February 27, 2015
Daily Scripture Readings for Lent 2015
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The gospel today continues the rich story going on in John 3: beginning with Nicodemus who hesitantly emerges out of the darkness, Jesus who coaxes him with the assurance that God’s light is life-giving. Now the disciples of John are kicking up a little dust, wanting to pit John against Jesus – “Hey! He’s doing what you’re doing! Baptism, repentance preaching…. John, that’s YOUR thing. Shouldn’t we stop him?!”
John’s response seems calm – “Haven’t you been listening? This is what I’ve been preaching about. One is coming who is greater than me. I pull back so that he can shine.” John knows that he needs to get out of Jesus’ way, not disappear, mind you, but John’s work is to point the way to Jesus.
There’s a technique used among artists, Chiaroscuro, to refer to strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold, affecting the whole composition. The shadows are just as important as the bright places, each supporting the other for the full picture. Caravaggio and Rembrandt are among those who employed this technique well. In this Reubens painting, the child at the bottom is cousin John, who will become the baptizer. Note how shadowing is used to draw all the characters on the canvas toward the light, the Christ child.
“I must decrease, so that He may increase.” Often our lives are about fighting for the limelight. We want to be assured that we’re important, necessary. The thought of decreasing is counter-intuitive to our thinking about self-worth. But how often do we find ourselves fighting against the Lord for center stage?
Today’s reading elevates the earlier part of John: it is by following the Light of God that we ourselves find our place in the light. To uplift God is to find life ourselves. so Shine, Jesus, Shine (by Hillsong)!
Lord, may my words, my actions, my life, point the way to You. Amen.