The Lord of the Rings epic revolves around the adventures of two Hobbits: Frodo Baggins and his friend and companion, Samwise Gamgee. In the books and the movies, Frodo is courageous and selfless, determined. Samwise, or Sam, is just the opposite; he is a peaceful homebody. Sam’s friendship with the braver Hobbit puts a spotlight on Frodo’s superior character and accomplishments.
The Gospel of John opens up with a dynamic duo of its own: Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. Jesus is the Light of the world and John is the one shining the spotlight. The ministry of these two men seems like they were intertwined throughout the whole Gospel until John the Baptist drops out all of the sudden in chapter 3. In the closing passage of that chapter, we have a contrast between the two that puts a spotlight on Christ’s superior character and accomplishments.
1. Jesus Has a Better Baptism. John the Baptist was known for his ministry of….baptism. Jews from all over came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River as a symbol of their repentance before God. John even had the privilege of baptizing Jesus.
In John 3:26, John the Baptist began to field questions about why Jesus and his associates were baptizing more people. John the Baptist pointed out that Jesus’ baptism symbolized something different – faith in God’s plan for salvation, marked by the Holy Spirit. Jesus has a better baptism because it’s a symbol of eternal life.
2. Jesus Has a Better Place at the Party. John the Baptist used a familiar parable to explain Christ’s superiority. Jesus was the bridegroom and John was only a member of the bridal party – a friend of the groom. John was grateful to be a part of God’s unfolding plan for the world, but Jesus and his growing group of followers, soon to be called the church, are the ones at the center of that plan. If Jesus was getting more attention, John explained to his followers, it was because He deserved more attention.
3. Jesus Has a Better Origin Story. John and Jesus both had surprising birth stories. John was born to an older couple who were well past their childbearing years. Jesus was born to a younger couple who were not even married yet. But Jesus had an origin story that began before His birth. In fact, John 1:1 says that Jesus was present “in the beginning” which means that He never had an “origin,” because He was never created – He was God! His heavenly home gave him greater status than John the Baptist, without question.
John the Baptist gladly stepped back so that Jesus Christ could shine. He used his energy and influence to point as many people as he could to someone who was far superior. In doing so, John highlighted some of Jesus’ best qualities.