"He must become greater; I must become less.”
John 3: 30
Luke 2: 41-51
At times in our lives circumstances change and we can experience loss. That is certainly one way of viewing the restrictions we are all under. There is a sense of loss of freedom, of a way of life, and we probably all feel pain in varying degrees dependent on our situation. A major change in my life occurred when I left the Police service to go into fulltime Ministry as a Priest. At my ordination the Lord gave me the verse John 3: 30 encouraging me to see and begin to learn the lesson of John the Baptist; becoming less so Jesus would become greater. As I have lived and learnt this lesson (and by no means perfectly or fully!) I have experienced the privilege of service where becoming less can help myself and others become more in Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful journey but one that is of self-sacrifice which at times is not understood and which incurs pain.
We see these truths in our Luke reading today. Mary and Joseph are urgently and fearfully seeking the lost boy Jesus. After a frantic search they find Him in the Temple and to Jesus’ surprise they admonish Him; “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house,” He responded (vs. 49)? Mary we are told “treasured” in her heart all that was said during this incident. We can imagine her remembering the words of the angel to her (Luke 1: 26-38) and Joseph remembering his visions (Matthew 1: 20-21). They knew, however, change was coming; that there would be some form of pain in their lives. Later for Mary the immense pain of loss at the foot of the Cross as she witnessed Jesus’ death (John 19: 26-27). They were to become less so that Jesus would become greater. Jesus’ life had changed also. He had left glory to be one of us becoming less so that we could become more. His change brought for Him the ultimate pain of death and humiliation before returning to glory (Philippians 2: 6-11). Bishop Ipgrave, writing for the Church of England on this passage in Luke, reflects thus, “…the message is clear: the primacy of God’s Kingdom is of such force that the old order must change, and there is pain in that. As Mary ponders, she knows in her heart the familiar patterns of life will never be the same. For us too, the Kingdom will change what we are used to in our lives; there can be pain in that, but there is blessing also.”
The pain of becoming less, dying to ourselves, and living to Christ, so that He becomes greater, is actually the greatest blessing and freedom there can possibly be. The old order of things may change, as we are experiencing and there is pain. Let the real change though be the privilege of entering God’s Kingdom, now and forever!
To Ponder: In the Walker Art Gallery, in my home town of Liverpool UK, you will find Simone Martini’s depiction of this Luke reading; it is entitled, “Christ discovered in the Temple,” (see below). Meditate on this picture and imagine the emotions, questions of all parties. How did each become less; how did Jesus become greater? How must you become less so that Christ can become greater and how will this help you and others become more in Him?
Prayer: Almighty God whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life: raise us, who trust in Him, from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, that we may seek those things which are above, where He reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
Praise: This Kingdom
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FInBsbSCnWk
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,