John the Baptist
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” ~ John 1:19-34
In all the gospels, John the Baptist is the one who points to Jesus. But in none as clearly as in the Gospel of John. And in no other gospel as humbly. (in the Gospel of Matthew, he is quite the firebrand!)
It is only in John's gospel that we don't get any mention of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. And it is only in John's gospel that he calls Jesus "Lamb of God."
Over and over in John's gospel does the Baptist point to Jesus. He slowly edges back out of the scene as Jesus edges forward.
He straightens his disciples out when they get irritated at all the press Jesus gets.
He steps back when some of his disciples end up following Jesus themselves.
For his followers - the ones who were irritated at Jesus' success - this had to be shocking. John was pretty darn popular. No one likes to see their popular leader take a step back.
But a good leader knows their job and knows when their job is done. They know when it is time to get off the stage for the next leader to take their place.
John's purpose had been to point to Jesus. As tempting as it might have been to keep the accolades for himself, he knew his role and he played it.
Holy God, move me toward justice, mercy, and humility in all my dealings with your people. Amen