He must increase,
but I must decrease

By Greg Jones

John the Baptist was real. He was a historical figure – not a literary invention, not a mythical fantasy. He had a life of his own, with parents, family, a name, a neighborhood, a nation. He was a real person, no less than you and I.

He is spoken of in books – not only in the Gospels but also in the books of Josephus. John was charismatic enough to draw thousands of disciples to himself and lead them to change their lives dramatically.

The Baptist was full-on real, and widely known in his own day. The evidence suggests he had a very large following of many thousands – attracting not only the poor and the restless – but also the rich and the comfortable. His own king took interest in him, and then, fearing his power, had the Baptist killed.

John the Baptist was MAJOR – and yet, we really don’t know most of the details of his life – because he gave it away to point to Jesus. John was big, but he made himself small, as he pointed toward Christ and showed that disciples of God must live lives of giving it all away.

It’s the central paradox of the Gospel – to live, we must die.

John got that message first.

Of course, I’m not talking about the past really. I’m talking about us too. For we are tomorrow’s past – at best to be forgotten by this world and remembered in the next – at worst, to be remembered in this world but not in the next.

If John the Baptist has anything to say at all to us it is this: “Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, Go to Him, See Him, and Stay there, forever.”

In the Gospel of John, after the Baptist identifies Jesus, two of his own followers leave him, Andrew and Simon Peter, and go after Jesus. They go to see where Jesus stays – or abides — in late afternoon on the Sabbath eve – and then stay for the entire Sabbath — a 24 hour period.

The Gospel of John is suggesting that this is what true discipleship looks like: Leaving your old master, and abiding with the Lord for 24 hours a day.

Are we doing that? Or are we popping in on the Lord for an hour a week and returning to our all-day masters the rest of the time?

Friends – God’s grace is free – but discipleship does have a cost. And the cost is the giving up of our old masters – our all-day masters – whatever those are – to abide with Christ all the time.

Who is your master — this hour? And the next?

The Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones (“Greg”) became a member of Christ’s Body at St. Columba’s in Washington, D.C., and he was educated at the University of North Carolina and the General Theological Seminary, where he is on the Board. Greg is husband of Melanie, father of Coco & Anna, rector of St. Michael’s Raleigh, and author of Beyond Da Vinci (Seabury Books, 2004). He blogs at fatherjones.com.

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