People find his message of repentance, his ministry of baptism, so compelling that his following is huge. John’s eccentricities and remote location do little to discourage the crowds.
Then Jesus begins his own ministry.
The crowds seeking out John the Baptist begin to shrink. When Jesus comes out to baptize people near where John is preaching and baptizing, a little shouting match ensues. The Baptist’s disciples are annoyed. They seem to think that Jesus is just a copy-cat, but all John’s crowds are following Jesus!
If there are any doubts that John the Baptist is the real deal, his response evaporates them. “He must become greater. I must become less.” (verse 30) Those two sentences are usually preached on as surrendering your sinful self and letting God’s Spirit grow in you. Now, that is excellent advice, but there is so much more to this situation.
Imagine you are serving God as he called you to. You’re sincere, Spirit-filled, inspirational, successful in your mission, and popular! After several years of this, another of God’s servants comes along. Someone you lauded publicly and encouraged. This servant’s ministry is essentially the same as yours, but almost all your supporters go over to the new ministry! In our imaginations, we all hope we would say, “Chill, okay? God is being glorified, so it’s cool.” The reality would be much more difficult.
Take an honest moment to let that sink in. Then take a fresh look at this passage.
QUESTIONS: It’s not easy to admit, but we often resent another person’s success, especially when it’s in an area where we are striving. Why? Would this story help you with such resentment? Explain your answers.
List some modern, Spirit-filled (meaning authentic) ministries that were “Seasonal” like John the Baptist. Why do you think God chose to operate that way? How well did those leaders handle their ministry’s decline?
PRAYER: Lord, show me your will, so I can do the work you have for me. Lend me your courage and passion for building up the Kingdom of God. And when that work is done, fill me with your wisdom, grace and a heroic helping of humility so that I can put it to rest in a way that also builds your Kingdom.