LIGHT AND MIRRORS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
December 8, 2019
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
— John 1:6-8, ESV
Perhaps you have been fooled by smoke and mirrors. It may have been at a magic show, or a speech given by a politician running for president, or perhaps you tuned in to a prosperity gospel preacher. Believe what they are saying, and you’ve been smoked and mirrored. Early magicians and mystics used a flash of smoke to divert or hide, then mirrors to cast a reflection of someone or something that wasn’t really there. Politicos and heretics do the same thing, figuratively speaking, and by the time people realize they are being swindled, it’s too late, their minds and wallets are empty.
The term, smoke and mirrors, represents an antithesis to reality, honesty, and truth. A better way to see is with light and mirrors. Put a clear, bright light in a room with a good, honest mirror and you can see yourself, and other people, as they truly appear. This may not be desirable to those wishing to hide the effects of aging or weight gain. I pity the poor husband who answered his wife’s question, “Does this mirror make me look fat?,” with “No, you are fat,” but at least he told the truth.
In this brief and somewhat odd excursion in the poetic prologue of the Gospel of John, the Apostle John interjects another John, John the Baptist, as a mirror to the light, a witness for the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ is clearly the one and only light, and the best a mere mortal can do is receive and reflect that light. In the annals of biblical and human history, there has never been a better mirror than John the Baptist.
John the Baptist Reflected Jesus Christ in his World
John, the son of a Jewish priest and a devout mother, had an impressive resumé. He was the last Old Testament prophet, breaking through a barrier of silence that had lasted nearly four hundred years. He was the first New Testament preacher, know for his bold sermons on repentance and faith, for baptizing believers with water, and baptizing Jesus at the inauguration of Christ’s public ministry, thus earning the nickname “the Baptist.”
But the best thing that can be said about John the Baptist, and the best thing anyone could ever say about anyone, is that he was so much like Jesus Christ, he could have been His reflection. Christ’s light was reflected in John, and John shone it to the rest of his world. Consider how close the two were, Jesus and John:
Jesus and John came into the world through miraculous births. John was born first, about six months before Jesus. Both of John’s parents were old, and Elizabeth had proven to be barren, unable to have children all her life. The angel Gabriel visited John’s dad, Zechariah, and told him to trust God that Elizabeth could and would bear a child. Nine months later, out comes John, naturally but miraculously. There was nothing natural about Gabriel’s visit to Mary, nor the way in which the virgin gave birth to the Messiah. Jesus’ birth was supernatural and miraculous, but you can see the obvious parallel with John.
Jesus and John shared the same family. When Jesus’ mother Mary found herself unmarried and pregnant with the Lord, she got out of town for a while and went and stayed with John’s mother Elizabeth until the Baptist was born. Mary and Elizabeth were relatives according to Luke’s Gospel. The KJV uses the word “cousin” (ref. Luke 1:36), but the Greek word literally means they had the “same genes.” Mary and Elizabeth were family, so the Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were family, too.
Jesus and John both lived very short lives. Separated by six months at birth, Jesus and John died less than three years apart, at the time when both of them were in their early thirties. John the Baptist was murdered for telling the truth, by the coward Antipas and his evil wife, Herodias. The same man judged one of the three trials of Jesus that led to His conviction, also for telling the truth about God, man, sin, salvation, judgment, and the kingdom of God.
Jesus and John had a similar purpose in life. The whole of John’s Gospel will reveal that God came to us in Jesus Christ so that we may believe in Him and be saved from sin and death. John the Baptist’s purpose was the same, “That all might believe.” John led Jesus’ first followers to Jesus. Jesus, highly and lifted up, draws all men to Himself. They were light and mirror, shining and reflecting God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus and John left this world with a beautiful and rich gospel legacy. We speak of Jesus every Lord’s Day when we congregate to worship, and I pray every day in our everyday lives. We speak of John the Baptist every now and then. We glorify one, the Lord Jesus Christ, but we give thanks for the other, John. But think about this: without John, the mirror, you and I would have never seen the light, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Light and Mirrors Reveal Jesus Christ to our World
Let’s keep the Apostle’s prologue in view and try to understand the Baptist’s intrusion. We have already seen in the first five verses that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Word, true deity and one with the Trinity, the Life who gives life, and the Light, the revelation of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. After this brief look at John the Baptist, we will focus again on Jesus as light, power, grace, truth, God, and Savior. Why the look away from Jesus for a moment to glance at John?
Because John here is not the Baptist, or the prophet, or the preacher. He is simply John the “witness,” stated three times for emphasis. Without a witness, no one will know the truth about the greatness and glory of God in Christ. Jesus is the light, but the light is off stage now, at an angle just out of human sight. So how is He revealed, so others can see Him? With mirrors. It is not smoke and mirrors, but one true light and many, many mirrors.
First there was one, John the Baptist. Then there were a handful, including the author of this Gospel. Then there were hundreds, then thousands, now millions. There are millions of little mirrors in the world today, reflecting the goodness of God and the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the Light, we are the mirrors, revealing Jesus Christ to the world. How? When people see Christ’s likeness in us and our commitment to the gospel, the church, and the kingdom of God.
We have been born again, a true miracle of God. John the Baptist’s birth was a miracle, Jesus’ birth an even greater miracle, but if you are in the family of God, you were brought in by a miraculous birth, too. There is more to come on this in chapter three, to be sure, but no one is born a Christian in this world. We are born depraved, sinful, and it shows soon enough. We have to be born again, literally born from above, by God’s gracious gift of the Holy Spirit, who brings repentance and faith. Then we live for Christ, reflecting that grace, but not for long.
We are family with Jesus, the family of God, by being a part of His church. I am sure there are a few Christians outside of church life, but I guarantee you they are not mirrors properly reflecting Jesus Christ, leading people into His church. When you are in the family of God, you love the family of God, and as John will go on to say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ref. John 13:35).
We live short lives, shorter than we know. John lived to be thirty-something, Jesus thirty-something plus. We would all consider such a span to be a short life. You or I might live to be a hundred and three. But what is that against eternity? “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (ref. James 4:14). “We’ve only one life, and it will soon pass, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
We live with purpose, the purpose of bearing witness to Jesus and the gospel. The purpose of a Christian’s life is not to be faithful spouse, good parent, obedient child, good worker, active church member, although we should strive to be these things and more. The purpose of a Christians’ life is to “to bear witness about the light, that all might believe.” God put you in whatever place you are in life to be a witness for Him, in word and deed, so that the people God puts into your path might believe and be saved. How you handle this responsibility will be your everlasting legacy.
Like Jesus Christ our Lord, like John the Baptist, like every believer (and unbeliever, for that matter), you will leave a legacy. Whatever you’ve built on earth, whatever money you’ve made, whatever fame you may have achieved in business or sport, will be left behind and mean virtually nothing in the long run. But if you have received the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if you have reflected that light so that others can see Jesus, then they will be your legacy, and they will join you in Heaven, for all eternity. What, or whom, will your legacy be?
There is one true light that shines in this world,
Not the sun, the moon, nor the stars unfurled;
The Lord Jesus Christ is the true light above,
Giving grace and peace with covenant love.
He shines on our sins, the mistakes we have made,
He shines on the cross, where the price for them was paid;
He shines in the hearts of those called to be His people,
He shines in His churches, underneath every steeple.
Yet Christ cannot be seen, by the mortal eyes of men,
He lived on earth once, but is now in Heaven again;
But His light still shines abroad, for everyone to see,
In the lives of devout Christians, I pray like you and me.
We are not gods of glory, for there is only One,
But we each tell a story, of coming to the Father through the Son;
A gospel of grace through faith, Jesus died and rose to give,
Now reflected in our faces, so that others, too, may live.
Heed the words of John the Baptist, John the Apostle, too,
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and let Him live in you.
Shine the light of our God and Savior, reflect it strong and true,
For the hope of a lost and dying world is to see Jesus Christ in you.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org