John 1:7)
“叫眾人因他可以信。” （約 1：7)
“Believe” is the key word in the gospel of John, it appears 98 times, in accordance with the gospel’s clear theme: by believing in Him you may have eternal life.
As the forerunner of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist’s testimony is true and powerful. The huge crowds came to John as the results of his preaching and baptism.
“People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Matt 3:5-6)
John the Baptist’s testimony continued after his death, even after Jesus’ resurrection.
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John's baptism,’ they replied. Paul said, ‘John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized into the Name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:1-5)
This happened long after John the Baptist’s death, even the believers in Ephesus had some misunderstanding about John’s baptism, at least you can see the significance of John’s ministry.
And John 10 presents a marvelous summary about John the Baptist’s ministry. “And many people came to Him. They said, ‘though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.’ And in that place many believed in Jesus.” (John 10:41-42)
B. John himself was not the light （他不是那光）
“He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” （John 1:8）
John knew his identity, he knew who he is, and he knew what his mission is, he pointed people to Jesus Christ, never drew people’s attention to himself.
John was a lamp, but he was not the light. “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” (John 5:35)
After 400 years silence, the people of Israelite suddenly heard the voice from God, they were overwhelmed.
“The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.” (Luke 3:15)
“Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." Finally, they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, Make straight the way for the Lord."” (John 1:19-23)
“He is the One who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:27)
“I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of Him. …He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:28;30)
“我不是基督、是奉差遣在他前面的…… 他必興旺、我必衰微。” （約3：28；30）
He faithfully testified about Jesus Christ, he even let his own disciples turn to follow Jesus. “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” (John 1:35-37)
John was such a humble man, while all the people thought about him being the Christ, he did not draw people’s attention to himself, he was so faithful to God who sent him, he was so faithful to his calling to prepare the way for the Christ. While people thought that if he was Christ, he said that “I was not worthy to untie” the thongs of His sandals. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” （John 3:30 ESV）
約翰謙虛，當所有人都認為他是基督時，他沒有引起人們的注意，他對差派他的上帝如此忠實，對他為基督鋪路的呼召也如此忠實。當人們認為他是基督時，他說“我不配為他解鞋帶”。 “他必興旺、我必衰微。”（約翰福音3:30 ESV）
Yet when he faced the sinful men, he never compromised to confront their sinfulness. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matt 3:7-8) He boldly condemn the evil deed of king Herod and did not shrink back even it would cost his own life.
What a humble and faithful man of God.
John, was the faithful witness for Jesus Christ. We are also called to be the witnesses for Christ.
“And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, …You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:47-48)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Nothing is impossible with God, yet amazingly, He is willing to use the mortal man to work with Him, He uses human witness to testify His wonderful deeds and works.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Rom 10:14-15)
John the Baptist was a lamp, he burned himself to give light, yet when people came to him, he told them that he was not the Light, and he pointed the crowds to Jesus Christ the only true Light.
施洗約翰是一盞燈，他燃燒自己發光，但是當人們來找他時，他告訴他們，他不是真光，不是光的源頭，他把人群指向唯一真光 -- 耶穌基督。
So the Lord commands us to be the bearer of His Light. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)
At the end of his ministry, John was beheaded by king Herod because of the very sin against which he continuously preached. He was faithful to the calling and mission which God has assigned for him. We surely believe that God will award His servant greatly in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25:21)
In the end let’s meditate these questions and apply these meditations in our daily walking with the Lord:
Am I a truthful witness and servant of Jesus Christ?
Am I faithful to God’s calling like John the Baptist?
Am I a light bearer and shining in this dark world?
Am I willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel?
Praise the Lord!