Have you ever had the honor of bestowing spiritual blessing upon a great spiritual leader? How would you feel if the Pope or Billy Graham asked you to pray for them? Would you feel up to the task? Would you feel inadequate and request this person pray for you instead? Such feelings came naturally to John the Baptist when Jesus asked John to baptize Him in the Jordan River. Both John and Jesus teach us how humility comes before honor.
Despite his reluctance, John was no spiritual slouch. He had been filled with the Holy Spirit from birth (Luke 1:15) and did not live to experience Pentecost (Matthew 14:6-10, Acts 2:1-4). He was declared to be the greatest man ever born of woman (Matthew 11:11). In fact, he was the reigning superstar of faith at the time. Yet when Jesus came to him to be baptized, John was loath to admit any goodness in himself because he knew he was polluted by sin. Moreover, even though John had been ministering and baptizing in the wilderness for some time, he recognized Christ as the One Priest far superior to him (Matthew 3:11).
Humbly, John objected immediately, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). John was shocked, just as Peter was shocked when Jesus set out to wash the disciple’s feet (John 13:6). John’s modesty was so great he considered it unthinkable for a man such as him to baptize the Son of God. Even though he had a great name among the faithful and was universally respected, John could not do otherwise than to humble himself before the LORD (John 1:1-3).
John’s humility is a great lesson and inspiration to us all. In this day of superstars who demand our loyalty, admiration, money, and incessant media attention, it is refreshing to see a superstar who is more concerned with humility than honor. But as exalted as John was and as magnificent as John’s act of humility was, it was still nothing compared to the act of humility Jesus was performing before His eyes.
Jesus was the Son of God, through whom all things in Heaven and on Earth were made (John 1:3). There was is no man greater than Him. He did not have to leave His Heavenly Kingdom and humble Himself by coming to Earth. Yet from His birth in a lowly manger, to parents who had been scorned socially, and a lineage that included prostitutes and adulterers, Jesus had demonstrated how humility must come before honor (Luke 14:8). Since His childhood, He had spent almost thirty years in humble obscurity, hidden in His family in Galilee. Now His time had come to ascend to His prophetical office, yet He did it humbly and with grace.
As soon as Jesus began to preach, He preached humility. Better yet, He preached it by example. Although Christ deserved the highest honors, in His first step into ministry He abased Himself publicly. He did not go to Jerusalem to be baptized in the grandeur of the Temple, instead He elected to make the difficult journey to the desert where the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other religious leaders were sparse or absent. He did not declare Himself greater than those around Him; instead, He humbled Himself to be baptized by a sinner in a remote, desert location.
Jesus showed us it is normal to be humble in all circumstances. He is our model for humility and displayed His humbleness at all times. He who knew no sin would submit to the baptism of repentance, so great is His love. Humility comes before honor. Jesus shows a great respect to John, but John honored Jesus even more. Those who honor God will be honored by God, and certainly Jesus was due all honor, glory, and praise.
We, as did John, need to humble ourselves before the LORD. Remember how He was willing to humble Himself for us. We are all obligated to return the favor. Take time today to thank your Savior for His great sacrifice and pray He will give us all the humility we need to serve Him.
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