We live in a platform world. Many of today’s most innovative companies don’t sell anything – except a venue for interaction. These leading companies usually have a two-step playbook:
Step #1: Draw an Audience
Step #2: Capitalize On It
Today’s great leaders are charged with creating a massive user base, then determining how to monetize it.
Create an audience. Capitalize. Gather a following. Profit.
A Different Assignment
John the Baptist, Jesus’s forerunner, was given a radically different charge.
Step #1: Draw an Audience
Step #2: Give it to Someone Else
For human beings, who crave power and importance, there is no more difficult assignment than John’s.
Create an audience. Give it away. Gather a following. Point them to Jesus.
John wasn't collecting a paycheck or stock options to do this. It was his entire life’s mission – set apart for him even before his birth (Luke 1:17). Ultimately, this assignment cost John his life (Matthew 14).
For you fans of The Queen's Gambit on Netflix: John’s life could be called The King of King's Gambit – and John was the sacrificial pawn.
The Pawn Revolts?
But who dreams of being a sacrificed pawn? None of us want to feel expendable.
Which leads us to speculate: Was John ever tempted to betray his mission and cash in on his fame? After all, he had developed his own following before Jesus came along. Wouldn't typical human ambition tempt him to keep what he had earned?
John sported the Harry Potter “Hagrid Vibe,” and everyone loves Hagrid (if you haven’t seen or read Harry Potter, repent now). His charisma could have been monetized into sermon admission fees, t-shirts sold by the Jordan River or private counseling sessions. He was a budding star.
He was so well-known, people speculated John, not Jesus, was the Messiah. (Luke 3:15).
The Moment of Truth
The Messiah rumors eventually boiled over, and the people demanded an answer.
This was the moment of truth. John’s life teetered on the edge. He had developed the platform and now was the moment to capitalize. But for whom? It was his “IPO” moment – if he claimed to be the Messiah, his fame would rocket to new heights.
John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Luke 3:16, New Living Translation
I'm a pawn.
Rumors officially killed. Celebrity status – gone.
John's Essential Ingredient
John possessed what every follower of Jesus must pray to develop; it’s not speaking ability, leadership, writing skill, charisma, giftedness or a Hagrid Vibe. There is a prerequisite superseding them all.
Humility is utter dependence on God that recognizes our positional reality. The word literally means “low to the ground.” Humility means Step #2 is always in service of the King and His purposes.
Without humility, growth in our faith is impossible. Pride is the chief enemy of humility and seeks, more aggressively than all other things, to trap and harm us. Jesus Himself was not tempted with cars, money or women. Satan tempted Him with status (Luke 4).
In this way, perhaps no other human has ever faced a temptation with higher stakes. How would Jesus's story been altered if John had succumbed? There is a reason Jesus said, “of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11).
Our Difficult Assignment
John succeeded in his mission. We give him a Christmas shout out today and thank the Holy Spirit for cultivating humility in him. And in the next breath we pray the Spirit will grow that humility in us.
The simultaneously thrilling and daunting reality is the same difficult assignment lies before us this Christmas. All we create… in service of God. All we gather… given away. All we possess… not ours to keep. All who admire us… pointed to Him.
John had a difficult assignment, but it is not one of drudgery. Anyone who loses his life will gain it, Jesus said in a critically relevant paradox.
We are called to pick up our cross and join in the assignment Jesus initiates – we are pawns who sacrificially benefit the most important piece.
You too are called to be the King of King’s Gambit.
Thanks for reading today! I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org and please share on social media or with someone who would enjoy. JC