Sermon: “He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease” (John 3:22-36)
As Jesus presses forward deeper into his own public ministry, natural questions begin to arise. What exactly does Jesus do as his ministry? How does Jesus relate to other ministers who are faithfully serving God around him—and especially, how does he relate to John the Baptist, who began his own public ministry before Jesus did? What are all these ministers working to accomplish ultimately? Of course, these questions continue forward into our present context as we continue to ask about the nature of true Christian ministry. What are we supposed to be doing, and how much room do we have to innovate? Ultimately, how do our ministries relate to the actual person of Jesus Christ? How are we supposed to understand our relative failures and successes in ministry? What should we think when the church across the street increases, but our own local church decreases?
Where Jesus addressed a seeker in Nicodemus in the first half of John 3, the narrative shifts to allow John the Baptist to teach us about the nature of true ministry. As John the Baptist begins to decrease, those closest to him feel that Jesus has done him a disservice, but the Baptist has a very different perspective. In this passage, we find one of the clearest descriptions in the whole Bible on the activity, the motivation, and the message of true Christian ministry. In our own ministry contexts, this is a message we desperately need to hear as we continue to seek to follow Jesus.