Eclipsed | John 3.22-24
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
John 3:22-24 | ESV
Next scene. Shift to the Judean countryside. Jesus and his band of followers come to the Judean countryside, moving into John the Dipper’s turf, and he spends day after day there with them – and he starts dipping people in the river too. Meanwhile John also kept on dipping people, but now he was up further north in Aenon (“Springs”) near Salim (“Peace”) – right on King Herod’s doorstep, by the way – because it was such a great place for dipping, such an abundant source of water! So he kept showing up there and dipping people in the river day after day – you see, John hadn’t been thrown into prison just yet. MAV
What do you do when you’re known as the “Dipper” and your popularity starts to dip as someone else steps into the limelight? That’s the journey of this week’s text in John. Actually, it’s the journey of us all, isn’t it? We so want to be known, to be seen, to be noticed, to be recognized. We want people to like our posts with little smiley faces, to read our blogs, to nominate us for awards, to acknowledge us with high fives. We crave the strokes. And John the Dipper was a light. Jesus, the one who outshined him, said so. “He was a bright light, and you were happy enough to bask in that light for a while.” But now John’s sun dims, he is eclipsed, as the Son breaks over the horizon, and John becomes a case study in the art of yielding, the challenging dance of stepping aside. We should actually be thankful for such moments. When the spotlight is off us, we get to see what we do for the simple reason of who we are, not who’s watching. Lawrence Kushner passes on this bit of wisdom to up and coming rabbis. Works for pastors too. Works for all of us:
Because Rabbis get paid to be religious, your motivation for performing mitzvot (God’s directions) will be inescapably contaminated. If anyone finds out that you do a particular mitzvah – giving charity, studying Torah, praying daily, offering hospitality to wayfarers, etc. – there will always be a suspicion that you’re only doing it to impress the congregation. (Maybe you’ll get a raise.) Several months after stepping down from my last pulpit a few years ago, I ran into a former congregant in Starbucks. As I asked her how she was, in my most caring voice, I realized, to my amazement, that I meant it. My God, I really was a caring human being. For this reason, rabbis should cultivate a secret mitzvah life. Put on a disguise, go to another city, and visit someone in the hospital.
Oh the freedom that comes when we’re not basking in the sun of our popularity or reputation, or trying to keep that sun up high in the sky. What freedom to let it dip, or not to care if it ever rises in the first place, and to simply be who God has made you to be.
How important is it for you to be noticed? How do you handle it when you are eclipsed, when the sun of your popularity dips – or never rises at all? Why?
Lord, help me to develop a secret mitzvah life. Let me live with a wondrous freedom from being dependent on the rising or falling of any persona I wish to create or maintain. Set me free to be, simply, fully, who you have made to be when no one else ever even sees. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.