He must increase (20 May 2018)

For Christians called to be the light to the world (Mt. 5:14) is a tall order.  Even so, fulfil it so we must, not so much as to call attention to ourselves, but pointing people to Jesus, ‘THE LIGHT of the world (John 8:1).  Hence, as we continue our pilgrimage here on earth, we seek to engage in activities in helping to draw people from the darkness of sin to God’s marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

In John chapter 3, we have a situation where John’s ministry was put side by side, in comparison with the ministry of Jesus.  John’s disciples seem to reflect jealousy on their part.  They said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man (Jesus) who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’(vs. 26)  John’s humble reply was, ‘He must increase; but I must decrease.’ (vs. 30).

Here in this story, one can observe that John was enjoying popularity.  Jesus had his disciples (vs. 22); John too had his (vs. 25).  Jesus was engaged in baptism (vs. 22); John too was doing the same thing (vs. 23).  Earlier on in this same chapter, Jesus was addressed as Rabbi – teacher (John 3:2); Here, John enjoyed no lesser a title (vs. 26).

In fact, for a period of time, it looked as if John was enjoying a bigger following.  Vs. 23 tells us, ‘23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized.’  The adjectives, ‘coming’ and ‘being baptized,’ informs us that the people were constantly going to him, describing the flow of traffic, where the people were all the time, frequently, continuously, relentlessly, making a bee line towards Him to get baptized.

But then trouble started.  The winds of change began to blow.  The jealous remark of John’s disciples to him was that everyone was going to him.   During his time of popularity, John has been experiencing the scenario of having people constantly going to him to get baptized.  But when Jesus burst onto the scene, things began to change.  From the people constantly going to John, it became ‘everyone going to Jesus.’  This caused consternation among his own disciples, who must have all these while been enjoying his popularity. 

In the business world, such a situation would have raised similar eyebrows, concerns and, similar to John’s disciples, perhaps a feeling of jealousy and consternation as well.  By all counts, a meeting might be called.  Brain-storming might take place as to how one might regain attention, recapture the market and boost sales.  But John’s reaction was, ‘He must increase; but I must decrease.’

As we progress on in our church, given the value systems of the world, where can be so easily influenced, it is pertinent for us to be constantly reminded that we are here not to build our own little kingdoms but the Kingdom of God (consider our church’s vision statement – ‘to the glory of God’).  You and I, are but mouth-pieces to proclaim the truth.   It is important for us to press on in the various ministries of our church, reaching out to people at our door-step and expanding our missions involvement.  On the one hand, we need to keep stepping up in our various ministries, as the Lord enables, in what we can do.  But at the end of the day, it has to ultimately to bring glory – not to ourselves, but to God.  For, He must increase, and we must decrease.’


Elder Richard Lai