John the Baptist was a mighty preacher. People from all over had flocked to hear him and to be baptized by him. Though he had baptized Jesus and witnessed of Him saying "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" John 1:29, his personal ministry continued.
Jesus' ministry, which also involved baptism, was drawing ever larger crowds. The disciples of John the Baptist came to John with their concern. "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him" John 3:26. I'm sure Satan would have been delighted if he could have incited jealousy in John's heart which could have lead to undermining the very work intended.
Imagine if John had tuned in to his disciples' discontent and had chosen to compete for power. After all, he had been led by the Spirit into his work and had accomplished great things calling so many to repentance. Didn't he have a right to feel a bit jealous and unappreciated as Jesus' ministry seemed to be taking over? That would have been a typical human reaction.
Let us consider our own selves. Are there times when we choose to sympathize with ourselves over someone's failure to recognize us or our work? Do we feel a need to maintain control in matters that should involve or be passed on to others? Do we feel we "deserve" the lime light and see ourselves in competition rather than cooperation with others?
John was a wonderful role model for us in the answer he gave his disciples. "John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease" John 3:27-30.
Not only did he reiterate his position as forerunner of Christ, but he used the illustration of being the friend of the bridegroom who is delighted, rejoicing over the "bridegroom." Do we rejoice as we should at others successes even when they may overshadow ours? John's next words revealed the depth of humility he possessed, "He must increase, but I must decrease". In saying this, he essentially gave his disciples permission to seek Jesus without feeling guilty as betrayers of their "Rabbi".
Oh that we would each pray to have in our hearts such humility and grace towards others.