A Witness

John 1:1–8 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

CONSIDER THIS

As the gospel author sets out to describe the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, before he tells the story, before he describes the miraculous happenings of healing, walking on water, and stones rolled away, before the testament of Jesus’s life, John begins with creating a foundation for who Jesus will be. It’s like he gives the story away before the story begins. He announces the Messiah before we’ve met him. Like the preview to an epic movie, or the prologue to an incredible book, we get the privilege of orienting ourselves to the one we’re about to discover. And as the gospel writer lays out these beginning, orienting pieces, he makes sure to include an honorable mention. Right in the middle of defining and describing the light of Christ, the hope of the world, and the long-awaited Messiah, he redirects to John.

A man sent by God. A witness sent to testify to the light so that all might believe.

He was not the light himself but a testament to it.

In the middle of this divine introduction, we’re intentionally directed to a secondary player in the story. But one that’s essential enough to gain a spot in the opening credits. Even as the Gospel of John aims to introduce us to the light that can change everything for us, he makes sure to recognize the significance of another’s contribution, a partner in the mission to bring light to the whole world. In these verses, and those following John’s opening thoughts, we hear how a witness to the light is a critical component for reflecting the light in the world. Jesus is the light. But another bears witness to the light. Light reflects, remember? And what first is a reflection of life and love from the very heart of God, out into the world, is then reflected and refracted by those who center themselves in the light. 

You’ve seen it work.

Someone captures a stream of light in their glasses, and the light bounces in other directions, pushing light where it wasn’t before. Your watch catches the sun while sitting out on the restaurant’s patio for lunch, and prisms of light scatter on the faces of the people around you, sometimes stretching to places outside of your circle. Or, like the mirrors in a childhood funhouse, the reflection from where you stand reproduces in other unexpected places. 

As the light of Christmas breaks in, in us, pushing back the darkness and illuminating our lives with the “everything” of God, its natural tendency will be outbound—this time, not from God to us, but from God through us. A critical component to the light of Christ bursting forth in us is so standing in the beam of Christ’s life and love that it naturally, easily, reflects through us to others, scattering the light of Christ beyond us into spaces and places otherwise unreached. Like with the witness John, someone’s introduction to the light of Christ will often come through the reflection, not the source. 

Though I’ve always seemed to have an awareness of God and his love (hello, prevenient grace), I was introduced to the light and love of God through other people. I’m so fortunate that my parents intentionally pointed my siblings and me to the light of Christ. They talked about him, oriented our lives around worship, read the devotions, taught me the songs, and let me witness the love of Christ in them. As my parents invited me into a life in Christ, other people became witnesses to the light too. For a handful of very formative years, Mrs. Deanna Pribble, the Sunday school teacher in my dad’s little church, who fascinated me with her long eyelashes, perfectly teased hair, and colorful laughter, pointed me to Jesus in loving ways in that basement Sunday school room. I still have a devotional book for pre-teen girls she gave me on our last Sunday there (before my father was appointed to a new church). It was inscribed with her beautiful cursive handwriting, describing the hopes she had for my life in Christ. And she would wrap her arms around me as I surrendered my life to Christ at the church’s polished altar rail a short season before. She, like so many others, reflected the love of Christ at work in them in such a way that it illuminated the light of Christ in me, allowing his light to spark to life because she allowed Christ to shine through her. 


Though the light and love of Christ can reach into any darkness, many people find their way to the light because another person is pointing the way; another person is a living example of the light, like a flight attendant pointing to the exits, showing the way. Or, even better, a soul that so sparkles with the light of Christ that you can’t help but follow. When light breaks in, in us, we become reflectors of the light, sometimes more intentionally than others, but our lives become witnesses to the source of our hope and salvation in such a way that they point others to the source of salvation too. One way the light of Christ dispels the darkness that pursues us is to leave no room for darkness because we’re too busy radiating the light. This Advent, draw so very close to the source of the light, Christ himself, that it shines into the darkness for others.

