“Word for Today” – John 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 19, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment


tractor-1On a shelf in our apartment, there sits a small toy tractor.  It isn’t worth much.  In fact, I bought it from the Dollar Store.  But it has been a delight for practically every child who has visited us.  In fact, one time, when we were still living in Corpus Christi, a mother stopped by with her two sons, Elijah and Jonas.  Jonas, the younger of the two, as soon as he noticed the green of the tractor, became fixated on it and almost immediately headed over to grab it.  His glee was palpable.  He “drove” the miniature farming vehicle across our living room carpet, making motor noises all the while.  Elijah, however, was not so amused.  He headed for Jonas and, with grit and determination in his eye, yanked the tractor from his little brother’s hands.

It’s interesting, isn’t it?  Up until the point Jonas began to play with our tractor, Elijah showed no sign of interest in our cut rate toy.  But as soon as it became precious to Jonas, it became prized to Elijah.  And so, he had no choice.  He had to ruthlessly commandeer the tractor from his little brother.  What led to the value of our tractor skyrocketing so suddenly?  Well, it seems that jealousy is not a sin reserved just for adults.  Rather, it is a temptation that troubles even the youngest of our children.

In our reading for today from John 3, we find a prophet named John the Baptist in the midst of a promising season of ministry.  The gospel writer tells us that “people were constantly coming to be baptized” (verse 23) which, when your last name is “the Baptist,” is probably a sign that your ministry is doing well.  But jealousy concerning John’s ministry begins to subtly creep in.  “Some of John’s disciples…came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him’” (verses 25-26).  The complaint of John’s disciples can be summarized thusly:  “John, Jesus is killing our ministry potential!  Our baptisms are down 25% from this time last year while his are up 37%.  Those baptisms could have been ours!”

Sound familiar?  Jealousy is a way of life for many.  Except that our jealousy usually centers on things far less essential and far more mundane than how many people are being ministered to.  How much money somebody else makes.  The job that somebody else works.  The complexion that somebody else has.  These are the things that many of us find ourselves jealous of.  Our executive director, Greg Styles, recently bought himself a brand new Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab Texas Edition with a spray-in bed liner.  When I saw it, I have to confess, a twinge of jealousy welled up from somewhere inside of me.  It’s so clean and has that new truck smell.  It has so many options.  And, as a Texas Edition, it’s so big!  It’s much bigger than my 2005 base model Regular Cab Chevy Silverado.  That’s why tomorrow, I’m going to go and find me a Silverado, Alaska Edition.  Alaska’s bigger than Texas, right?

John, when his disciples fling darts at Jesus with their jealous words, refuses to play along.  “He must become greater; I must become less” is John’s simple response (verse 30).  Simple as these words may be, however, they are certainly not easy.  For our human nature desires greater things, not lesser things. 

Yet, when we are instructed to become “less” by John, we are not being asked to do anything that Jesus himself has not already done.  The Greek word that John uses for “less” is elattoo.  The author of Hebrews employs this same word when he writes, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).  The word for “lower” is also elattoo.  Jesus, the author of Hebrews says, unjealously lowered himself to this earth so that we did not have to be lowered in the ground forever because of death. Now, we are called to unjealously lower ourselves to proclaim his greatness.  And, as elattoo as that task may sometimes be, it still seems pretty great to me.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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