John 3 The Message (MSG)
The Bridegroom’s Friend
22-26 After this conversation, Jesus went on with his disciples into the Judean countryside and relaxed with them there. He was also baptizing. At the same time, John was baptizing over at Aenon near Salim, where water was abundant. This was before John was thrown into jail. John’s disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism. They came to John and said, “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.”
27-29 John answered, “It’s not possible for a person to succeed—I’m talking about eternal success—without heaven’s help. You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’—that’s me—in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?
29-30 “That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.
1) What are the true signs of humility we learn from John the Baptist?
2) How do we guard ourselves from the unhealthy need to be appreciated, noticed or recognized by the people we minister to?
3) How do we receive gratitude from others while still giving God the glory?
4) How would you respond if one of your sheep moved to a different church?
5) How tightly or loosely should you hold your sheep? (fear they might leave vs allowing them to be negatively influenced)
There was a moment in history when both John and Jesus were baptizing at the same time. Of course it was not Jesus who himself baptized others, but his disciples were. This was never a problem for either John or Jesus, but John's disciples had other thoughts about it.
The disciples of John were claiming Jesus was competing with them, as if there was a competition to see who could get the most people baptized. The problem, they thought, was they were losing. Perhaps they thought Jesus was gaining popularity because John authorized Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The point is, the disciples of John were worried enough to confront their leader, John, expecting something to be done about it. John's response demonstrated how humble he was. He made it clear before that he was not the messiah and now again he claimed he was only the man who prepared the way for Jesus. He wasn't meant to continue increasing in popularity. He was meant to point others to Jesus.
Jesus is the bridegroom. His followers are the church. John makes the metaphor clear. The bridegroom gets the bride. John, as the best man in the wedding, couldn't be more excited to see the bride flocking to Jesus, getting ready for the marriage supper. Jesus moved to his rightful position of prominence while John slipped out of the people's view. It was the perfect arrangement.
The temptation the disciples of John felt may be similar to our own. We may crave the spotlight or at least some extra attention. We may want to be noticed or have others care for us. We may want to be recognized or be popular for all our hard work. And when we see others getting the attention and recognition instead, it may make us jealous and bitter.
You can always find a person or church that seems more appealing, but that's when we must remind ourselves we aren't meant to point to ourselves. We can do nothing unless we abide in Jesus. Whenever we bear fruit, it is because of God is bearing fruit through us. Therefore, it is only right to give God the glory, not expecting praise from people.
When you are appreciated, though, you don't have to put yourself down. You are not John the Baptist. You are a new creation in Christ. You represent Jesus and the Holy Spirit lives in you. Don't discredit yourself or you may be discrediting God. Receive the blessings from others while continuing to give God the glory for it.