John 1:15 (NIV): John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”
John the Baptist had been dead for decades by the time that John wrote his gospel, but his words were still alive, still in the present-tense in the apostle’s mind. John had been a disciple of the Baptist, and had often heard him talk about “the one who comes after me,” the long-awaited Messiah for whom John was a herald, the one assigned to prepare the way for Him.
John knew more about the Messiah than he could say, but his words contained tantalizing hints as to the nature of this deliverer. One of the most amazing statements is in this verse: “He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.” Even though Jesus was about 6 months younger than John (cf. Luke 1:36), and even though He showed up on the public scene many months after John began his ministry of preparation, Jesus was before John.
Unlike normal human beings, Jesus did not start to exist at conception. Instead, He always existed, from before the universe was created, since it was created through Him (Hebrews 1:2). When Mary was made pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), instead of a new soul being created at that moment, Jesus, the Son of God, began to inhabit that small speck of new life. (Now there’s an amazing mystery: the infinite Son of God not only making Himself finite, but making Himself to fit into something that miniscule!)
John knew that Jesus was more than a man, and that His origins were “from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2) And, even though he didn’t completely understand it, he knew that that fact put Jesus on a whole different plan than himself. When Jesus showed up, John realized that his job, his calling, was complete. The way had been prepared for the Messiah, the Messenger of the new covenant had arrived, and now he would decrease. And that was fine with him.
Father, John is the epitome of faithfulness. He never tried to hold onto his position or his fame. He knew his role and performed it with all of his heart. Then he transitioned into Your presence to receive a hearty “Well done” from You, the One he had lived his whole life for. Help me to be as trustworthy, as faithful, in every role that You have called me to fulfill. Amen.