I would like to suggest that we should always be amazed at John the Baptist’s ministry and his willingness to suffer for the gospel. He was called to a special ministry to proclaim the coming of the Messiah Jesus. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he would turn back the hearts of many in Israel to the Lord their God (Lk 1:5-17). What a marvellous ministry with which to be involved!
It is also true to say that he suffered for the gospel. He was imprisoned by Herod for he dared to criticise Herod for marrying his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. Soon after, he was beheaded at the hands of Herod who foolishly agreed to his step-daughter’s request to have John the Baptist’s head put on a platter (Mat 14).
However, one thing John the Baptist didn’t suffer from was self grandeur (thinking more of yourself than what you should). Even though he questioned whether Jesus’ was the Messiah (Mat 11), he never once undermined his role as the one and only Messiah. On the contrary, he went out of his way to promote Jesus at every turn during his ministry.
In Matthew 3, John the Baptist was having a very influential ministry. People from Jerusalem, and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan were coming to him, confessing their sins and being baptised. He even stated publicly to the Jews that the one coming after him was far more powerful, whose sandals he was not fit to carry. To carry someone else’s dirty sandals was regarded as one of the lowest, menial tasks one could do. And yet, John the Baptist had no issues with it all.
John the Baptist knew that even though Jesus came after him, He surpassed him, because Jesus was before Him (John 1:15). More than that, John the Baptist knew that the message of Jesus which was full of grace and truth surpassed the message of the law that Moses brought. The law was not only unable to save sinners; it could not provide the Saviour we all desperately needed.
For John the Baptist, everything was about promoting Christ as the Messiah. John the Baptist likened his role to that of a groomsman, whose joy it is to hear the voice of the bridegroom and do whatever is needed to prepare for the festivities ahead, namely when the bridegroom receives the bride. When that event occurs, the groomsman’s task is complete. As John the Baptist so aptly put it, “Jesus must become greater, and John the Baptist must become less” (emphasis added – Jn 3:30).
It seems to me that many of us, including preachers and teachers can take a leaf out of John the Baptist’s ministry and learn an important lesson. And the lesson is quite simple, namely this: It’s not about us! Jesus must become greater; we must become less. I would even venture to say that if you think ministry is about you and your perceived worth in ministerial circles or even your congregation, it’s time to get out.
Thankfully in many Christian churches, Jesus still takes center stage. Christmas Day worship services, nativity scenes, and family functions are aware that Jesus is the ‘’reason for the season.”
Sadly, though, the same cannot be said of society in general. Jesus is now being pushed to the side, if not off the stage altogether. Today, Santa Claus is taking centre stage, and if it isn’t him, then it’s Santa’s reindeer, and if not that, it is little children having their photos taken with Santa. We live in a society where anything is better than Jesus having centre stage.
Perhaps we need another ‘John the Baptist’ type figure who will remind the crowds that Santa or his reindeer are unable to save sinners. To proclaim a new, that Jesus is the one and only Saviour, sent from God to redeem sinners.
Well may I suggest that you don’t wait for another ‘John the Baptist’ to come along. We are all involved in some form of ministry and we all know the message of salvation. To that end may our lasting legacy be similarly to that of John the Baptist. Let us be remembered as people who didn’t suffer from self grandeur, but as a loving people who continually came with the message; “Jesus must become greater… and we must become less.”
Prayer: Lord bless the true message of Christmas and may many from our suburbs, towns, cities and whole regions hear about Jesus. May it cause them to repent, be baptized and saved. Amen. JZ
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.