“He must increase, but I must…”
By Jason Scherzer
John 3:27-36 (ESV)
27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. 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. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
In this beloved chapter, Nicodemus visits Jesus at night, giving rise to Jesus’ discussion with him about the new birth and the difference between earthly things and heavenly things. Next, Jesus and His disciples are in the Judean countryside, baptizing. There is a discussion between some disciples of John and a certain Jew about purification. Quite importantly, John states that he is NOT the Messiah, which places all emphasis on Jesus as Messiah, taking the attention away from John himself.
John is a key figure in the gospels, a prophet who prepares the way for Christ, ahead of His coming. John fulfills prophecy by his unique position as a prophet clearing the path for Christ to enter the scene and be revealed as Messiah. John identifies himself as “friend of the bridegroom,” and rejoices in the greatness of Jesus. The appearance of Jesus on the scene solidifies John’s joy and satisfies his entire ministry purpose. John’s humility is also fitting: Christ must increase, while John must decrease.
After these words from John, we don’t have any further record of his preaching; next he goes off to prison because of Herod. How heavy John must have felt in prison after such a great, momentous ministry. Yet it proved his message that he must decrease in order to point to the greatness of Christ.
Jesus is distinguished from every person who has ever lived and ever will live on this earth: We are all earthly, which is an infinitely low position by contrast with the One who is heavenly. John was glad that his disciples left him to go follow Jesus, but he was saddened that comparatively few people believed the testimony of Jesus. It was indeed difficult for ‘earthly’ people to achieve a heavenly faith.
The word of Christ is the very word of God, as He is the very Son of God. As the Father has entrusted everything to the Son, so He has the very words of life. There is life only in Christ, and apart from Christ there is no life. This is a dire warning as well, because those who do not obey the Son will not see life. God is a merciful God, but He also stores up wrath for those who refuse the gift of life.
Strive to have an attitude toward Christ and toward yourself that is as nearly similar as possible to the attitude of John the Baptist. He lived exclusively and decisively for the glory of the Son of God, wanting nothing for himself and zealously insisting that Christ receive all glory.
I do not think that we will even approach the level of humility that John has so beautifully demonstrated for us in Scripture. He was very much heavenly minded but never had a hint of boasting about his spirituality.
LORD, You have given the Spirit without measure, and all authority to Christ. Show me Your ways so that I can glorify You while seeking nothing at all for myself. Let my life be hidden in Christ and show me Your eternal life. Amen.