Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Throughout the gospel of John you will see Jesus clearly saying “I am the light of the world…the resurrection and life…the bread of life…the vine…the way, truth and life…the good shepherd”…and simply “I am.” But here we see John the Baptizer saying, “I am not.”
I actually think the gospel writer intentionally used the “I am” construction here to juxtapose John’s statement in contrast to Jesus’s declaration as the “I Am” (John 8:58). Though many thought John could have been the promised Messiah who would save Israel from the Romans, he clearly says that he is not the Messiah, nor the prophet Elijah. John says there is someone who is coming for whom he’s not even worthy to do the disciple’s work of untying the thong of his master’s sandal.
Even though John is greatly revered by the crowds, he clearly humbles himself and points to a greater one to come. John knows he is special but he never allows power and prestige to become his identity. Instead, humility marks his life as a servant of the Lord.
Though much of St. Patrick’s life has a legendary quality, his manuscript The Confession of Saint Patrick does give us a glimpse into the man’s life and character. One aspect becomes clear: his humility. He opens with, “I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many…” Even though Patrick could take credit for bringing thousands of former pagans into the Christian family, he did not embrace a “savior” mentality. Instead he knew that only the true Savior, our Lord Jesus, can bring powerful transformation that lasts.
Knowing that you aren’t the Messiah is a good thing! You can’t save yourself. You can’t find fulfillment and purpose without submitting to the Logos/Word (John 1:1), the Light (John 8:12), Jesus Christ. Knowing that you aren’t the messiah of your company, your ministry, your family or your community is a good thing! John modeled and Patrick lived what all followers of Jesus should aspire to be: humble servants who know that the only joy in life is found by submitting to Jesus, our humble Lord.
Something to Think About:
Do you, like John, find your identity not in power and prestige, but as God’s humble servant?
What are the temptations in your leadership context to be the “savior?”
What resources are you connecting with to help shape your leadership in humility like Jesus?
Something to Do:
If you’re in the LA area next month, join me, Amy Sherman and other great leaders for a discussion on faith and work as it pertains to growing as leaders under our Lord Jesus. You can register at www.faithandworkla.com.
Jesus, may I follow the lead of John who knew who he was and whom he wasn’t. Forgive me for thinking I can be the savior of my own life and the life of others. I confess my need to choose humility and repent of any inclinations to hold onto power, prestige or ego. Remind of me of great leaders like St. Patrick who chose humility as a constant leadership trait. Amen.