“He must become greater. I must become less” (John 3:30, NIV).
As a church volunteer I have always quoted this verse in a bittersweet way. I have to say that when I think of that statement, there is always pain associated with it. To me it has meant sacrifice and a sense of lost identity. ‘So in the end’ my thinking goes, ‘I completely disappear and my life does not matter after all?’ That sure seems to me like a waste of energy and resources on my part. And yet, I know that in order to be a fully devoted disciple of Jesus, this verse has to become real in my life.
So I had to read this verse again within its context. John the Baptist uttered these words after his disciples complained to him that the man he had baptized (Jesus) was taking over his gig as ‘head baptizer’ on the other side of the river. To this, John replied: "A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:27-30, NIV).
This well-known phrase is given in the context of a wedding metaphor that completely obliterates my previous interpretations and, quite honestly, humbles me. In this metaphor, Jesus is the bridegroom, the church is the bride and John the Baptist the best man (the friend who attends the bridegroom). The best man is there for the bridegroom—to satisfy his needs and attend to his wants. He’s busy preparing the wedding ceremony and all its details: “Flowers, check. Bridesmaids, check. Violins and flutes, check. Guests, check. Radiant Bride, check…” And then the groom comes. All of a sudden, all the details of his work become simply an appropriate background for the main attraction—the bride and the groom. But he’s not sad. Everything is happening according to plan!
The best man yields center stage to the groom as He takes his place beside the bride. There he stands, right by the groom’s side, imbibing the sights and sounds of the occasion. He sees the Bride smiling as he hears the groom whispering to her, ‘You look beautiful!’ He recalls that 10 minutes ago, the flower girl threw a fit and threatened not to walk the aisle beside the ring bearer who stole her toy. The pianist forgot her music. The Pastor was missing in action and the Bride’s dress had a stain as big as the state of Texas. But now, everything is perfect, as it should be for his friend’s big day. And that was his goal. He has done his job so well that all the groom can see is his stunning bride, and all the bride can see is her soon-to-be husband.
And then it hits me… I’m John the Baptist. You’re John the Baptist. If we have devoted our lives to serving Jesus and his church, we are the Best Man! Sometimes we figure ourselves the Savior, but we know we don’t make the cut! At other times, we get so tired of working, we’d rather be just guests, but we know we couldn’t handle it. So we stand beside the groom, shoulder to shoulder, on his big day.
It’s a relief we don’t have to play the Savior. It’s a privilege not to just be a guest. We decrease only to fill our God-given role; that of friends of the Bridegroom. What a beautiful picture of how Jesus looks at us in the big scope of things. We are his friends—his closest friends. With that comes responsibility but also great privilege. Sure, we'll work harder than others. But we get to see him in his finest hour. We are criticized and unappreciated, but Sunday after Sunday we get to present his bride to him. We get to stand beside him, where he can see us, even if others can’t. I’ll gladly decrease in the sight of any guest if I can be God’s ‘best man’ for one day. I yearn to be his friend and I sure do love his bride. Being the best man is where it’s at!
- Mercy Alarid is the Creative Arts Pastor of Passion Church. Mercy has a Master's degree in Education. Mercy is a member of the faculty of Central New Mexico Community College, where she is an instructor in the Education department. Mercy has been married to Brian for 17 years and they reside in Albuquerque, New Mexico with their 3 children: Chloe, Colin, and Lauren.