There is a point in the book of John (chapter 3) where Jesus’ ministry was beginning to eclipse John’s. John’s disciples come to him and say “Jesus, look he is baptizing and all are going to him.” (implying that they’re leaving our ministry to go to his).
It’s such an amazing thing what John says in response to this threatened observation from one of his disciples.
How would you respond when you see that God is anointing another ministry more than yours? Where God’s hand is leaving yours and is moving towards another?
As you know, John says in 3:30 a very profound statement in response. He says, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
Behind this recognition of needing to go lower so that Jesus may be exalted, he mentions several things which teach his heart that that is the right place to be:
- He says “A person cannot receive one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” (v27). John recognizes that all the anointings, skills, and character traits that he has utilized in his ministry all come from God anyway, so why should he mope if God would use it for someone/something else?
- He says “You yourselves know that I have said, “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.” (v28). John recognized his position in the kingdom. He knows his calling. God called him to a position which was by nature a humble one–where he pointed in the direction of Jesus and then got out of the way. Do we realize that the positions that God calls us to have intrinsic humility in it as well?
- He says “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” (v29). What a profound switch in metaphors! He brings in that his relationship with Jesus is explained in the context that Jesus is the bridegroom and that the people whom he is ministering to is his bride. What business does a servant have in the affairs of how a groom should beautify and grow his bride? As John notes, the bridegroom has the bride. The church is Jesus’ ministry; not ours. And this recognition on John’s part gave him humility in his work.
- He says “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” (v29). He caps it off by explaining his source of joy in his whole ministry–friendship with Jesus. A friend gets joy when the dreams and plans of his friend are fulfilled. As Jesus’ friend, he had joy not in manipulating the affairs of his friend, but in partnering with him to see that the dreams and visions that God has for Jesus are fulfilled faithfully through his hands. What an honor, and what a joy!
He must increase, I must decrease. John had deep insight and revelation into why he could say that so confidently. And I have learned much from hearing what motivated him to stay low and humble when the ministry of other’s was apparently succeeding over his.