4 May 2015 by Adeline Lum CM-
“He must become greater; I must become less,” those were the famous words of John the Baptist. (John 3)
On 3rd of May, Rev John Kok of the Kuala Lumpur Baptist Church (KLBC) presented a poignant message on Jesus becoming greater as we become lesser in life.
Jesus was baptizing people in the Judean countryside near John (verse 22-23). During then, an argument broke between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing (v 25).
It is uncertain what the argument was exactly about, as Scripture did not mention it. But we can assume that the matter of ceremonial washing had to do with the authority of John versus Jesus.
Thus, this explains why the disciples of John came to John and said, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – look, he is baptizing, and everyone else is going to him.” (John 3:26)
In other words, the disciples are saying, “John, that Jesus who was with you – the one you talked about – look at Him, He is baptizing like what you do, and now everyone is going to Him!”
The disciples felt threatened by Jesus, the supposed newcomer, who became more popular and influential than John. Furthermore, John was known as “John the Baptist.” (Matt 3:1) It was his identity, his thing.
But let us look at how John replied to his disciples.
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27)
Firstly, John stated that Jesus had the authority to baptize because that authority was given to him from Heaven. Hence, rather than looking at Jesus as a competitor, both Jesus and John work for the same Kingdom, for the same God.
And since the disciples said – “the one you testified about” – as if they had no part in believing, John used the same words to remind them, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ (John 3:28) Having held John’s words as true, they must believe in everything that John said.
Also here, John was stressing that the purpose of his ministry is not to elevate himself but to elevate Jesus Christ.
John continued by saying, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.” (John 3:29) Who is the bride here? In Scripture, the bride refers to the church. (Eph 5:25-27; Matt 25:1-18, Isa 62:5) In other words, the people who were baptized by John or were coming to John for baptism did not belong to him in the first place.
Pr John shared how pastors or church leaders also compete for the size of the church or the success of a ministry. But the truth is all members of the church belong to God. All of us make one bride of Christ.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
So, how did John see himself? He referred to himself as ‘the friend who attends the bridegroom,’ one who ‘waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.’ (John 3:27)
As the friend of the bridegroom, John knew that Jesus is the main character of the wedding. He counted himself as Jesus’ worker or helper, rejoicing when the Jesus meets His bride.
In fact, John continued saying, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” Why complete? This is because a wedding is only complete with the groom comes to seal the wedding with the bride. Have the groom not turned up, the wedding would be incomplete.
John counted this joy as his also because he knew the arrival of Jesus would mean that his purpose is fulfilled, which is to prepare the way for Jesus.
John then concluded to his disciples, “He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
By this time, having explained why he must decrease, the disciples must be thinking, “Who is this man, Jesus Christ, who warrant such authority?”
John continued by directing their entire focus to Jesus Christ now.
Firstly, unlike John who came from earth, Jesus came from Heaven, and therefore He is above all. Furthermore, because He came from Heaven, He can testify to what He has seen and heard. (John 3:31-32) But because John came from the earth, he spoke like a man from earth. (John 3:31)
Secondly, God Himself sent Jesus. John said, “For the one whom God has speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.” (John 3:34) Who is this man that God sent? John continued saying, “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” (John 3:35) In this verse, John is revealing to his disciples that Jesus is actually not a mere man, but He is the Son of God!
Correcting their disbelief, John ended by concluding with these important words to his disciples, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains in them.” (John 3:36)
When we place Jesus Christ as the focus and purpose of our life, all competitions and arguments cease because what matters is no longer our personal agenda but the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom.
We are all but one in Christ.
Note: This is an expanded and approved review of Rev John Kok’s sermon by the writer.
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