When Jesus comes on the scene John the Baptist already has a good thing going. He is calling people to repentance. He is preparing the way. He is working for the kingdom and waiting for the Messiah. And people are listening—John has their attention. But when Jesus shows up he starts to draw all to himself. It’s the way it was meant to be. We are drawn to those who proclaim the coming of God, but when God himself comes, the voices no longer hold our attention. We want to be with God.
Now John’s disciples are concerned. They worry that everyone is going over to Jesus.
They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” John 3:26
It’s funny. They had been following John and hearing him speak day after day about the coming One—the one from God who would come and save. Day after day John spoke and John waited. Day after day he knew it wouldn’t be long. And when Jesus comes John testifies about him. He identifies Jesus as the One. All of this and still when people start paying more attention to Jesus than John the disciples of John are concerned. They chafe at the idea of another taking the attention, getting the spotlight, being more popular.
John’s response is brilliant.
He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30
Jesus must become greater, we must become less. This sounds so simple. In concept it is simple. And yet…we struggle against it. Why is that?
Why is it so hard to work without recognition? Why do we want people to know what we’ve done or to recognize that we are “needed” in the Body? Why do we wish for thank yous and accolades? Why do we seek titles or authority?
What makes it so hard to serve secretly? Why, if Christ must become greater and we must become less do we seek to build ourselves up, always paint ourselves in the best light possible and worry about the opinions other have of us?
If it is truly not about us but about Jesus why do we fret so much about us?
I hear the words, “He must become greater; I must become less.” and my heart agrees. I like it…in theory. But in practice, I often like myself more. I want my dues, I like my rights, I enjoy my approval from others. So becoming less is harder in life than in lip service. Allowing Jesus to become more in the everyday is far more painful than in the “someday.”
Easier said than done fits the description of becoming less and seeing Jesus become greater in my life. And John is remarkable at this. He has great humility and seemed to always keep in perspective the reality that it was never about him. It was always about Jesus. He sees himself as the servant—the unworthy servant.
He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. John 1:27
It is one thing to appreciate Jesus as Savior and to praise him for his grace. It is far more to submit, to surrender, to become less. It is a high and holy calling to be slave of Christ and adopt an attitude that says, “All of my life, all of my energy, all that I am is for him, not for myself.”
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6:22