1:6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
There is no story given here, John simply cuts to the essential truth of things. There is no nativity scene, no story of John’s birth, no shepherds, no manger. So, being cut down to the barest truth, we can expect there to be something essential and true in this account of John’s coming.
Many things could be added about how John fulfills the role of the law (son of a levitical priest) and the prophets (eating locusts in the wilderness and being a witness who tells God’s prophetic message to the nation). However, there is no mention of these things in the gospel of John.
We do have the notion here that John was “sent from God.” The word “sent” is the Greek word “apostello” which suggests that he was entrusted with a message and sent. You don’t “send” someone except as a carrier of a message or as a representative.
So, he is sent with a role: he is a “witness”. Gr “Martureo”, to be a witness or testify. John loves these courtroom metaphors, which he used extensively in the epistle of 1 John. John the Baptist came as a witness for the defense. Here it says that he is sent to testify about “the Light”.
1 John 5:7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
The judge/jury is men: “that all might believe.” So we have the skeptical but possibly believing men putting “the Light” on trial, and John is sent to give witness in defense of the Light. This is a rather shocking but well-corroborated idea in John’s writings: God is put on trial and we are the judge.
It is interesting here that John does not say he came as a witness to give testimony about “Jesus” or even “the Word”, but “the Light”. As we saw in v. 1-5, the Word, God, the creation event, are all hidden from men. However, the life which is in the “Word” is the light of men, which means that it is revealed in a way in which normal people can apprehend it. Light would therefore indicate that which can be perceived, that which is not hidden. So there is a revelation which has come, and John has been sent to testify in its defense.
It is specifically observed that he is not the Light, but only testifies to the light. Clearly you cannot be the accused and be a credible witness in your own defense. John, representing the Jewish historical roles of the law (son of a Levitical priest) and the prophets (he came in the spirit of Elijah), was a witness for the defense of the accused, but was not himself the light which was under judgment.