22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “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 is going to him.” 27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
It appears John’s disciples are expecting him to be Jealous. He is John the Baptist after all. And he’s the one who baptised Jesus. But now everyone is going to Jesus to be baptised. It would be very natural if John felt just a little bit jealous. And it’s natural for me to feel a bit jealous where there’s some area of ministry that I’ve been doing but someone else is doing it better, or perhaps what I’ve been doing isn’t what people are looking for.
John has a radically different perspective. He’s like the friend of the bride groom, rejoicing for his friend. He may even be thinking of the image of God’s relationship with his people, Israel, being like a bride groom and his bride (Jerimiah 2:2, Isaiah 62:5 and picked up again in Revelation 19:7). This is Jesus whose arrival John was sent to announce as Israel’s Messiah, as God himself coming to His people. His whole purpose was that everyone should come to Jesus. Jesus is the one who baptises with the Spirit, not just water.
I don’t have a ministry. It was always God’s. He lets me have a part, but it never depended on how well I do it. The most important part is always His. It’s a privilege that Jesus gives me a part in what He’s doing. That He’s heard; that He’s seen; that He touches people’s lives; that He’s the one people are drawn to should give me joy like John’s. Like John, I need to become less so that the focus is on Jesus.
Jesus, thank you for giving me a part in what you’re doing in the world. And thank you for all the people who do their parts more effectively than I ever could. Thank you for the blessing they are to me, and to people who most need to come to you.
Written by David Cornell