This piece was originally published at The Christian Post on July 2, 2012.
John the Baptist was a saint, not a celebrity. While people wanted to make him into a celebrity, he wanted to be a window through which they could gaze at the Messiah, Jesus. When John’s disciples came to him and said that Jesus to whom John bore witness “is baptizing, and everyone is going to him” (John 3:26), John said,
A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 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. He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:27-30).
May John’s joy be my joy. May it be your joy, too. May Jesus’ voice be loud and clear in our lives and callings. May his voice echo and reverberate through our own voices and stimulate our heartbeats. Jesus must become greater. We must become less.
In what follows in the biblical story, John will soon go to prison, after which his head is removed and placed on a platter (See Matthew 14:3, 8 and 11). And after his disciples take John’s body and bury it, they go and tell Jesus (Matthew 14:12). Even in death, John is still a witness to the Lord. Later in the gospels, we find Jesus preparing for his own death, death by crucifixion, by partaking of the Passover Feast at the table with his disciples. Instead of dining in luxury and having his disciples serve him delicacies on silver platters as celebrities might, we find him taking off his outer garments and bending down and washing their feet at the table (See John 13:1-5). What kind of God is this? Such love. Such humility.
The more we know and experience Jesus’ love the more we will long to be saints whose lives are open windows that allow others to see him clearly. When that day comes, there will be no more fixation with gazing in the mirror; his glory and his beauty will captivate our imaginations. The gravity of his love will pull us down from celebrity platforms and cause us to care for one another at his table. When that day comes, there will be no more need for playing king on the mountain, or for trying to grab the last piece of bread. No more fear of want, when all we really want is him.
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture, and Director, The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins, Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. This essay reflects themes presented in two of his works: The Gospel of John: When Love Comes to Town (InterVarsity Press, 2010) and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church (Eerdmans, 2007). These volumes can be found wherever fine books are sold. These themes are also developed in terms of church unity and missional engagement in his recent talk, “God’s Family Table,” based on 1 Corinthians 11 and Galatians 2, and delivered at Life Change Christian Center in Portland, Oregon.