Surely the adjective “shining” is redundant when attached to the word “light”? After all, what else does a light do What can it do except shine?
Surely there’s no such thing as a light that doesn’t shine. Well Jesus, as we’ll soon see, speaks of people who “put their light under a bushel” (Matthew 5:14-15). Christians are the light of the world, and yet many are lights that do not shine.
Not so with John the Baptist. He is described by Jesus as a “shining light.”
“Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” (John 5:33-35)
How did John shine? Was it through his talents? Yes, he was talented(Matthew 11:11), but that’s not why he was a shining light. Was it because of his achievements? No, the very opposite. John shone by pointing away from himself entirely. In paintings which depict John, he is identified by his pointing finger. This was the secret of his radiance – he pointed to Jesus.
Jesus tells us the secret of John’s brilliance: “he bare witness unto the truth.” As John 1 says:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light… The true Light, which lighteth every man… cometh into the world. (John 1:6-9)
Christ is the uncreated Light of the world. John shines as he points away from himself to the true Light. John’s light is not a light that draws attention to itself, rather his light spotlights the true Light.
We’re all meant to shine (Matthew 5:15) but John shows us the way. We’re all witnesses (Acts 1:8) but John is the ultimate human witness. And what do we learn from his example? We learn to point away from ourselves to Jesus. We shine the most, when we forget ourselves and turn to the true Light of the world. May his self-appraisal be ours:
I am not the Christ. (John 1:19)
I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, (John 1:23)
[The] shoe’s latchet [of Jesus] I am not worthy to unloose. (John 1:27)
He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)