Wednesday, April 6, 2022

On becoming small. . .

Blessed John the Forerunner had many things to say and all of them worth remembering.  But especially worth remembering is when he confessed of Jesus He must increase and I must decrease,  It is a curious thought.  John was at the height of his game, so to speak.  Where scribes and elders had failed to prepare God's people for the Messiah's coming, John was clear, blunt, and unwavering.  The crowds responded by hearing his call, believing his words, repenting of their sins, and following him down into the water to be baptized.  When Jesus showed up, John demurred but acquiesced to Jesus' insistence for the sake of righteousness.  From that time on, he did not fail to proclaim Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Like a barking dog, John insisted and until Herod could stomach no more.  Even in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus.  It was John's time to shine.  Except that John would have none of it.  Jesus must increase and John must decrease.  To be faithful, John must become small and Jesus must be large.

esus insisted John was not small -- no greater son had been born of his mother than John.  Who do you think John was -- let me tell you, if you can bear it, he was Elijah!  But John believed and knew the path of faith was to become small.  Jesus lauded John's faithfulness but John was no longer alone or even center stage in this theater of new reality.  John accepted it.  He even seemed to glory in it.  John would diminish and Jesus would shine.

Lest we think this some kind of unique connection between John the Baptist and Jesus, our Lord puts forth a similar thought.  When shocked at Jesus' insistence that it was hard for the rich to be saved, the disciples wondered who might be saved at all?  It is as hard to be saved as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible.  Whether you think Jesus is talking about a gateway in which the camels had to be unloaded to pass or Jesus was speaking of the literal needle and humped back beasts of burden, the point is the same.  To pass through you must become small.  That is the journey of faith.  Far from us becoming bigger or living up to our full potential or shining in the spotlight on life's stage, the path of repentance is, indeed, one of becoming small so that Jesus might fill us and all things.  On our own we can do nothing of this but we are not on our own.  The Holy Spirit is at work in us making us small so that Christ might be large in us.

We are soon to head through Holy Week.  From palms and hosannas, we meet our Lord in the mystery of the Upper Room and in the cruelest suffering of the cross before we wait through the long day until Easter rises to call us to alleluias once again.  It is a journey of discovery -- not for who we are but of the love of God for the small, the sinner, the penitent, and the believer who dares to take God at His Word.  We become ever so small before a cross that is the center of everything and a Savior who is bigger than all things.  Even He became small for us -- from the God who filled all creation until He might fit into the Virgin's Womb.  

We are surrounded by so many and so great temptations that it is assured we shall fall but none of those temptations is greater than the thought that Jesus has come so we might shine.  Now, near the end of our Lenten journey, it is good for us to recall John's words.  He must increase.  I must decrease.  This is not our labor to produce a heart fit for God but the fruit of God at work in our hearts.  It is not our task or effort but the work of the Spirit with whom we cooperate by faith.  And the result is that Christ becomes big in us -- big enough to rescue us from sin and its death and great enough to keep us until the day when we are delivered to our Father on high by the Lamb of God who has taken away our sin and redeemed us for life everlasting.

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