“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. (John 1:6-8)
John came to bear witness to the light. People came from all around to see him, they brought word back to their friends who again came out to see him. Many believed he might be the messiah, but he wasn’t. He came to bear witness about the light. He came to pave the way for the messiah. He came to point to Christ.
In reality he was the last of the O.T. Prophets. He had a stern word of law for the nation, as all the Old Testament Prophets had. He could preach the law but he could only point to the gospel. His baptism was of water, but there was one who would come after him…. He would baptize with the Holy Spirit. (BTW, that doesn’t mean that it was done without water, but that the Holy Spirit is given in the water with the word)
He could only point to the gospel, the gospel lacked a realness to it. It was a promise not yet quite realized. He could see it in Jesus, but he could not see how, or what. The people fixated on the law. Many of them did anyway. Some were like children in the market place neither moved by a dirge, nor moved to dance by the flute their friends played. And a few got the law, finally saw it for what it is, a relentless accuser whose job is to point to the light. Finally it wakes you up that it shouldn’t be this way. Fixing yourself is beyond your ability. Something needs to be done. And then the light comes into the world.