52 Reflections on the Gospel of John: #2. “His Testimony is True”
by Travis Bookout
We learned last week that the Gospel of John contains a collection of “signs” performed by Jesus. Their purpose was to produce belief in those who saw them, which would lead to eternal life. That’s the purpose of the Gospel of John (John 20:30-31). But as you read John, it becomes apparent that recording “signs” was not John’s only method in producing belief. Consider this statement John makes about witnessing the crucifixion: “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe” (John 19:35).
The purpose of this testimony is “so that you also may believe” (John 19:35), which is the same stated purpose as the signs: “that you may believe” (John 20:30). One of the ways John hopes to produce faith in the reader is by recording true testimonies about Jesus. He states several time that as an eye witness, “his testimony is true” (John 19:35; 21:24).
But John doesn’t limit it to his own testimonies. One of the ways that he reveals Jesus’ identity is by recording stories where the characters testify about Him. Starting all the way back with John the Baptist, he is introduced as “a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:6-7). The first human character in the gospel is a “witness” who “testifies.” The word “witness” could be translated “testifier,” or the word “testify” could be translated “bear witness.” Whenever you see the words “testify” or “bear witness,” those are the same Greek word, and it’s used repeatedly in John. Notice also, that his testimony is “so that all might believe” (John 1:7). Just like the signs, testimony is intended to produce belief.
But what did John testify about Jesus? Just reading through the first chapter you find a ton of things John the Baptist testified about Jesus (John 1:15, 19, 32, 34). John testified that Jesus ranks higher than him, because of His preexistence (John 1:15, 30). He testified that he is unworthy to even untie the thong on Jesus’ sandal (John 1:27). He testified that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36). He testified that the Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism (John 1:32). He testified that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:35). Not only that, but when his own disciples heard his testimony, they left to become followers of Jesus (John 1:37).
Long story short, John the Baptist is an excellent witness about Jesus. His testimony led to followers. But John was not the only one to do this. Andrew testifies to Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). Philip testifies to Nathanial, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.” Nathanial then testifies saying, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; You are the king of Israel” (John 1:49). Each of these testimonies produces more followers!
Just start adding up all the things you have learned about Jesus in these testimonies: He was preexistent, He is greater even than John the Baptist, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Holy Spirit came upon Him, He is the Son of God, He is the Messiah, The Law and Prophets write of Him, He is the King of Israel! I’d say you start getting a great look into the identity of Jesus by reading each of these testimonies!
As the Gospel continues, more characters meet Jesus and testify great things about Him! Nicodemus says, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher…” (John 3:2). The woman at the well says to her fellow Samaritans, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it? (John 4:29).” Then we find out “many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things I have ever done’” (John 4:39). Her testimony produced belief! In fact, once the Samaritans meet Jesus, they all testify, “we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4: 42).
This theme of people meeting Jesus and testifying great truths about Him is supposed to lead the reader to an understanding of who He really is. During a discussion about His relationship with the Father, Jesus states clearly that He is equal to God (John 5:18-30). But then He verifies it with his own list of witnesses: John the Baptist testified about Him, His works testify about Him, the Father testifies about Him, Scripture testifies about Him (John 5:31-47; cf. John 8:12-19).
After feeding the 5,000 the crowds testify: “This is truly the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). Peter proclaims, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68). During disputes, some would say, “‘This certainly is the Prophet.’ Others were saying, ‘This is the Christ’” (John 7:40-41). Even Jesus testifies about Himself (John 8:18) in His famous “I Am” statements. This list of testimonies is extensive and seems to culminate in the testimony of Thomas after the resurrection, in which he calls Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
So, who is Jesus? If you look at the testimonies from all the eye witnesses you get to see Jesus in all His glory. I wish I could have been there myself. I wish I could have seen the signs and made the testimonies. But I am 2000 years removed from the incarnation. That’s why I love the Gospel of John. These testimonies are written down for the reader, to produce faith in the one who couldn’t see it for himself. That’s why we need the testimonies. That’s also why Jesus tells Thomas, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).
That’s us. That’s a call to us. John is calling us to read the signs, to read the testimonies, and even though we cannot see for ourselves, believe! Those who do are blessed by God. Those who do, inherit eternal life.