“He must increase, but I must decrease”, certainly was not the response expected. After all, wasn’t this John, the Baptizer from the wilderness? His disciples thought they knew him well, or maybe not. Maybe their focus was misdirected.
CALLED TO THE GREATNESS OF HUMILITY
Who was this John? Scripture tells of the angel Gabriel (WHO STANDS IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD) announcing his coming birth to his elderly disbelieving father, Zechariah. Zechariah then nine months later prophetically announces that this child will be called, “the prophet of the Most High; who will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” This is the man who appeared from the wilderness baptizing and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Luke wrote, “All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him, confessing their sins.” This is the same John who confronted the hypocritical leaders of the time (Pharisees and Sadducees) addressing them as a “brood of vipers!” It is no wonder his disciples were dismayed.
John knew full well who he was. He knew that after hundreds of years of divine silence he was chosen by God to speak as the last of the Old Testament prophets, “The Word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness.” Luke 3:2. He knew that as powerful as was his position he still recognized that “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” Mark 1:7. After he baptized Jesus he witnessed “the Spirit descending on him like a dove and a voice from heaven, You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” He had already told his disciples “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.” John 3:28.
So what does John show us about humility? John does not denigrate himself. He has fulfilled God’s call on his life with energy and zeal. He has emptied himself to follow after God.
John points others to the Savior and does not draw them to himself. He gives the example of being the friend of the bridegroom. He has great joy in hearing the voice of the bridegroom. The bridegroom has the bride and the friend rejoicing with him. John has been sent to prepare others for his coming and is overjoyed at the fulfillment of his call. His “joy is now complete.” He rejoices in Jesus’ presence and his mission and directs his disciples to follow after him. He refuses to exalt his position and realizes that he must fade as Christ shines.
THE EXAMPLE OF OUR HUMBLE SAVIOR
Certainly our best example of humility is Christ Jesus. In Philippians 2:5 and following, Paul encourages us to be of the same mind as Christ who emptied himself, became a servant as a man, and became obedient even to the point of death. Imagine that, the creator of the universe emptied himself and gave of himself even to death. WOW! What a Savior!
So what does that look like to us now in the mundane everyday lives that we live? We have seen how John and Jesus showed humility but what can we do? Again, Paul gives us good practical admonition just before the above passage when he writes “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3,4) This starts in the mind and results in serving others in their interests. Jesus gave of himself to point to the Father. John gave of himself to point to Jesus the Savior. We are certainly able to empty ourselves and give of ourselves to others as we point them to the Savior. In so doing we too can say “He must increase but I must decrease.”
Jack is a bi-vocational pastor at Lifegate church and serves on the teaching rotation of the adult Sunday school, as well as oversight of the mens Saturday morning ministry. Jack has a BA from University of Texas at Austin and a MD degree from Baylor College of Medicine.