“He must become greater; I must become less.” The more I read the Gospels, the more I am finding a connection between eternal life, the Kingdom of God, following Jesus, and “smallness.”
One of the great themes we find in Scripture is a big God using that which is small to affect a large territory. It starts with the incarnation. I asked myself this question over Christmas: Why not send Jesus as an adult? He would have been able to walk and talk right away and you would think it would be far more efficient! But it all starts with a tiny baby. The fullness of God, the hope of the world, the way, the truth, the life, wrapped up in cloth and small enough to fit in a manger.
In the story of Nicodemus (a somebody in the ancient Jewish community) we are told that if he wants to see the Kingdom of God he must be born again. Obviously, Jesus was not talking about physical rebirth but spiritual rebirth here, but the same rhetoric applies that one must become small and even vulnerable to have Spirit-birth take place.
Or what about Matthew 7:13-14 on destruction and eternal life? Jesus says that the road that leads to destruction is broad and the gate to that road is wide, and many go through it. But the gate that leads to life is small and the road is narrow, and only a few find it. Could it be that we need to shrink in order to find this?
We could go on with the parables of the mustard seed and yeast (Mt.13:31-33) where Jesus describes the kingdom in relation to these small entities that have an expansive effect. We could talk about Jesus letting his disciples know (in Matthew 18) that the greatest in the kingdom is a little child. We could talk about all the cost of discipleship passages and the rich young ruler (Mt. 19) where Jesus’ call to potential followers is to downsize (read them and you’ll see what I mean!) if they want to keep up.
In the case of John the Baptist in John 3, his disciples were faithful to him and concerned that this newcomer on the other side of the lake (Jesus) was taking all the press time. You can hear their concern in verse 26 “everyone is going to him!” But John is not concerned because he seems to know that his call is to become small so that Jesus might become even greater in his own life and in the world around him.
So often what we lack in our walk with God is because of what we have acquired in our walk with this world. Maybe what we lack is what we have? If you are reading this today and are feeling distant from God or dry in your spiritual life, consider John’s words “I must become less.” What could this mean for you?
Faith Covenant Church