The fourth gospel begins in God time and enters history only in verse 6, when “a man named John was sent from God…to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (1.6-7). Jesus has no birth story and no parents at the beginning of this gospel. Instead he has a dedicated public relations man who testifies someone greater is coming.
John the Baptist apparently preaches in such a compelling way that many mistake him for the promised messiah, but he insists no. Someone else is coming who will baptize with the Spirit. Artfully the fourth gospel uses the Baptist to build up anticipation. The Baptist is the point man. Artists often draw him pointing.
The Baptist witnesses that indeed Wisdom, God’s partner in creation, has found a dwelling in Israel. The Word has taken flesh to reveal God among us. Not until verse 29, where Sunday’s gospel begins, does the Baptist point out Jesus and identify him as the someone.
In court, witnessing and testifying require swearing to tell the whole truth about events one has observed or participated in. Testimony is also a Christian practice in which one talks about the power of God in one’s life.
Many people who grew up Catholic no longer claim their faith. The continuing flow of sexual abuse cases causes deep distrust of leaders who don’t meet their promise of zero tolerance. The whole Church suffers.
We Christians are Jesus’ witnesses today. As our courts work to find the whole truth, we in the pews must give witness to all God is doing in our lives. We must be church to one another and Christians others can believe in.
What witness do you give?