Last week, a revelation smacked me in the face.
Every week for Bible Study Fellowship, we read verses from the book we are studying daily and answer the questions. As you may have surmised from my last post, we are in John this year. Be prepared. Today, however, is about another John, John the Baptist. One of the questions dealt with John 1:19-24, in which agents of the Pharisees question John the Baptist about who he is. They ask if he is the Christ (nope), Elijah (no), or the Prophet (still no, since that term is a misunderstanding of the prophecies of Christ and actually refers to Jesus). So then, instead of suggesting all these exciting things he could be, they just ask him who he is then. The Pharisees get that he’s important somehow. He fits in the narrative somewhere, and they want to know where.
John the Baptist replies by quoting one of the most beautiful prophecies, Isaiah 40:3, and he says, “I am ‘A voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23). In this verse and in later ones, I am struck by the focus of John’s ministry as contrasted with so many cult and religious leaders today and of yesteryear. There exists a sort of preacher who lives to draw followers to himself. He gathers disciples around him and becomes the center of peoples’ worship. John was very much in a position to do this. After 400 years of silence from the prophets, Israel has a new voice. John is something different and promising. People flock to him; the Bible speaks of the followers of John the Baptist. And yet when put in a position to talk about how he’s chosen by God (true) and just here to help people and that people should come get the help they need from him (not something he can provide), he keeps things simple. He refers back to Scripture.
When Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness, we see Jesus himself referring back to Scripture. John the Baptist is on solid ground. He knows who he is. He is here to send everybody on to Jesus. He’s just getting everybody ready. He’s an opening act who never wants to be the main stage performer. And when Jesus does arrive on the scene, John’s job is to send his disciples on to become Jesus’ disciples. It was never for him and he never claimed anything for himself. It was all for the glory of God, even though he was an eccentric figure even in the best light.
In the next few verses, we see Jesus walking by John the Baptist, who immediately calls out, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (Vs. 36). Two of his disciples leave him right there. One is Andrew and the other is presumed to be the disciple whom Jesus loved, or John-the-author-not-the-baptist-though-presumably-he-also-baptized-people-later-on. Mission accomplished. John the Baptist only gathers followers for the sole purpose of giving them away.
The next question was the revelation. It asked me if the aim of my life was the same as John the Baptist’s.
It had never once occurred to me that I was in the same role as him.
God has not, it is true, called me to wear coarse skin robes and eat locusts and honey and live in the desert. Nor, I hope, will I be beheaded by an evil queen. I will never get chapters of the Bible devoted to my birth and life. But my aim is to send people to Jesus. If they come to me, I pass them on. I can give them a foundation. I can tell them there’s a King who is greater than I. But in the end only Jesus can help them. My job is to lose my followers so that they may gain Christ. My husband, I give to Jesus. My friends, I send to Him. And, hardest of all, my children go on to choose Jesus over me. And it is good; oh yes, it is so very good.