22After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24(This was before John was put in prison.) 25An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26They 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—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 29The 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. 30He must become greater; I must become less.
31“The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
Here again we have a text that is not often misquoted, but often misused. When it is used, it is so often not really understood what it means. Jesus must become greater, I must become less. First of all, He is greater. He does not have to become greater, He is greater. Now I understand that when this is used, people, (including myself) are talking about a pride thing we have. When I am seated on the throne of my life, I put myself in a position that I should not be in. And in that context, there may be a reason to use this. However, I believe that there are much better Scriptures to use, ones that speak of humbling yourself in the sight of the Lord.
Now why do I say that. Simply because there is something greater going on here. First of all, what we read in this passage is not about John being prideful, lifting himself up, seating himself on the throne. John is actually testifying to the greatness of this One who comes after him. He is testifying of the greatness of the Son of God. This is the one who had been prophesied, promised. He is the bridegroom come to claim His bride. John has been sent ahead to prepare the way for Jesus. Now that Jesus has come, John is filled with JOY, not because he was the center of attention, but because the bridegroom has come. John is full of JOY because Jesus is successful.
John was willing to go all the way to death in the light of this joy. We read in other gospels, that just before his death, he had some doubts and sent to find out if this joy was was misplaced or was still valid. Jesus sends back the word that all that had been promised, was in fact, being fulfilled. John could die with joy.
It is just at this point we need to realize what this text is talking about. Not just simply humbling yourself, stepping off the throne but still remaining in the throne room. No, it is about getting out of the way and letting Jesus get to work. It is about dying. Dying to self, dying of self, DYING!!! It is about letting the plan, promise and purpose of God be fulfilled. It is about taking up crosses, it is about a radical way of life, that says not only, “take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee,” but says, “Take my life!” If that is what is needed for your plan, promise and purpose to be fulfilled, then so be it! That is what John is saying here. Whatever it takes Lord, I will do.