John the Baptist is one of the people I admire the most in the Scriptures. He was courageous and yet, at the same time, a man of tremendous humility. Those two qualities almost seem opposed to each other in our culture. John began his ministry suddenly with a commanding eloquence that reminded people of an earlier great prophet, such as Isaiah or Elijah. If you were one of those fortunate enough to hear John speak, you had nothing to compare it with. It was unbelievable to hear this man preach. People trekked for days into the desert to hear him deliver his fiery sermons. Although he performed no miracles, his powerful messages brought conviction to the souls of his listeners.
The rumors circulated that John was possibly the Messiah. The people agreed, never had there been a prophet like this man. As anticipation built, they asked him if he was the long awaited Messiah. John’s answer was as direct and forceful as the man himself:
John 1:20 “He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’”
Then who are you, John, if you are not the Christ? John’s answer was an echo of Isaiah’s words spoken some 750 years earlier:
John 1:23 "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"
This is why I like John. What an answer! I don’t know very many people who could have resisted the temptation to accept the accolades that were being hurled at him. Here is strength and humility on display.
Later, another test came for John when Jesus’ ministry surged forward and his ministry diminished. John is informed that Jesus is baptizing so many now—even more than John. They want John’s take on the new development.
John 3:26 “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 — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’"
Such tests would have caused most people to stumble, but not John.
To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ 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.
What is ironic about John is that he knew his ministry would cause Jesus to become greater and his own ministry would diminish in influence, and yet he gladly accepted his role. His humility allowed him to live selflessly. Not only was John not driven by envy, but he also displayed a magnanimous spirit. John truly learned the meaning of contentment. He made no comparisons and fully accepted his role as a gift from heaven. How much John could teach us all about living.