Article written: Aaron Robertson
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness;
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
I have always thought that John the Baptist got a pretty raw deal in the whole “prepare the way of the Lord” thing.
Now, he is rightly remembered as a hero of the faith, someone whom all believers can point to as a wonderful servant of God. In fact he is an absolutely amazing figure that plays into all four gospel accounts of Jesus. The story of Jesus isn’t told without mention of John, which reveals the esteem with which God holds him.
John was promised centuries before in prophecy as one who would help point to the promised Messiah. As much as anything else, John himself and his ministry was the sign for Israel that indeed the Messiah was coming. Truly a remarkable calling and ministry.
John spends years living a hippie life of homemade clothing and scavenged food. He preaches repentance and baptism and urges Israel to follow God. He is zealous to the extreme wearing rough clothes and eating locusts and honey. There isn’t a bad word said about him in scripture, which is rare when you look at the rest of Israel’s “heroes”.
And then Jesus shows up on the scene. He visits John to be baptized before going on to start his own ministry. John, in all of his significance, is seemingly left in Jesus’ dust.
Jesus begins calling disciples to his side and none of them really seems that great or logical a choice. Certainly, John had to be wondering “when is my turn”. By calling and the empowering of God, John seems a natural choice as the number one draft pick. Instead Jesus picks bumbling idiots like Peter, James, John and the rest. It was a draft day slide of epic proportions. Pretty raw deal for John, right?
If I were Jesus putting together my team of kingdom builders, John the Baptist would have been at the top of my list. He was a ready-made #2 with years of experience and a clear track record of deep commitment (locusts? really?). He is recognized in his own time and by his own people as a prophet and man of God (which rarely happens with prophets). He can preach, lead, draw crowds, and point towards Jesus better than any of the disciples.
But God’s ways are not our own.
There is something profound to be learned in looking at John the Baptist. You see, John was never motivated by pride or place of privilege. He wasn’t concerned (like the other disciples) about who would be greatest. He simply wanted to make Jesus known. A desire for significance or recognition or praise is never mentioned in relation to John.
In John 3:28-30 we see the fullness of John’s humility and his joy in making Jesus known:
“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.”
Oh that I would be so humble in my life and so selfless in being faithful with making God known as I go through life.
When Jesus shows up in life to do what only he can do, I pray that I am not clamoring for position but instead simply rejoicing that Jesus has shown up. At the end of the day (and of all time) it’s not about us.
Too often we have a “pick me” attitude when it comes to opportunity for praise or recognition. We like titles and degrees and certain lifestyles or luxuries. Or when God is doing something in our life, family, neighborhood, etc., our hearts want to add addendums to God’s agenda to make sure that others know we were a part of the change. Even if it is never verbalized there seems to always be a part of our heart that is wanting a piece of the praise.
John gives such a beautiful picture of a humble heart. He isn’t clamoring for attention, seeking to climb Jesus’ leadership ladder, or boasting of his work in “preparing the way”.
He simply says “Behold the Lamb!”
“Pay attention to Him!”
“Look to Jesus!”
“He takes away the sins of the world!”
No pretense or posturing. No hidden agenda. Just uninhibited joy in making Jesus known even when it means his own position, ministry, and even life are threatened.
As we go through life and we check our busy calendars, our long to-do lists, and deal with our often unrestful hearts I pray that we will be humbled enough to celebrate that Jesus has indeed shown up. In our friendships, with our family, in school, or at work and in all of our good and godly striving may we say in our hearts: “he must increase, I must decrease.”
Follow John’s example and make much of Him and get out of the way. He alone deserves glory, honor, dominion, and power. A humble heart is a beautiful gift to God.