The Humility of John the Baptist

john-baptistWhile writing yesterday’s post, I was so moved and encouraged by the second half of John chapter 3 that I knew I wanted to share it today. Not only do we see John share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but we also see John the Baptist humbly reminding his disciples of who he is and who Jesus is. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday in John 3 verse 22:

John 3:22-30 (ESV)
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 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. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

It is so easy to forget your place in God’s plan, especially for those with a special calling. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he was in his mother’s womb. Even before birth he bore witness to the as yet unborn Jesus Christ in Mary’s womb. John didn’t just decrease to a secondary position, he knew that he had to decrease and step away from the limelight completely. The bridegroom had arrived, and his job was fulfilled. That isn’t easy… it takes humility to accept that your job is over, and you will no longer take part. Notice that John the Baptist didn’t transition into being a Disciple or Apostle of Jesus Christ. He continued proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and pointing to Jesus as the Christ, as was his calling. Since John notes in verse 24 that this was before John was put into prison, let us look to when John sent word to Jesus asking for confirmation. For indeed, John was a man and needed encouragement for his time was drawing short.

Matthew 11:1-6 (ESV)
11 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Very simply, he encourages John’s messenger to report to John as a witness of Jesus, the Promised Messiah. Notice the encouragement at the end… blessed is the one who is not offended by me. John undoubtedly took great encouragement in both knowing he had served his purpose and calling, and knowing that many are blessed. Notice what happens next in Matthew… Jesus testifies of John.

Matthew 11:7-19 (ESV)
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

John the Baptist was more than a prophet, he was God’s messenger sent to prepare the way of God the Son, Jesus the Christ. John the Baptist will die at the hand of Herod (the kingdom suffering violence) before the cross. Peter later understood this truth and shared it in his epistle:

1 Peter 1:10-12 (ESV)
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Which brings us back around to John 3, resuming in verse 31:

John 3:31-36 (ESV)
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Christ. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever receives His testimony declares that God is true. Notice that whoever does not obey the son doesn’t get a fresh punishment; rather, the wrath of God remains on him. Remember that we are all born in the sin of Adam, and are therefore deserving of the wrath of God as punishment for sin. We don’t start out in some “neutral state”, we are born sinners. Death is our inheritance from Adam. But by the Grace of God, who sent His Son (the Word of God made flesh) to fulfill the law and the prophets and bear the full price of sin on His shoulders, so that all who believe can find forgiveness and eternal life.

I pray the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,

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