THE PRAYER

Jesus Messiah, hope for the world, we declare with gladness our gratitude for your light. We join with a chorus of saints, brothers, and sisters that know precisely who holds our hope and boldly declare that hope into the world. We don’t know why you would choose to make room for us in your story of salvation, but we’re humbled that you have. Thank you for inviting us in and giving us purpose as light-bearers in the world. We pray and believe that you can take our life of human frailty, imperfection, and struggle to make something useful of it. We trust our lives as witnesses to your glory, power, and goodness. Break forth in us so that your life in us scatters light all around. In Jesus’s name, amen.

THE QUESTION

Have you ever considered those who first reflected the light of Christ to you? Did you discover God’s love for you out of his own wooing or because someone else illuminated the way? Have you ever looked back to consider if your life has pointed someone else to the light? If you can name some who have been influenced by your faith, take a moment to offer prayer, encouragement, or support to them in some way—as a continued witness, mentor, or elder now. If no one comes to mind, how might you intentionally place yourself in relationships, ministries, or opportunities to reflect Christ’s light to those who haven’t heard? Because there’s no such thing as simply absorbing Christ’s light—find a way to reflect it.

For the Awakening,
Sarah Wanck

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

5 Responses

  1. In my opinion, the most important statement in this entire post, “Because there’s no such thing as simply absorbing Christ’s light — find a way to reflect it. Amen!

  2. Considering the simplicity of being a Child of God, we are to be like Jesus as we do, like John the Baptist; point the meaning, the fullest of life toward Jesus!
    Considering the complexity of being a Child of God, Jesus told the disciples they would do greater things! Jesus made the lame to walk, the mute to speak, the blind to see, the leper to be cleansed, and the dead to life! These are great things, so what exactly did Jesus mean when He said, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
    During the early years of the church, God was working wonders through the apostle’s hands, and some “even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least, his shadow might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:15), and “The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed” (Acts 5:16). Jesus had told them before going back to the Father that there would be many signs that would accompany them (Mark 16:17). If you read the first part of the Book of Acts, you can see that God was working so powerfully through the apostles. The word got out so that “even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and the diseases and evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:12). These were things that Jesus did, so how could Jesus tell them that they’d do “greater works than these” (John 14:27)? What greater works did the apostles ever do that superseded the things that Jesus did? Was it healing? Jesus did that. What is making the lame walk? Jesus did that, so was Jesus speaking only to the apostles or also to us? And, what greater things than these can we do today than Jesus did? I don’t think we can; Jesus is God. But we can, as a body of Christ, tell many others daily about the mercy, grace, and freedom of living in Christ.
    Learning to become like the One.

    1. From the NET footnotes:
      What are the greater deeds that Jesus speaks of, and how is this related to his going to the Father? It is clear from both John 7:39 and 16:7 that the Holy Spirit will not come until Jesus has departed. After Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit to indwell believers in a permanent relationship, believers would be empowered to perform even greater deeds than those Jesus did during his earthly ministry. When the early chapters of Acts are examined, it is clear that, from a numerical standpoint, the deeds of Peter and the other Apostles surpassed those of Jesus in a single day (the day of Pentecost). On that day more were added to the church than had become followers of Jesus during the entire three years of his earthly ministry. And the message went forth not just in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but to the farthest parts of the known world. This understanding of what Jesus meant by “greater deeds” is more probable than a reference to “more spectacular miracles.” Certainly miraculous deeds were performed by the apostles as recounted in Acts, but these do not appear to have surpassed the works of Jesus himself in either degree or number.

  3. After reflecting on those who have reflected the light of Jesus to me, and then thinking about times when Jesus’ light has been reflected from me to others, I understand more fully why it’s said there is no retiring from Ministry. Here I am Lord, send me!

  4. Here’s a witness (a confirmation) to your post today, Sarah. Yesterday morning as my wife and I were praying with another couple about what to focus on for an interactive campus ministry gathering we co-lead on Sunday nights at a technical college in Nashville, we felt like God told us that the topic was to be how to be a witness for Jesus. Reading your post this morning is such a confirmation for me that we heard from the living God, and that you did too. Thank for hearing and obeying the Spirit. and showing that “a witness to the light is a critical component for reflecting the light in the world.”

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