We all know the pot-stirrers. We know the folks who look for ways to stir things in a way that leads to confusion and dissension. They bring their spoons of strife to cause all manner of problems in all kinds of places with all kinds of people. They’re around today trying to cause trouble, and they were around in the time of Jesus.
This particular day, the pot-stirrers came to John the Baptist to let him know that folks were going to Jesus and the disciples for baptism — John’s baptism business was effectively drying up. It seems they wanted to let John know that right under his nose, Jesus had stolen his job. “This guy,” they tattled, “the one you were championing — look, he’s taken your place.” You can almost hear the sneer and accusation in their words.
this life is a gift
John probably sighed, trying not to roll his eyes or shake his head. I imagine he scratched his head and looked them square in the eyes, saying, very gently for this particular prophet, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” The pot-stirrers, in one simple sentence delivered clearly and carefully, find themselves silenced, the spoon of strife taken from their hands.
What John was saying is really powerful: “Look, I don’t have anything that wasn’t given to me — this life, this ministry. Even this message — a sacred trust to proclaim the one who is coming — is given me from heaven.”
it’s not about me
He finishes his words to the pot-stirrers with these, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What John is saying is, “It’s all about him, not me.”
The pot-stirrers tried to play on John’s self-interest in the baptism and prophecy business, to upset him about Jesus stealing his thunder. John completely disarms them with these words, “It’s not about me.”
Too often, we forget that everything we have in this life is a gift — everything. Too often, we forget that it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus. John reminds us that the work we do, the life we lead actually takes “less of me” and “more of Jesus.” When we keep focused on that, then it’s really hard to be bothered by what others say or do, for one simple reason: “It’s not about me.”
May we hear John’s words, and may Jesus increase in us.
A text for the table: John 3.22-30.