One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
As we delve into the depths of the presidential election, streets are lined with lawn signs, and our media overflows with campaign ads, announcements, speeches, and opinions–lots of opinions. Politicians are diligent to monitor every word and every action–or provide the necessary cover-up to protect any unscrupulous choices. They know the choices they make now could affect the choice the people make in November. One mistake could be detrimental to the goal–could cost the election. They do not speak or act unless they feel it will draw people to their side. They do not speak to point people to someone else; they speak to draw people to themselves. They want people to hear them and in turn follow them.
Yet as I read the above verse the other day, I found a completely opposite principle–one contrary to today’s political mentality. It is a principle John the Baptist modeled and a principle I believe God calls each of us to walk out as well.
The principle? Hear me, but follow Him.
John the Baptist knew his purpose was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah–not himself–the Messiah. John was not the Messiah, and he was very clear about this as people began following him. Before he crossed paths, and especially after he crossed paths with Jesus, John the Baptist consistently pointed people away from himself and toward Jesus. He didn’t speak and baptize to draw people to himself; he spoke and baptized to draw people to Jesus.
At one point, however, some men who were following John approached John and asked if he were upset that not only was Jesus baptizing but also that “all” were going to Him (John 3:26). They formed the question as if to say, “Aren’t you upset and jealous that Jesus is stealing all your followers?!”
Oh how many times have we thought or actually said something similar! “How come she is getting all the attention when I did just as much work?” “Why did he get the promotion when I’ve been here longer?” “Why is he in charge when I am just as qualified?” “Why do people listen to her instead of me?” “What makes her so special?” “Why won’t anyone notice me?”
Such thoughts and questions arise from our natural tendency to want the glory and the credit and the attention for ourselves. When we speak, we want others to listen. When we act, we want others to acknowledge it. And although wanting to be heard is not wrong, we must be diligent to make sure our motives are in the right place. Do we want to be heard to get the credit? Do we want to be heard so others know we are right? Or do we want to, like John, be heard so that people see Jesus? Do we speak and act in a way that says, “Hear me, but follow Jesus”?
There is quite a difference. One motive is like a beacon, which cries out, “Look at me! Here I am!” The other is like a spotlight, which cries out, “Look at Him! There He is!” Both may give out bright lights, but only one sheds that light in the right direction.
As we read on in the passage, John’s response was perfect. He wasn’t upset Jesus was gaining popularity; He was pleased. In fact, he responded to the question with joy: “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 1:28-30).
Talk about putting out a fire before it could get started. No jealousy present in John.
And that last sentence. Oh, that last sentence: He must increase, but I must decrease. John knew it was not about him; he knew it was all about Jesus.
It should always be all about Jesus.
Which brings me to the verse I quoted at the beginning of this post. At first it may seem an unusual verse to highlight, but it actually reveals this heart attitude of pointing others away from ourselves and toward Jesus–from shining the light on Jesus rather than on ourselves.
Let’s look at the key words: who heard John speak and followed Jesus.
Did you catch it? The disciples HEARD John but FOLLOWED Jesus. They didn’t hear John and then follow John. The heard John and then followed Jesus. This is exactly what John was created for; it was his divine appointment. And I daresay it is what we should be living and praying as well. Instead of speaking in a way that points others to us and what we believe; we should be speaking in a way that points others directly to Jesus. People should see us yet follow Jesus.
So I encourage you now, my friend, join me in turning John 1:40 into a prayer–a prayer asking God to take the spotlight off ourselves and place it on Himself–the One true God who alone deserves all the glory, all the honor, and all the praise.
Dear Jesus, may what people hear me speak and see me do today make them want to follow You. Give me the wisdom and strength to seek You first in everything. And as I seek You, may I not be a beacon drawing people’s eyes toward me but rather a spotlight pointing people to You, for You alone are the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through You. May I decrease so You may increase. May people see me, and then follow You. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).