Humility is one of the greatest traits exemplified by John the Baptist. It seems he almost spends more time telling us who he is not rather than who he is.
In John 3, he makes the classic statement that to me makes him so very admirable as an example: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) (Of course, he was speaking of Jesus in this instance as The One Who must increase.)
Well, truly John was the leading proponent of Jesus’ increase. John was the one who was charged with creating the pathway into the human heart Jesus would cross over.
It was the reason John was created. It was the very nature of his calling. And – by the way – what if the nature of his calling also meant he would be arrested and eventually beheaded. That Jesus, once introduced, would be the last Man standing? (You could say once the sun has risen there is no longer any need for the moon.)
Was John simply discarded by God once the need for his ministry was at an end? I suppose some might look at it that way – but once John was beheaded he went straight into heaven. There is no way he would have been upset with that outcome of his ministry.
But when your ministry has drawn a massive crowd, through its freshness, and also through its abrupt truth-telling even to those being drawn to it – might there not be a very human tendency toward making all this last? (The fame, the notoriety, the acclaim, the power?)
Even the religious leaders saw John the Baptist as a force to be reckoned with. They came out to HIM. They came to see what HE was about, not the other way around.
What they saw must have shocked them. Here they found the son of a priest wearing outlandish clothing telling people, (all people – every person,) they MUST repent. Even the Jews. Especially the Jews. Especially the Jewish leaders. And he held the crowd by the force of his calling, right up to the moment his calling ended.
Then he stepped into the shadows, just as it had been prophesied of the one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the LORD.”