It takes great humility to joyfully step into the background of a man who casts a greater shadow. We like to be the center of attention. We want everyone to look at us and see how great we are! We want the praise of men. We thirst for it with unrelenting lust.
This is why I am so amazed at the humility of John the Baptist. If you think about it, John's ministry would have been perceived as a complete failure if he was a live today. John starts a movement as the baptizer. Jesus comes along, steals his disciples and his baptizing ministry. John with his ministry passed on to Jesus is decapitated at the request of a teenage girl.
John Loses His Disciples to Jesus
In John 1, starting in v. 35, we read about Jesus selecting his first disciples. John was standing with two of his disciples and sees Jesus walking by and cries out, "Behold the Lamb of God!" John had just baptized Jesus and the Lord had made it clear to John that this Jesus was the Son of God (1:34). John's two disciples that were standing with him abandon John and start following Jesus. Imagine the heartbreak John must have felt. These two men he had been discipling abandon him to go follow Jesus. John knows that Jesus is the messiah, but if we put ourselves in John's place we can feel his pain with being cast to the side. However John's purpose from the beginning was to be a voice crying out in the wilderness, 'make straight the way of the Lord' (1:24). John knew ultimately that his ministry was never going to be about him. John is simply the one who prepares the way for the Messiah. Now that the Messiah has arrived, John graciously and joyfully steps in the background.
John Loses His Ministry to Jesus
In John 3, starting in verse 22, both Jesus and John are baptizing people. A discussion begins to develop with John's disciples and a Jew over the issue of baptism. John is told that Jesus is on the other side of the Jordan baptizing people and everyone is going to Jesus instead of John. The disciples of John are beginning to see a rivalry between John's ministry and Jesus' ministry. I'm sure the disciples of John were thinking, "We were here first!" However, John's response to his disciples is the most astonishing. John would say, "Therefore this joy mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease" (3:30). John knows it is time for him to fade into the background and to get out of the way. His job of preparing the way for the Messiah is now over, his task is complete. John's job know is to simply decrease and fade away so that Jesus' ministry can get all the attention.
Fade Into the Background
What amazing humility John the Baptist has! Would you and I do the same? I suggest our egos and pride would far to much get in the way. We are far to narcissistic to bow out gracefully like John did. Yet, we must imitate John in his humility. As we serve the Lord it is so easy for us to seek to become the center of attention. We want everyone to praise us for our gifts, for our obedience, and for our service. A true Christian however has the attitude of John the Baptist, we must decrease so that Christ can increase. Our task as Christians is not to make much of ourselves, but to make much of Christ. Just as John the Baptist we must get our own egos out of the way so the people around us can see Jesus clearly as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
It takes great humility to joyfully step into the background of a man who casts a greater shadow.
Hebrews 4:14-16 is a passage that never ceases to be an encouragement to me. Here is what it says:
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."