Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness— look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:25-30).
In this life we will always encounter people doing well than us in many ways. It could be a colleague at work or a neighbour. It could be a fellow church member or even a fellow labourer in the Lord’s vineyard. Someone will always be excelling than us in one area or the other. And when they are people we know, it might trigger wrong emotions we will have to deal with in humility.
The narrative here appears to puts the ministries of Jesus Christ and John the Baptist side by side. Humanly speaking, the narrative points to the rising of Jesus’s ministry and the dwindling of John the Baptist’s. Clearly, the crowd seem to be moving away from John The Baptist to Jesus and John’s disciples are concerned: “And they[John’s disciples] came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (disciples point out to him the teeming crowds moving away from him to Jesus. They seem to be saying: “Look, we are losing followers, he is getting all the attention”. If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone else appears to be doing well than you in a similar field or endeavour, how will you handle it? Now, sometimes, you may not even have noticed the suppossed success of the other person but the people around you–friends, family or followers—are the ones who will feed your pride and jealousy. As I indicated earlier, this can trigger wrong emotions which will have to be dealt with in humility and John did just that.
What is humility?
It is the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance¹.
This definition doesn’t mean one looks down on themselves. But rather having a good view of one’s self and importance in relation to others. We are not more important than others. Before God, all men are created equal. If we know anything of the human heart, we will know we are all prone to pride (Jeremiah 17:9). When we are faced with assessing ourselves in comparison to others, do we see ourselves as very important than others while looking down on them?
Before we draw any lessons from John the Baptist, let’s briefly find out who He is.
Who Is John The Baptist?
- His mother was Elisabeth, Jesus’ mother’s cousin. Making him a relative of Jesus (Luke 1:36).
- He was six months older than Jesus (Luke 1:36).
- He was sent as a forerunner to Christ (John 3:28).
- Jesus described him as greatest among those born of woman (Matthew 11:11).
All these may predispose John The Baptist to pride which will also be fuelled by His followers. They pointed John to his ‘importance’. But John The Baptist will have none of that. And in the conversation which followed, we see how John’s humility is displayed.
He Acknowledged Everything Is From God
A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (v.27).
John the Baptist clearly point us to one reality. There is nothing we have that God didn’t give to us. We have no right to boast of our gifts and achievements. Everything we have is given by God. It is a gift. In the same way, everything another person has that we don’t have is a gift from God (James 1:7). God has placed us all in capacities He has wired us for. When we acknowledge this, we will not look down on others neither will we allow the success of others to intimidate us.
He Was Content With Who He Was.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him (v.28)
When people are excelling, do we wish their success is ours? Do we think we deserve better than others. We must be able to acknowledge the gfits of others. One of the reasons for pride is that people are not content with who they are. They always want to prove a point and to let people know who they are. John knew who he was. He won’t allow external pressures to make him pose as who he was not. He was clear in his mind. He was not the Christ.
Jesus Was His Focus
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom . The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. (v.29-30).
Ultimately, pleasing Jesus must be our focus. He is first. He must have all the pre-eminence in our lives. On 7th January, 2017, a new President was sworn into office in our dear land. While I watched the inauguration of our President, I took notice of how the invited guests walked majestically to the ceremony. One truth occurred to me: they were not the centre of attention. The vice-President was sworn in before the President, but in a certain sense, he was not the reason for the occasion. The whole ceremony was about the President.
Look at John The Baptist’s words in light of the ceremony. He John was just a guest–a friend of the bridegroom–sent to announce the coming of the Messiah. In his own words he declared ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ (v.28). The whole of John’s life was about Christ. He was sent as a forerunner to Christ. For us also, as believers, ultimately, Christ is the centre of our attention. He is the reason we exist.
Indeed all of life and history takes its source from Christ: “without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). He has taken away our sins. He is the one we are to look to: “Behold [Look, focus, gaze upon]! the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29).