“So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?'”
– John 1.22 [ESV]
In contrast to King Saul of Israel, John the Baptist saw himself accurately. After his various debacles, Saul should have been quite agreeable, or at the very least, understanding, when God took the kingdom from him. This, of course, was NOT the case. Saul spent his remaining years trying to overcome the sovereignty of God, trying to hold on to a kingdom that was never his in the first place. John, on the other hand, understood himself in the context of Christ. John found his passion and his zeal in something outside of himself: the arrival of the Messiah! Consider his answer to the question posed in verse 22. He could have said that he was the originator of a new and powerful form of baptism. He could have said that he was a prophet of God, in the spirit of Elijah, calling a nation to repentance. But what he had to say “for himself” was this:
“He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord”…I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.'” – John 1.23, 26-27 [ESV]
Do we truly see ourselves in connection with the person and the activity of God’s Son? Or is our default mode of thinking honed-in on our talents, accomplishments, and agendas? There is greatness, there is freedom in lifting up our eyes to see Jesus as our context. He is active. He is building his church. He is making all things new. His mission as eternal objectives and eternal rewards. His work is at the heart of what it means to really be a human being. Why would we settle for our vain imaginations of the “good life”? We are not born with any less purpose than John the Baptist, but maybe the difference between us is the clarity with which he understood that his purpose was inextricably caught up in the person of Jesus!