Humble Heroes: John the Baptist

Paul’s story can be found in Mark 1:1-11; 6:14-29; Matt. 3; Luke 1; 3:1-21; John 1:14-24; 3:22-36

John, prophetic proclaimer and cousin of Jesus, doesn’t get the credit he deserves in the Gospels, but I imagine he would be quite fine with this. John, often called John the Baptist, knew his place in the grand scheme of things. Though a preacher and prophet, his message didn’t center around himself, but around the Messiah who he proclaimed.

From the beginning of his ministry, John wanted people to anticipate a prophet greater than him. Mark 1:7-8 record him as teaching “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Everything John preached was to get the audience to focus away from himself and toward Jesus.

When Jesus came walking by in John 1, John quickly pointed him out. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’” (John 1:29-30). This messaging obviously worked because Andrew, a disciple of John realized he needed to be following Jesus. He invited his brother Peter to join Jesus as well—Peter of course became an incredibly influential disciple of Jesus.

Even though we preach the gospel after Jesus’ live, death, and resurrection, we can still learn from John’s general tactics. He constantly worked to focus on what mattered—Jesus, not himself. In John 3, when Jesus’ disciples were baptizing people, essentially stealing “John’s thin” some of John’s disciples asked the prophet about his feelings. John reiterates that he is not the Messiah. He gives an example of what he is feeling. “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” (John 3:29). A wedding isn’t all about the guests, but they should be excited for the couple. John, likewise, knows his role in Christian history: the show isn’t about him but is about Jesus.

Then John replies with a powerful statement: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). This is a clear example of a Christian’s posture toward Christ. Our own achievements, identity, or skills don’t matter as much as Jesus. This comes with risks, however. John’s message of repentance and about Jesus earned him a reputation as a weirdo and even lead to his beheading (Mark 6). John the Baptist demonstrates extreme humility despite consequences to his own survival and dignity.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you admire most about John’s character?
  • What does it look like to “become less”?
  • How can we be sure to preach about Jesus’ powers without focusing on our own abilities?
  • Which of John’s best traits do you need to work on in yourself?
  • How is your character and spiritual life challenged by John’s life?
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