Reading John this week we come across some often repeated verses like “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT). One that is less quoted challenges me, in chapter 3, where John the Baptist is speaking. John has been the spokesman for God in calling the people to repentance throughout Israel. He is respected as a wise and powerful man of unquestioned character. Even King Herod is impressed and fearful of this man of God. But now John’s position and status are being challenged as Jesus launches his public teaching. Think about it, John has built a strong reputation as a leader and now at the pinnacle of his career he is faced with the prospect of being replaced.
John is a godly man, but do not think he doesn't have an ego or any ambition. For him to willingly back away so Jesus’ name and reputation are in first place is a choice and not automatic. Too often we can fall into the error of thinking that the heroic women and men in the Bible didn’t struggle with pride and status like we do. That is what is so encouraging as we read the Bible, we encounter people with the same struggles, temptations, and battles that we face and they give us examples to follow (and in some cases to avoid!).
In John 3 we see how John dealt with the growing popularity of Jesus, “So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.” 27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. 28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:26-30 (NLT)
I am amazed at John’s choice of humility in relinquishing his established position to let Jesus shine. Leadership that God honors always has a tight grip on God’s will and a loose grip on its own. This is the kind of character in leaders that our churches, nation, and the world desperately need.