We might wonder why John the Witness would find such a prominent place in the few verses of the prologue to John’s gospel. It’s because of his function as a witness. John stands as a representative of Old Testament prophecy and promise that point to Jesus Christ as the one in whom all is fulfilled. John is the greatest of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Matt. 11:11) because he is the last of its prophets. The One prophesied about has come. The One who is Himself the message prophesied has come. He is the Word incarnate (John 1:1, 14).
While the other three Gospels call this forerunner John “the Baptist” (e.g., Matt. 3:1; Mark 6:14; Luke 7:20), John the gospel writer never does.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness,
to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.” (John 1:6–7, NKJV)
Standing before Pontius Pilate, Jesus declared: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:36–37). To Jesus’s statement Pilate replied, “What is truth?” (v. 38).
What is truth? That’s not an easy question to answer. What would you say if a child asked you that? It’s one of those deep metaphysical inquiries that defies simple explanation. In fact, John records no answer from Jesus. Perhaps the reason is that the entire gospel of John addresses that question.
In his gospel account, John is concerned to distinguish truth from error and to highlight the uniqueness and exclusivity of Jesus as the truth. One of John’s favorite words is witness. We might think of a witness in a trial who testifies to what he or she has seen. That testimony serves to confirm, to authenticate, to verify. John regularly brings witnesses to the stand to give testimony about Jesus’s identity and mission.
He begins his gospel account with John the Baptist: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.