As I've been reading the New Testament this last time, I've focused on two themes. First of all, the character and personality of the Savior and secondly, I've tried to find the human story, the emotional undercurrents that must have been present in the accounts of the people who interacted with Jesus.
In Matthew 3:5, there is a verse that really impressed me the last time I read it. Speaking of John the Baptist, it says, 'There went out to him Jerusalem and all Judeaea, and all the region round about Jordan."
The text suggests that John had a huge following, something that is supported later as well. This was a man who was extremely popular and had a large following of his disciples.
This tell us something about John's character. Think of how difficult it is to maintain equilibrium of ego--how quickly and easily humans slip into arrogance. "Wow, look at all these people--listening to me. I must really be something." In my experience, there are very few humans who are not ready to slip very quickly into self-importance.
John was not just a wandering preacher. He had a large following and could have gone any direction he wanted. There was no one stop him from building up his own influence and power, had he chosen to do that. I imagine that human nature--his own, as well as those of others--probably provided a push in that direction that he resisted.
His response to this adulation was to stay focused on his Master: "...he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear...." (Matthew 3:11).
Jesus later said that there were not many greater than John, and I wonder if John's humility and decision not to aggrandize and magnify himself is at least part of that greatness.
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