John 1:6-9 (NIV): There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Just as God had foretold, He sent a messenger in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for Jesus (cf. Malachi 4:5-6). John’s job, made clear to his parents before his birth (Luke 1:17) and to him in his youth, was to point people to the Messiah, and to help to prepare people for His appearing by convicting them of their sins, and by baptizing them, so that they would receive Him when He arrived.
People were so eagerly anticipating the Messiah, and John was such a flamboyant personality, that many believed that he himself was the One. But John the apostle goes to some length to tell us that John the Baptist was NOT the light (vv7-8), but that he had only come as a witness to the light.
To John’s credit, he himself clearly told those around him that he was not the Messiah that they were waiting for (Matthew 4:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:15-17; John 1:19-27). And when Jesus did appear, he unhesitatingly pointed his own followers to Him, intending that they would now turn and follow Him (cf. John 1:29-36). John was not into building his own “ministry;” he was into doing his part to build the kingdom of God. He was not into amassing a large group of followers for himself; he was preparing as many followers as possible for the Messiah. He was not trying to make himself large in the eyes of the world; he was using every opportunity to magnify the One who would come after him.
Joh’s role was unique, for a unique time. But what John did is what followers of Jesus are still supposed to be doing today. The temptation is strong, especially among Christian leaders who succeed in gathering sizeable followings, to become the center of attention. There is something very satisfying to see hundreds and thousands of people who have come to hear you preach; to have people asking you to autograph your latest book about Jesus. But ALL Christians, whether pastors, or authors, or evangelists, or theologians, or just every-day Christians, need to realize that, as followers of Jesus, they all have one and the same job to do – a job very closely related to the job that John had been given.
That job is to make disciples of Jesus from the people of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Like John, we must never fall into the trap of building our own “ministry,” but must focus on building God’s kingdom. We must never amass large groups of followers for ourselves, but must be completely focused on preparing as many as possible to follow Jesus, continually pointing them toward Him. And we must never try to make ourselves large in the eyes of the world, but must always magnify Jesus, the true light that gives light to every person.
Father, help me to do all that You have shown me today. Help me to make my life, today and every day, like John’s life; a life completely committee to pointing people to Jesus, the true light. Help me to never push myself forward, but to always lift Him up. Help me to never think about how to build my own reputation, or my own following, but to spend my whole life glorifying Him. Amen.