Summary: How should we define "true success" in light of Christ's teaching.
What is success? What does it mean to you this morning to live a successful life? One of the hardest aspects to having satisfaction with our lives is that we haven‘t really defined what success is. What makes you successful … prosperity? popularity? As a culture we tend to refer to certain accomplishments as reflecting success… but those very lives then seem to crash in what we also call failure. The result is that few lives seem to find the satisfaction of success and even fewer seem to end well. Today we have an opportunity to look at a life that rally understood what true success was… and how actually knew how to end well. This is a life that Jesus called truly successful.
“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Matthew 11:11 (NLT)
That‘s a rather remarkable statement… the Son of God said was the greatest who ever lived. Today we get to hear what was central to his success… and what God seeks to teach all of us.
John 3:22-36 (NIV) 22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." 27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 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. 30 He must become greater; I must become less. 31 "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
Lets catch what is at hand…
John the Baptist was one called out by God to prepare the way for the Messiah… the Christ… the anointed One. While that is easy to say and simple enough to hear… think about it for a moment… imagine being John. What is at hand is nothing less that the promises of God waiting to be fulfilled for thousands of years … that which we might expect to involve quite an elaborate public campaign to help prepare the people to get right and receive…perhaps flyers posted in every street…. processions…. but God sends a man… one man to bear this role. It wasn‘t simply about promotion at all… but preparation. John had an amazing life and ministry he had seen thousands of people repent and take the baptism of repentance. He had preached through out the land a message of repentance ―repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.‖ He preached the coming of the lamb that would take away the sin of the world. He even had the opportunity to baptize Jesus which was the start of Jesus public ministry.
But now we see Jesus ministry has began to flourish and John‘s influence is being eclipsed by Jesus ministry. He did continue to receive people around the Jordon… calling for them to repent and offer a baptism of repentance. This baptism continued to raise issues for the Jewish religious rulers. (This baptism didn‘t fit the norm.) Apparently some of John‘s disciples got into a discussion with one of these leading Jewish rulers who raised the point that many were now going to Jesus… and being baptized by his disciples. They now come back to John the Baptist and express this.
As we read in verse 26…
They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." – John 3:26