By: Travis Stockelman
What do you think about when you hear the name “John the Baptist”?
Many of you probably think of John as the forerunner of Christ, which is true. Others may think of his work as a baptizer, which is also correct. Still, others may think of John the Baptist as a rabbi, since he made disciples.
Whatever you may think about John the Baptist, if you study his life, it becomes clear that he left his mark on history. He was leaving such a mark in his day that the Scribes and Pharisees sent delegates to ask him who he was (John 1:19-28). Apparently, there was even some speculation about whether John the Baptist was the Prophet like Moses! This demonstrates how much of an impact that he had on the people in his own time.
The Gospels are not the only accounts of the life of John the Baptist. The Jewish historian Josephus also wrote about John the Baptist and was sympathetic to him. After all, he was imprisoned after speaking the truth to King Herod concerning his marriage to Herodias, who was ultimately responsible for securing the beheading of John.
But, the point here is not the fate of John the Baptist, rather how well he was known among ancient Jewish writers. These basic facts about John the Baptist’s life are attested in multiple sources. In modern terms, he had become a famous person.
How does all of this relate to Jesus? I believe that it comes down to John’s statement in verse 30.
John, when told that Jesus Christ was gaining more disciples and doing more than he ever did, responded by saying, “He must become greater; I must become less.” You see, John knew who Jesus was and realized that this meant humility on his part. It would have been easy for John to say that he was someone great. After all, large crowds had flocked to him to be baptized. But when confronted with Christ’s work, John the Baptist humbled himself. He readily yielded his fame and his ministry to Christ.
I think that this teaches us a powerful lesson. God has given each and every one of us a sphere of influence that we can use to either build ourselves up or to build Christ up. Whether we are at work, at school, or even at church, we have a choice to make.
We can either choose to build ourselves up, or we can yield to Christ, and use our abilities to impact our sphere of influence to make Christ known. This does not mean that we need to think of ourselves as less than what we are, but it does mean that we need to recognize that we pale in significance to Christ and His work.
The amazing thing about John the Baptist is that he never denied being the forerunner of Christ, although he denied being the Christ and, when confronted with the works of Christ, freely yielded to Christ without degrading his own work.
Let us take John the Baptist’s attitude of humility here and apply it to our own lives.