A witness at a trial is to do just that: bear witness as to what he saw and heard. It is not a time to draw attention to oneself. The person on trial is the center of attention – not the witness. A witness is just supposed to do his part, and then get out of the way.
John the Baptist was a witness to the authority and credibility of Jesus Christ. He was not the Messiah, and it was not his purpose to draw attention to himself. His responsibility was to simply bear witness to what he had seen and heard. The Apostle John, in the prologue to his Gospel, makes reference to this role of John the Baptist: In John 1:6-8 he 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.” Notice that three times these verses say that John the Baptist was sent to be a witness with regard to the Light that had come into the world.
The word “witness” here is the Greek word, martureo. It is a word that means “to testify or give evidence. Actually, the word martureo is where we get the word, “martyr.” The word, “witness” came to mean “martyr” because those who bore witness for Christ were often killed. They became martyrs for Christ. This was certainly true for John the Baptist. He bore witness to the Light, which means that he pointed out the fact that men are sinful. Herod threw John the Baptist into prison for that, and then had him beheaded. So, John truly did witness unto death and became a martyr.
Now, we are supposed to be a witness for Christ and the Light of the Gospel, too, you know! We should be telling people that they need to repent of their sin and turn to Christ for salvation. We, too, are “to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”
Now you know the real meaning of the word.
So, what kind of a witness are you? Do you “take the Fifth?” Or do you tell it the way it is?