Summary: John the Baptist provides great insight into how to be known without being consumed by that.
THE WHOLE COUNTRYSIDE: John had a lot of “known” yet he was not controlled by it.
- Mark 1:5.
- Because the passages about John the Baptist are fairly familiar, it’s easy to run past the details. One essential detail for our discussion this morning is in Mark 1:5 – the whole countryside and the whole city were coming out to see John the Baptist. Now this obviously means a lot of people. Further, it’s not like they were just walking across the street – Mark 1:4 tells us that John was out in the desert, so they had to travel a significant distance to see and hear him.
- For our purposes this morning, this detail is crucial: John was the guy getting all the attention. He had a lot of “known.”
- By “known,” I mean that desire to be known by a lot of people, to be looked up to by a lot of people, to have more FB friends than everyone around you, to have more people following you on Twitter, to be the best salesman at work, to be the one everyone wants to talk to, to be popular.
- And John had it in spades. He was the hottest name in the whole country.
- Today, many of us have a “known” disease. We want to be “known” by many. We want to get our approval bucket filled up. There is a little Lady Gaga in us that “live[s] for the applause.”
- We have an enormous appetite for “known.” And that appetite seems to be constantly getting bigger.
THE PROOF: John lost followers and was ok with that.
- Look with me at John 1:37.
- Jesus had already been there the day before, but Jesus comes by again and John says, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (v. 36). And two of his disciples followed Jesus (v. 37).
- Don’t miss out on what that means: when they followed Jesus, they also unfollowed John. John lost some of his guys.
- And yet John was not freaked out by that. He didn’t run after them and say, “Wait, stay with me!” He let them walk away.
- We see further evidence of this in John 3:26.
- Some of his followers come to him and say, “That man” (yes, they called Jesus “that man”) “is baptizing and everyone is going to him.”
- The disciples of John were no doubt loving the crowds that John was drawing. John was the hottest ticket in town. And then, the crowds started shrinking – a lot. It was a big enough drop-off for John’s disciples to worried complain, “Everyone is going to him.”
- What are they getting at? “John, we’ve got to do something to get the crowds back!” “John, we’ve got to make some changes so you’re the one everyone comes to see!” “John, maybe if we move out of this desert in closer to the city we can get some of the people back!” “John, do we even know if we can trust that guy?” They’re implying that John needs to take action to keep his “known.”
- The statement John makes in response is maybe the most important thing we’re going to talk about this morning. It’s just such a powerful statement and it’s our next point.
- Also, on a slightly different point that is akin to this: John also declined people’s invitations to make himself more than he was.
- In John 1:19-22, religious leaders come to him and ask who he was. That is, is he the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?
- They’re opening the door for John to walk right through. “Yes, I am the main man.” “Yes, I am your leader.”
- There is an enormous temptation when people want to give you more credit than you deserve to take it and run.
- After all, we want to have as much “known” as possible and they’re offering us more status, right?
- But John quickly and clearly sets them straight: he is not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet. He is merely the forerunner, the one who points to someone greater coming down the road.
- Declining a chance to take more credit than you deserve is tough.
HANDLING THE DRIVE TO BE KNOWN: “A man can only receive what is given him from heaven.”
- John 3:27.
- This is important.
- John says to his disciples as they push for him to do something to regain his popularity, his “known”: “A man can only receive what is given him from heaven.”
- This is, I think, an incredibly powerful statement to help us handle the drive to be known.
- John is saying, “The crowds were never mine. They were only here because of the part God asked me to play in His story. I was given that opportunity as a gift – it was never because of my brilliance or my oratory.”