We can only receive what God gives
God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. – John 1:6-7
22 Then Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and went into the Judean countryside. Jesus spent some time with them there, baptizing people.
23 At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism.
24 (This was before John was thrown into prison.)
25 A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing.
26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
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.
George Washington set a high standard when it came to relinquishing power and turning it over to the newly elected president John Adams. Throughout his career, beginning in his late 20s, he preferred private life to public life. Decades after he give up his commission in the Virginia militia, the Founding Fathers called upon him to lead the Continental Army.
When the Revolutionary War ended, Washington relinquished his commission. He was eager to enjoy private life and never again take up the reins of power. But the people of the United States would have none of it. The Founding Fathers called on him to once again be their leader. He served as the first president of the United States for eight years, before relinquishing the office and stepping aside unpresumptuously.
On September 19, 1796, retiring President George Washington established an American precedent of giving a Farewell Address.
Washington’s Farewell Address announced to the people His intention to not run for a third term. Instead, he opted to retire and move back to Mount Vernon and enjoy a private life.
Washington was very mindful that his actions would set precedents for future presidents. He did not want to die in office. He did not want Americans to view the presidency as a lifetime appointment. He wanted to avoid enabling any future president from becoming a monarch like those of Europe from whom they were now free. The importance of Washington’s Farewell Address cannot be understated. It ushered in an era of the peaceful transition of power from one administration to another that has lasted for over 200 years.
John the Baptist had an extraordinary attitude. He recognized that the Father gives different missions to different children of the King. The Father had tasked John and the Lord Jesus Christ with very different responsibilities. There was no reason for competition or envy. When we know who we are and what our sphere of service is, we can settle into the role assigned to us by the Father. We can take great delight, find meaning and fulfillment in serving the Father.
The disciples of John the Baptist were loyal and thus protective of him and his area of service. They felt that the Lord Jesus Christ was intruding into John’s turf. Large crowds were now coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. Close your eyes. Can you see John’s whiny complaining disciples? Look a little closer do you see John standing there resolute and gently calming them down. It was easy for them to harbor resentment. But the time had come to let go of the things that they needed to relinquish.
John understood his purpose and mission. He was the forerunner of the Messiah. The Father sent him into the world to announce the coming of His Son. John knew full well that he was not the Messiah. He was sent as a messenger to announce His arrival. His assignment was ending as the Messiah’s forerunner.
“John’s consciousness of the subordinate and temporary character of his mission was expressed in the single sentence” (Tenney).
John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
John’s mission was now almost complete. John was well aware of this and relinquished his position. He would no longer be in the spotlight of center stage.
35 John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message.
36 But I have a greater witness than John – my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.
37 And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face,
38 and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me– the one he sent to you.
REFLECT & PRAY
When we allow the Lord Jesus Christ to occupy His proper place in our lives, everything else comes together.
Father how often have I put myself first, and focused on my needs and wants. Help me to look outside of myself to You.
John the Baptist was a man without jealousy. He was a man born to prepare the way of the Lord. True humility is knowing your place and rejoicing in it – helping to make others successful in their endeavors. He knew the difference between being a bridegroom and being the friend of a bridegroom.
John uses the poignant metaphor of the shoshben of Jewish tradition. The shoshben was the groom’s closest friend who arranged the details of the wedding and guarded the bridal chamber. The friend of the bridegroom is roughly equivalent to the best man at a wedding in American culture. John sees himself as playing the role of “the friend of the bridegroom.” Competition between the groom and the friend of the groom was unthinkable.
In answer to their complaints, it would have been very easy for John to feel injured, neglected, and unjustifiably forgotten. But John was above that. His credo was extraordinary.
John 3:27 No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples three things.
1) John told them that He never expected anything else.
2) No man could receive more than what the Father gave him.
3) John called Jesus the bridegroom and himself the friend of the bridegroom.
When that task was done, John the Baptist willingly and gladly faded out of the spotlight of being center stage.
What jealousies, what heartburnings, what resentfulness could every child of the King escape, if we would only remember that the success of others has been given to them by the Father (Barclay).