John [the Baptist] testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John 1:15
If you were on evangelism calls with members of your congregation, would you really stop a stranger or go up to a door and say, “Hi! We’re from Christ Lutheran Church, and we would love to share with you this message, that ‘the one coming after us has surpassed us because he was before us’?” Would you put that on a church mailer or brochure?
That message may not connect with prospects today, but in John’s day, the testimony he gave would have been heard in a completely different way. In particular, they would have picked up on the words, “He who comes.” In John’s day, “the Coming One” was a well-known epithet for the Messiah. The audience would have known of whom John was speaking—the one promised to Adam, to Abraham, to David, to the world. And when John testified, “he was before me,” some of them may even have understood that the Coming One would be “the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.”
But most important is that John’s testimony pointed to Christ as the one the people should put their faith in. John, knowing he must become less, turned their focus away from himself to the true Savior soon to make his appearance.
John never lived to see the full revelation of God’s glory in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. But with eyes of Spirit-given faith, by God’s grace we have. In this way our testimony about Jesus may use different words for a modern world, but at its core it is exactly the same as John’s: Put your faith and trust in the one who came and won your redemption. Put your faith and trust in the one who is coming again to judge the world! For he will never drive away anyone who comes to him in repentance and faith (John 6:37), and whoever trusts in him will never be put to shame (Psalm 25:3; Romans 10:11).
Lord Jesus, you sit at the highest place in heaven, the place to which your Father raised you up after you won our salvation. By your Spirit, strengthen our trust in you, and fill us with joy in the hope you have freely and graciously given to us. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Keith Wessel serves Martin Luther College as a professor of Latin and Greek.