He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30
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.
31 He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.
32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them!
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”
As any musician knows, every instrument is vital to the harmony of the orchestra. The finest musician in each section of the orchestra always occupies first chair. However, there can be no triumphant harmony without those playing second, third, and even fourth chair.
Second fiddle was the role that the Father assigned in John the Baptist to play. John’s job was to work himself out of a job. He was the forerunner, he came to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Father called John as a witness to the coming of His Son. John understood his responsibilities and assumed them with great passion and zest.
John was an ascetic, lived in the desert, and maintained a strict paleo diet of locusts and wild honey. John’s message was fiery and demanded a response. With a lash of corded declarations, John denounced sin in any form and demanded everyone to repent before the day of judgment.
He was dynamic and drew large crowds. Who gathered to hear John’s message? Soldiers, tax collectors, leaders, those that were well-off, and of course common people. Those in his audience often had a great deal of power, influence, and wealth. He told people repeatedly to share with the needy, be honest, and be content.
John announced the imminent arrival of the promised Messiah of Israel. He fiercely warned of the judgment to come. He warned that it was not enough to know aboutthe God of Israel and be a descendant of Abraham. Each individual was strongly exhorted to perform a personal inventory, literally have “a come to Jesus moment,” and be forgiven and enter into a personal relationship with the Father, through the Son.
The shaken crowds were left asking, “what shall we do?” John’s response is encapsulated in one word, Repent!
How different is this from what is too often taught from the pulpit today. A cynic once said, “People come to church today expecting very little and seldom go away disappointed.”
REFLECT & PRAY
Learning to be content in the shadows, the background, produces a joyful peace and satisfaction in children of the King.
Father thank You that You brought me to a “come to Jesus moment” and now I know You face-to-face. Encourage me to walk with You daily and get to know You better.
John accepted his position as number two with elegance and grace. He knew full well that all service and blessing come from the Father. There is no room or any need for competition (John 3:27). All opportunities we have, along with our skills, gifts, and experience come from the Father.
John the Baptist knew he was not the Messiah, but rather, he was the friend and forerunner of the Messiah, John self-described his role as the friend of the bridegroom.
The bridegroom’s friend, the shoshben, is similar to the best man at a wedding in American culture. He had a special place at a first-century Jewish wedding. All of the wedding arrangements were made by him. He sent out invitations and was the host at the wedding feast. He brought the bride and the bridegroom together. And he had one special duty. It was his duty to guard the bridal chamber and to let no false lover in.
Once the bridegroom and bride had been brought together, the work of the best man was completed. He waited to hear the bridegroom’s voice from within the bridal chamber when for the first time the bride dropped her veil. I can only imagine that the bridegroom said something like, “How lovely!” The bridegroom’s friend then went away rejoicing, for his mission was accomplished, the lovers were together.
John did not have an identity problem. He knew the difference between the bridegroom and the bridegroom’s friend. His only responsibility had been to bring the bridegroom and bride together. When they were, John joyfully faded out of the picture.
John’s task had been to bring Israel and the Lord Jesus together. He “arranged” the marriage between the Lord Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, and Israel, the bride. He brought them together. Once they were joined, his work was done.
It was not with envy that he said that the Lord Jesus Christ must increase, and he must decrease; it was with joy.
It may be that sometimes we would do well to remember, as children of the King it is not our purpose to draw people to ourselves. Rather, we are to draw them to the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not seek the loyalty of others to ourselves. We seek that people become loyal to the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Wiersbe).
A Presbyterian pastor in Melbourne, Australia introduced J. Hudson Taylor by using many superlatives, especially the word great. Taylor stepped to the pulpit and quietly said, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.” If John the Baptist in heaven heard that statement, he must have shouted “Hallelujah!”
It is far better to joyfully be second fiddle in the Father’s orchestra, than not fiddle at all. John clearly understood his calling and was unreservedly committed to his mission in life. He was completely comfortable with his place in the Father’s plan. He did not seek personal glory or acclamation. The Lord Jesus Christ said of him, “Among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Luke 7:28).