“He Must Increase”

During this year, I’ve spent some time in the four Gospels in the New Testament, trying to follow Jesus’s invitation to “learn of me” (Matthew 11:29). In the process, I’ve given thought to why most of the rulers of the Jews at the time rejected Him, and those who believed were afraid to profess that belief. It may be a soul-searching question to ask, “If I had lived at that time, would I have followed Him?” especially at this time of year when much of the world celebrates His birth.

Of course, I’m thousands of miles and years away from the circumstances in which Jesus’s contemporaries lived, so it’s difficult to truly know what I would have done. Our upbringing and our experiences would have been significantly different had we lived there and then. So it may be more worthwhile to understand why people rejected Him during His mortal sojourn and then ask, “Do I find those problems in myself?”

In considering those of Jesus’s time, it becomes clear that the ruling class’s rejection of their Messiah found one motive in their intense jealousy of Him. This jealousy is depicted in the Parable of the Small-Town Candidate.

I deliberately named the main character in this parable “Joe,” a common name in the United States in a similar way to Joshua, or Jesus, being an ordinary name in Judea. Like Joe, Jesus seemed ordinary in some ways but impressive to His elders in others, such as when he taught them in the temple in Jerusalem at 12 years of age (Luke 2:46–47).

But there came a time in Jesus’s life when He needed to begin His mission in earnest. Wanting to fast and commune with that Father who had just testified at the Jordan River that Jesus was His Son, “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).

When He came back, He was not the same.

Surely some of those who had been in the group who marveled at Jesus’s wisdom only 18 years before were now among the ruling class that chafed at the authority and wisdom with which He taught and the power He displayed through His miracles. They didn’t like that He didn’t fit the mold that their traditions had created. While John the Baptist meekly told his own disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), the Pharisees, priests, and elders watched in jealousy as “the world is gone after him” (John 12:19). This jealousy blinded them to the truth He taught and led to their rejection of Him. They succeeded in turning public opinion against Jesus before Pontius Pilate, leading to His Crucifixion.

Is it possible to reject Jesus today because of jealousy? Maybe not in such a direct way as most of Jesus’s contemporaries did. But if I seek my own glory, especially at the expense of His, the end result for me is probably the same as theirs.

What do you think? Is jealousy toward Christ something we are at risk of in our time? If so, how do we guard against it?

Image by GidonPico at Pixabay Photos

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