Today’s reading from BUMC Project 3:45 is John 3. (Click here to read it for yourself.)
The verse that stuck out to me today is one that sticks out to me every time I read John 3 because:
1) I don’t like it.
2) I need to hear it.
I have some suggestions for a re-write, which I’ll get to in a minute.
The backstory goes something like this. John the Baptist has been out baptizing people and drawing huge crowds to hear and see him. He has his own disciples who call him “Rabbi,” which is about the best thing somebody can call you in those days. John is famous. People talk about him, know about him, listen to him, and follow him around. (Not just on Twitter, like they literally follow him.) He’s a celebrity!
One day, one of John’s disciples comes to him and says, “Rabbi, Jesus is taking over your spotlight. He’s baptizing people and everyone is flocking to him! Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth? They’re leaving you, and following him. He’s making you irrelevant!”
And in one of the most profound statements in the Bible, in John 3:30, John says simply, “He must increase and I must decrease.” Wait, what?! I hate it when he says that!
This is where I’d like to offer Jesus some suggestions for how to respond to John. This is where I’d like Jesus to pop into the scene (even if he’s not right there when John says this, everybody knows he can hear John, he’s Jesus!) I’d like Jesus to say something like, “Thanks for your humility, John. Because of your humble spirit, I’m giving you…a new camel!” (In a gameshow voice with Price is Right theme music in the background.)
Or, I’d like Jesus to say, “Don’t worry John, if you decrease yourself, I’ll increase you by a thousand times.”
Or maybe something like, “Thanks for helping me out like that John. It’s been tough for me to draw a crowd, so I appreciate your endorsement. Because of that, I promise I’ll bless you with prosperity for the rest of your life!”
But what Jesus says instead is…nothing. In fact, this is the last time we hear from John in this Gospel. John decreases himself for the sake of Jesus and what he gets in return is arrested and eventually beheaded. Not quite the blessed kind of life you’d hope for, huh?
I don’t like this verse and I simultaneously need to hear this verse because it reminds that it’s ultimately not about me. My life shouldn’t be about bringing honor and glory to myself, but to Christ. . He must increase and I must decrease. I shouldn’t ask, “How can I get more and be more?” but “How can I give more and be less?” He must increase and I must decrease.
In my decision-making, my goal-setting, my prioritization of life, He must increase and I must decrease. Regardless of what I get in return, He must increase and I must decrease. In how I spend my time and who I spend it with, He must increase and I must decrease. In how and where I spend my money, He must increase and I must decrease.
My life story will come and go and the effect I have on people is only temporary, but the story and impact of Jesus will live on forever. He must increase and I must decrease.
God, give may I have the humility and passion of John.