John had a special place in God’s plan to redeem the world. In John 1:6, we read, “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John” (NASB). From the three other Gospels in the New Testament, we know that this verse refers to John the Baptist. This is a different man than John, the son of Zebedee, who wrote the Gospel that bears his name.
God gave John the Baptist a specific mission (“sent from God”) that supported His overall plan to redeem the world through His Son, Jesus Christ. John’s assignment preceded Christ’s mission on the world stage as he pointed everyone he could to Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah. In the following verse, we learn that John came to witness and testify about Jesus Christ (John 1:7). In other words, His job was to shine a spotlight on “the Light” that had come into the darkness.
John’s mission put him in conflict with the mission of those who would ultimately rejected Jesus. Later on in John chapter 1, John the Baptist was questioned by a group of priests and Levites who were sent by the Jewish establishment (John 1:19-28). They were concerned about John and what he was trying to do. Neither he, nor Jesus, fit into their preconceived notions of a Savior.
The problem with a mission is that it can change overtime. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, mission creep is “the gradual broadening of the original objectives of a mission or organization.” As John pointed people to Jesus his own popularity grew. In a short time, he attracted his own group of followers who were eager to hear a message from God. Even after John death, there was a group of disciples who followed John’s teachings and ignored Jesus. (Acts 19:1-7).
The closing verse in this short section guards against confusion and mission creep. In John 1:8 is says that John the Baptist was NOT the Light of the World (John 8:12). Even though he had a significant job to do, he was not the center of God’s plan to redeem the world.
Today’s Christian leaders would do well to pay attention to this verse. Like John the Baptist, believers today have been sent on a mission (John 20:21-22). That mission is to point others to Jesus Christ, not to replace Him as the Savior – of the Church, the denomiaiton, or the world. Christian leaders who gain popularity can drift from their original mission and forget that we are all just humble witnesses to the Light.