“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11
All the Gospels and Acts speak of this moment where John considers himself unworthy to even stoop down and untie the sandals of Jesus. Acts 13:25 puts it this way: “And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me, one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’” It was the role of the slave to untie the sandals of The Master once he returned home. John the Baptist is making it clear that if people are looking at him, they are focused on the wrong person. John doesn’t even see himself worthy as a slave of Jesus let alone a contemporary of his. So, the sheer idea that people would confuse him for the Messiah was appalling to him. He makes it clear, “I am not the Savior. I am not even worthy to be a slave of the Savior. He must increase and I must decrease. This is not and never has been about me.”
I remember sitting at a Christian Conference once and a person walked up to me and asked me to sign the book I wrote. The only problem was, I’ve never written a book. They handed me the book “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller and was positive that I was the author. I had read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it and was very flattered that she thought I looked like Donald Miller who has, in my opinion, rugged good looks. For a moment I even considered asking for an honorarium… just kidding. I quickly let her know that I was Jon Burgess and would be happy to fake a signature from the real Donald Miller but suggested she wait for the real deal. This was a case of mistaken identity. If we aren’t careful we will perpetuate the myth that we, as ministers of Christ, are the ones people should be focused on. If our identity is wrapped up in people noticing us rather than noticing Christ we are in trouble because we can’t save a single person. Just like I hadn’t written a single word of that book I haven’t written a single word of the Bible. I haven’t been able to save a soul, heal a marriage, or physically heal someone. Has God used me to see these things happen, to my great joy, yes, but I’m not even worthy to be in the same conversation with the One who actually accomplished these feats any more then I should have signed a book I didn’t write with a name that isn’t mine. In our fame junky culture, everyone is looking to be noticed and to be known. It’s time we take a cue from the Baptist and remember we aren’t even worthy to be a slave of Jesus and yet He still calls us sons and daughters. Just as He did with John, He invites us into the waters so we get a front-row seat on the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the approval of the Father and the authority of Jesus. If I mistake my identity to be what I do for Jesus rather the found in Jesus then not only will I miss out on what Jesus is doing around me but I will end up leading people astray when I’ve been called to prepare the way.
Thank You, Jesus, for inviting me into this grand adventure! What a privilege to serve with You and see what You are doing with my own two eyes. May I continue to be an arrow pointing to Heaven. May I continue to decrease as You increase. If people mistake what You are doing for something I have done I set my heart to point them back to You. My identity and security are found in sonship, not in celebrity. You notice me and that’s all I need.