—by Allen Reasons, Ph.D.
I pastored for about 35 years, which translates to over 2,000 sermons. (Speak a word of sympathy to my patient wife and children who had to sit through so many of those!) Looking back at the sermons over the years, I have discovered that a primary emphasis that surfaced in sermon after sermon was where we were willing to place Christ in our lives.
John the Baptist reflects this challenge in his statement: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, King James Version). Over the objections of his devotees, John acknowledges that he has no claim to occupy a place higher than Jesus.
Think about the depth of humility in these words, especially as they come from the mouth of John the Baptist. Remember the story of the priest who was lighting incense inside the temple when the angel Gabriel started speaking to him? It was such an important event that Luke introduced his account of Christ’s birth with it. This priest, who was performing one of the holiest tasks known to man at the time, was John the Baptist’s father! John had priestly blood flowing through his veins.
To add to his potential assumption of authority, John could claim the prestige of his mother, as well. Elisabeth was not unknown to religious stature either. She traced her roots to Aaron, the route of priesthood. John’s mother was related to the Jewish heroes, Moses and Aaron! If that were not enough, Elisabeth was also a relative of the mother of Jesus Himself. John the Baptist was related to the Son of God!
John’s family tree produced superb fruit. Such a prominent background would have given him legitimate cause to claim position that he would not have readily relinquished. If anyone had reason to try to outshine Jesus for attention and allegiance, it would have been John the Baptist. Yet, he speaks the great words of humble surrender: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Perhaps John knew what so many people continue to struggle with today: Jesus Christ must increase in each of our lives, no matter how important we think our place is.
It’s not about our place in the world; it’s about where in our world we place Christ.