I have written about John the Baptist and his ministry quite a few times in this blog, and rather than repeat old ground I would refer you to the links at the bottom of this page to read those previous comments. However in this section of scripture there are a couple of points made about John the Baptist that are worth mentioning and which I may not have previously covered. They add insight not only about John, but also about how we should be and behave today.
He who has the Bride
First we see John say these words. “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.” (Verse 29) This is important for in these words we see that John recognized that he was preparing the way for someone else. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord and bring his people to a place of repentance. He recognized also that the church is the bride of Christ and we are that bride down to this day.
John knew that he was going to hand the bride on to the Christ when he appeared, and he did not know who it would be until the Christ was revealed to him. John understood that he had a critically important role to play, but that ultimately he was not doing this for himself, but for someone else. He was preparing the people to meet the Christ, who is the bridegroom.
Likewise we should recognize that although we may participate in the work of the Lord, anything we do is also for His sake, not for ours. We too are preparing and working with the bride (the church) to make her ready to meet her bridegroom. It is not for our benefit that we work but entirely for the benefit of the church and for the Lord.
The Friend of the Bridegroom
Then next we see John the Baptist make this comment. “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.” (Verse 29)
In addition to again emphasizing that the bride is not his but belongs to another, that is, Christ Jesus, this statement also shows us that John rejoiced in the work he was doing.
How many people rejoice in doing something that they know will be handed over to someone else and is entirely for their benefit? In this world there are not too many who would think this way, although in the church there may be some.
The typical thinking of those in the world is what is often termed the WIIFM concept, which stands for “What's In It For Me.” it is the difference between being selfish and selfless. John the Baptist showed he was selfless in nature. Not only was he doing the work required of him, he rejoiced greatly in his work and the preparation he was making for the Lord. And as he describes himself, he was the friend of the bridegroom and therefore the friend of God.
Jesus speaking of John the Baptist elsewhere confirmed this friendship and respect He had for John saying, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)
And what was it that made John so great? It was his faith, his humility and his obedience to the word of God. The very same things that will stand us in good stead when we come into the presence of the Lord.
He must Increase and I must Decrease
John recognized that he had a role to play and at the appearance of the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, John knew that his time had ended. It was time to hand his work over to Christ to take the work to it's completion in the establishment of the New Covenant.
Thus John makes this statement saying of Jesus that, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Verse 30)
How many today in the world, yes and in the churches too would make such a statement? How many people in ministry recognize that they too may have a role that will come to a conclusion, and should come to a conclusion at some point in time? All ministers of the church have a responsibility to teach and train those in their charge so that the people can stand on their own. It is the role of the church ministry to bring the flock to maturity in Christ.
And yet too often we see those in ministry working to keep hold of those in their charge. They often fall into similar traps as the Pharisees. “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4)
It is the role and the purpose of the ministry in the New Covenant to set the Lords people free, not to tie them down with burdens! They lay burdens of sin, guilt and condemnation on the flock when they should be teaching them how to overcome those things in Jesus Christ. One can only assume they do not know how to overcome themselves as to think the alternative is too sinister to consider, that they deliberately keep them bound so as to keep them under control and in their power!
No. The roles of ministers should be to take the path of John's humility. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It is the role of ministry to bring the people to maturity for their benefit and to help them find the truth. When ministers do they too may find they are considered the friends of God just as John the Baptist was so proclaimed.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Margan Zajdowicz)