We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary last December. Our traditional December wedding was dreamy…tiered candelabras, white bows adorning each pew, red roses and white lily bouquets, my scoop neck crystal white gown, his red paisley vest tucked under a sharp black tux. Aside from the church’s royal blue carpet, all was perfection.
As far as life events go, weddings rank up pretty high. It’s a day centered around the bride and groom. It all comes down to a moment where eyes locked, hands held, and words exchanged two people are united as one. I’m a visual learner, so when I read the Bible I often need mental imagery to make sense of what’s happening. I don’t have all of the historical contexts of ancient Israel and Rome, so I imagine how things would be if Biblical stories were occurring today. Sometimes it makes for humorous visuals (How convenient would it have been for people to break out YouVersion Bible app on their IPads instead of unrolling scrolls? Ancient world problems).
John chapter 3 starting at verse 28 says, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John (the Baptist) is teaching about how to follow Jesus. Sometimes it’s easy to gain knowledge, but acting on it is another story. Verses like this one teach us the how of the what. John is talking about a bride (God’s Church), groom (Jesus), and the groom’s friend (himself, Jesus’ cousin who prepared people for Jesus’ arrival). I picture a wedding day much like my own. Cue the music…the lights…white fluffy ribbons on each pew, illuminated candles, (I’m going to imagine gleaming hardwood floors in my imaginary wedding instead of wonky blue carpet)…the groom is standing at the altar watching his bride slowly descend the aisle…then BAM, out jumps the best man in front of the groom and starts a monologue to the audience about how he set up the bride and groom on their first date and how he’d love to snap a selfie with the bride and groom before they go any further, could he honeymoon with them?… Can you say awkward? It would make for a funny Hollywood scene, but in reality it’s not about the best friend in that moment. As the friend of the groom, no matter your role in the happy couple’s lives you are to stand aside and celebrate their joy.
John’s words teach us something about what it’s like to live in the limelight of Jesus. John’s role was in pointing people to Jesus and he got to celebrate in baptizing them in the name of Jesus, but ultimately it wasn’t about John. In a short time he would be beheaded and his role finished. Ultimately it’s not about us. Our time here is finite too. Unless we want to be an awkward distraction, we are to decrease as Jesus increases. Share the Good News, live the freedom you claim to have, introduce people to your close Friend, and stand aside and watch Him at work. It’s a joy to decrease. It’s peaceful to lessen. It’s freeing to know your role. It’s an honor to empty when it’s all about Jesus.