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He must increase, but I must decrease
John 3:30 John the Baptist’s words in this short verse should be the motto of every Christian.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30 NASB1995
Over the past few weeks, Barb and I watched the three seasons of The Chosen again. Now, I know some people are not fans of the show, but it does a stellar job of telling the history of Jesus in a way that both Christians and non-believers can understand. Three years into the series, John the Baptist is still alive, although imprisoned by Herod Antipas (the ruler of Galilee and Perea) after he rebuked Herod for divorcing his wife and then marrying his half-brother’s wife.
The story of John the Baptist is fascinating. Like Jesus, he was conceived in a miraculous way when his mother Elizabeth (the aunt of Mary, mother of Jesus) was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she would bear a child. She and her husband Zachariah (also known as Zechariah) both had a good laugh about that… and then Zachariah became mute until the naming of the infant John.
John and Jesus “met” before birth when Mary visited Elizabeth, and “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41). Soon after John’s birth, Zachariah was able to speak again, he was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and he gave the prophecy outlined in Luke 1:68-79. The key verses in this speech by Zachariah say this about John:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins,”
Luke 1:76-77 NASB1995
We don’t know what happened between with the two boys/men between their births and their ministries 30 years later, but it is obvious that both were aware of each other and of their unique callings. Jesus even paid John the ultimate compliment, saying in Matthew 11:11, “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” and referring to him as “Elijah who was to come.” (Matthew 11:14)
John the Baptist certainly knew his role, and began a ministry of baptizing believers with water as a pre-messianic sacrament. He, of course, baptized Jesus in the Jordan River as described in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark. Just before he exclaims today’s verse, John tells his followers that “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’” (John 3:28)
After the baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist knew that it was time for him to become less visible and well-known, and for Jesus to be known to all. Jesus was drawing larger and larger crowds to His sermons, yet John the Baptist understood that Jesus was the Messiah and His work would take precedence and was to be exalted.
In his time, John the Baptist was very popular and successful, but he remained humble. He was well known and crowds flocked to be baptized, but he was truly humble, known for wearing a garment made of camel’s hair and eating locusts. No trappings of wealth and power for John!
As Jesus began His ministry, John the Baptist continued his work, happy to do what God called him to do. John the Baptist’s words in this short verse should be the motto of every Christian. We, as His servants, should be less and less visible, thinking less of ourselves than Him. This is especially true for those who are leaders in the Church!
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Father in Heaven, thank You for the life, ministry, and example of John the Baptist. He committed his life to pointing people to Christ. Thank You for John’s testimony and his example of humility. Despite being a special minister of God and great in his own right, he proclaimed that Christ must increase in recognition while his own renown would fade. Help me to follow John the Baptist’s example, testifying to all that Jesus is the Savior of the world and must increase in importance and influence, while I must decrease. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.