John, the Precursor
John the Baptist is the precursor of the Lord Jesus Christ. In observing his conduct, we can obtain some clues as to why he was elected for such an important task and what was his conduct as a faithful servant of God.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of John we find John's words, among which we want to highlight a phrase he repeats three times: "This is He of Whom I spoke: He that comes after me, is preferred before me: for He was before me" (1:15). "He it is, Who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am no worthy to unloose" (1:27). "This is He of Whom I said: After me comes a Man, which is preferred before me: for He was before me" (1:30).
In the three phrases, John repeats the expression "He was before me" referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. When something in the Bible is repeated three times it means that it is something very firm and important. Why is there this repetition in this particular case?
John has it very clear and so he desires to make it manifest that between him and the Lord Jesus Christ there was a world of difference; that although John came first, he was not the first. Moreover, John did not feel worthy to loose the latchet of His footwear. That is why when the priests ask him if he was the Christ, he clearly said: "I am not the Christ". In another place of this same gospel, John the Baptist again stresses the great difference between him as precursor, and the Christ: "He that comes from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of the earth: He that comes from heaven is above all" (3:31). Even though John was the greatest man born of a woman, he knew the abysmal difference between the creature and the Creator.
John was a relative of the Lord as far as the flesh is concerned, which might have made him somewhat presumptuous; nevertheless, he says: "And I did not know Him; but so that He would be manifested to Israel, that is why I came baptizing with water". Did not know Him? As a relative, he probably did; but John knew that this was not enough. The Only One that could give credible testimony about Christ was God Himself.
This is a very great lesson for us. How often we have presumed to be somebody, we being indescribably less than John! If he, being a relative, did not trust in his spiritual perceptions to enable him to say that he knew Him spiritually, how much less do we? If he did not feel worthy to loose the latchet of His footwear, much less could we?
After John departed, after he fulfilled his ministry, he left behind him some irrefutable fruit, because many came to the Lord, saying: "John did no miracle: but all things that John spoke of this Man were true" (Jn. 10:41). John was not a miracle doer; was not a spectacular prophet as others who did many signs and miracles. John had only one mission: Speak the truth about who Jesus was. And in this he was faithful; decreasing, becoming smaller continually, so that his Lord would be exalted.
That is a wonderful and rare thing, specially in our days!