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Only a Part of God's Master Plan

John 1:30-34
This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptising with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.’ Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’ (NIVUK)

Although John the Baptist was a close relative of Jesus, and John’s parents would have told him about God’s special calling on his life (Luke 1:11-17), he did not presume to manage Jesus or manipulate the Saviour into His ministry.  Quite the reverse: he said that he did not even know for certain that Jesus was God’s Messiah!  All John knew was that God would reveal His Son quite distinctly.  And so, when Jesus came out of the River Jordan, and the dove settled on Him, John knew that He was God the Son.

Unlike human politics, where people manipulate others, John was simply a faithful servant of God.  He knew what he had to do, and he did it – preaching the need for repentance and baptising those who did repent.  Although John was preparing people to meet the Messiah (‘Christ’ in Greek), he did not know His identity.  But He trusted that God would reveal His Son.  So, John was content to fulfil the little part God had assigned to him, not worrying about the timing or method of Christ’s unveiling.  However, God had told John that Christ would be identified by the dove – a sign of God’s Holy Spirit; as God the Father and God the Spirit commended God the Son to the world.  When John saw the dove on Jesus, John’s previously Spirit-inspired words (John 1:29) were confirmed and the Holy Spirit gave him unstoppable confidence to announce that Jesus was the Son of God.

Let’s look at John’s statement, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me”.  It is important because it is repeated by the Apostle John in his prologue (John 1:15) as well as in the narrative account in John 1:30.  What did he mean?  Although John was older than Jesus, he understood that the Messiah was God and existed before the world was made and certainly before John was born (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-3).  John was in awe of Him, and we should be also.

John’s example of patient and focussed service is one we should follow.  Instead of assuming that we know what God is doing and choreographing the action for Him, we would do well to simply play the part assigned to us.  Humans hate untidy ends, and want to find a way to make everything ‘right’.  But we cannot!  Indeed, that is why Jesus came, because sinful people are incapable of understanding the mind of God or mending what is broken (Isaiah 40:13).  In the same way that John was courageously content to be obedient and let God be in control of the action, so we ought to resist the temptation of managing God’s business for Him.  Not only is it foolish and wicked (it was always Satan’s desire), but it is unproductive and unsatisfying.  It neither does the work of God nor allows God to work in us.  So be content to fulfil the role assigned to you, and let the Lord arrange everything else; it is the perfect way to serve Him.

My Master and my God. Thank You for being the Sovereign Ruler of everything; I believe that You know everything and have all authority. Thank You for the perfection of Your plans. I am sorry for the times when I have presumed to know better than You, or run ahead of You, or assumed that a different direction is right. Please keep me humbly serving You; quietly trusting that You will arrange everything else and everybody else, at the right time and in the right way, to achieve Your purposes. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams