Jn 1:29-34 Pulling Rank
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of god, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’”
“You gotta be positive!” “You gotta be assertive!” “You gotta be convincing!” “Be original!” “Be confident in yourself!” These are just a few of the quotes I wrote down from a leadership training class I took while I was working at Kodak. I remember having a lot of fun participating in it. I even got a certificate for it.
But now I know that I didn’t learn much about leadership that day. I actually learned about it in my seminary days. And one quote from those days sticks out the most in my mind: “He must increase. I must decrease.” This quote comes from John the Baptist.
Everyone knows that if you do not have the slightest bit of musical “talent” or “acting” ability, then the secret to success is to be abnormal, bizarre, weird, freakish, and strange. Hollywood and the music industry are the modern circuses of our day. In the old days, the circus would come around your town and advertize the “Thinnest woman”, the “Hairiest man”, the “Shortest woman”, and the “Tallest man”. They would even advertize their freakiest stunts, such as the “Sword eating man” and the “Fire eating woman”. Believe it or not, these were the main attractions.
Doesn’t the entertainment industry today do the same thing with shows like “My strange addiction”, “My four hundred pound life”, “Hoarders” and “Teen murderers”? Doesn’t it do the same thing with a mom who takes her little honey boo boo and gives her a mixed drink (Mountain Dew with Red Bull)?
We all know that if you want to get ahead in this world, then you must sell yourself as being outlandish. Is there any wonder why it’s a fallen world; a world full of masked, deceitful and prideful people?
Technology may have changed over time, but talent has not, and those who do not have it continue to search for the freakiest ways to compensate for it. Hollywood is not interested in sharing people’s lives. It is interested in taking people’s money and lives. Yes, money continues to be a huge motivator for freakiness and human exploitation.
John the Baptist had a very good thing going. He had lots of customers. He had lots of followers. He had lots of fans. Business was good.
And then one day it all went away. Jesus took it all away from the Baptist, every single bit of it: his message, his customers, his fans, even his followers. And what’s even more remarkable about all of this is that John accepted it. In fact, he even predicted it: “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.”
Wow! John understood: My life no longer belongs to me. It is not I who lives in me, but Christ who lives in me. John understood that if you want to get ahead in God’s world, then truth and humility are the way to go.
He existed before me. Jesus pulls rank on John because Jesus existed before John. And although John started his ministry long before Christ did, Christ existed long before John did. In fact, “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). That’s a long time folks.
There are a lot of people I consider to be friends. Some of them I never met, while others died long ago. But what they wrote I couldn’t agree with more. One man, a retired priest, Father Jim Scott (not his real name), wrote the following:
“I was brought up in a family where we were taught to focus, not on ourselves, but on other people. To focus outward rather than inward. I have put this to good use in my work. A young man recently asked me, “What lesson do you have for me before I go off to work?” I said, “It’s very simple. No matter whom you meet, no matter where you meet them, always presume that they’re much better than you are. Presume that they’re head and shoulders above you, and you’ll have no problem.” When I look around, the most devastating Achilles’ heel that I see people suffering from is that they take themselves too seriously. While it’s very important to take others seriously, don’t take yourself that seriously. If you do, then you’ve really got a problem.” (“30 Lessons for Living” by Karl Pullemer, Ph.D, page 75).
John knew that. Maybe that’s the best lesson we can learn this new year.