The most difficult instrument in the orchestra to play is second fiddle. But, this is a very important position that needs to be filled. God created a whole hive full of bees with only one queen. This is how it is in many areas of life. We need many workers and only a few at the top. Our culture is enamored by the first-string quarterback, the CEO, the leading actor. There is much more to life than playing the lead. Many of us must fill the role of the servant, the second string, the clerk, the front line.
John is an example to us of virtuoso second fiddle. John knew his role in life. He knew he had an important role, but not the pre-eminent role. He carried out his role with diligence and humility. May we trace carefully over the lines as we follow his example.
Mark 1:1 - 15
Who is the strangest person you have ever known?(1)
As we read this passage, I'd like to ask the guys to listen for things we can learn about John's appearance, and the ladies to be ready to summarize what we can learn about John's message.
How did people respond to John's message?
What does it mean to confess? What is the difference between confessing and repenting?(2)
How is baptism a picture of the Christian experience?(3)
Do you think it is important that believers go through the ritual of Baptism, or is God only interested in our hearts and attitudes?
Why was Jesus baptized since he wasn't a sinner?
By the way, Christians have disagreed about the mode of baptism for centuries. Look carefully at verse 10. What evidence do you see that Jesus was immersed?(4)
After Jesus' baptism, the father spoke to him and say, "You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased." What do you think this meant to Jesus to hear this?
We all need to hear from time to time, don't we, that we are God's beloved? May I say to you, as God's representative, and speaking for God: "You are God's beloved. God loves you. No sin you have committed calls into question whether God loves you or diminishes his love for you. Your sin hurts you, and that is why your loving Father asks you not to do it. I want to say to everyone of you, this is the message of the gospel: God loves you.
Luke 7:18 - 30
Let me ask you to read this section silently. As you do, look for evidences that Jesus was who he said he was.
Jesus' answer to John could be paraphrased as follows: "Here is the evidence, what do you think?" Why didn't Jesus answer more directly? Why did he make John come to his own conclusion?(6)
What did Jesus teach us about John? Give me a list, pop-corn style.(7)
Look at verses 29 and 30. Why do you think Jesus message appealed to the tax collectors and "sinners" while it repulsed the good people [Pharisees] in Jesus day?
John 3:26 - 30
As we read through this section, look for the verse that seems to summarize John's life philosophy.
John's role in life was to play second fiddle. Is this a difficult instrument to play?
Why is second fiddle so hard to play? What are some common mistakes made by the second fiddle?
In what roles in life do you play second fiddle right now? In other words, if you are an assistant manager, that would be an example of playing second fiddle.
Do you think John had a high view of himself or a low view of himself?
What could we learn from John about how we ought to view ourselves?
Closing challenge: John is a good example to us of someone who knew his role in life and carried it out. He knew he had an important role-- more important than all of the Old Testament prophets. Still, he was humble enough to recognize that he wasn't center stage. Let me encourage you to hang onto these twin identities. Let me encourage you to take on the identity that you matter to God and you are important to Him. He has some things that he "prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph 2:10) Still we are not center stage. We also learn from John when we learn to say, "He must increase, I must decrease."
1. If you would have known John, he would certainly get the nomination. I am hoping this one will draw some laughter. Be careful, however, that you do not let this become laughter at any one's expense. "Be kind to one another," the scripture says.
2. Confessing is saying, "I did it." Repenting is saying, "I don't want to do it any more."
3. In two ways: 1) it is pictures the washing away of sins, and 2) it pictures the death, burial (under the water) and resurrection of Christ and our spiritual participation in that.
4. I put this question in at the risk of offending my non-immersing brothers!
5. Baptism should be a deeply moving part of the Christian experience. It is a public declaration of the fact that we have chosen to follow Christ.
6. For the same reason you, as teacher, do well to allow people to come to their own conclusions. Present them with the evidence and let them decide.
7. Meaning everyone sharing quickly one thing as soon as they can find it.
8. Take their answer if it is right, but be prepared to answer yourself. The commentaries will explain this.