The Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized —John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison. Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Each and every day, we encounter situations that require us to make choices and decisions. Some are so mundane and routine that we give little attention to them, but then there are those that will significantly impact the way we live or define the trajectory of our lives.
In our gospel today, we find the transition from the ministry of John the Baptist to that of Jesus. As John fades out of the picture, Jesus comes more into view. If we recall, some of John’s disciples had already joined Jesus at John’s prompting, “Look, here is the lamb of God” (John 1:36). As Jesus’ ministry begins to flourish, John’s influence is being eclipsed. Those who remain with John are not just worried that John is losing his following, but they are also concerned about their own standing as John’s popularity diminishes. Now threatened by Jesus’ ministry, they go to complain to John because they are jealous. The choice before John and his disciples in this moment is clear: joy or jealousy.
We can rush to judge John’s followers, but this is a truly human response. We may want other people to succeed, but not more than us. The desire for recognition is a universal human drive but John the Baptist knows who he is in the sight of God. Imagine the surprise of John’s followers when he not only reminds them he is not the Messiah, but also that he is filled with joy to occupy a place of lower status than Jesus, the one who is above all. He rejoices in the coming of Jesus -in his place, in the mission, and in the life of Jesus. Like John, all that we do should direct others to Jesus. And that alone should lead us to rejoice that our joy may be fulfilled. May one of our decisions today be to choose such joy.
I find my joy in the Lord.
He is my rock, he is my song,
and great reward
I will live to bring Him praise.
In his great love I will rejoice
for all my days.
(I Find My Joy, Ethan Davis & Seth Primm)