"This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'John 1:30(NASB)
John the Baptist was the last 'Old Testament' prophet. He was prepared; commissioned and enabled by God to announce the arrival of Israel's expected Messiah-King and to prepare the lost sheep of the house of Israel for His arrival.
He did not promote himself in any way, because he knew he was simply a 'voice', crying in the wilderness - preparing the way of the Lord. John had to be heard but was not to be 'seen'. The message had to be heard but the personality; heritage; parentage; education and status of the messenger was irrelevant.
He came to proclaim the kingdom of God. He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord and point people to Christ. John is more appropriately called John the Witness, rather than John the Baptist, for he came to bear witness of the Light - that all might believe through Him. He came to testify that Jesus is the true light, Who gives light and life to everyone, coming into the world. He came to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ as their long awaited Messiah.
The religious leaders were curious about John and presented him with many questions about his origin and who sent him, but they were also deaf to his word and blind to the truth. They enticed him to speak about himself asking if he was the Messiah or Elijah or 'the Prophet', but John refused to answer their probing questions and abruptly said "NO", immediately pointing them to the Lord Jesus - the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. He described their Messiah as a Man who has a far higher rank than he did, "for He existed before me." John confesses.
John was the forerunner who came to herald Christ and His coming kingdom, and this verse is part of a section that clearly identified Jesus as 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world', and the Person about Whom John said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' Jesus is not only superior to John but a unique Man, for He was the pre-incarnate Word of God, Who became the incarnate Word and dwelt amongst His people. He was God in human flesh.. full of grace and truth - the Author of light and life.
John admitted that at in the beginning he did not know Jesus was the Messiah. It was when baptising Him in the River Jordan... to fulfil all righteousness, that God made it clear that Jesus was the chosen One. Jesus was the Light that came into the world about Whom John was destined to testify.
He explained that he watched the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a Dove - and resting upon Jesus. This was the sign for which John had been waiting as instructed. No doubt he knew of his own miraculous birth and his cousin's supernatural conception and birth in Bethlehem, but God had told John... 'The One on whom you see the Spirit descending and resting-He is the One who baptises with the Holy Spirit.'
It was only at Christ's own baptism, when the Father identified Jesus as "My Beloved Son" and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a Dove, flew down and rested upon Him, that John KNEW the true identity of the One Who was to come. The baptism of the sinless Son of God in water was not John's 'baptism of repentance', but in order to fulfil all righteousness - as the Law required.
There are many liberal individual; 'progressive' churches and a multiplicity of cults that minimise or deny the deity of Christ and seek to belittle the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But 'John the Witness', who preached a baptism of repentance to Israel, is a wonderful example of a man who genuinely sought to promote the absolute pre-eminence of Christ, while minimising his own importance.
'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I', was John's testimony of Jesus, for He existed before me and I am not sufficiently worthy to untie His shoe laces. 'He must increase and I must decrease', were words that were not only spoken by this 'voice' in the wilderness, but were carried out in his life as John testified that Jesus is the Son of God - the Lamb, Who was revealed to the world at the proper time - Who came to live a perfect life; die a sacrificial death; provide forgiveness of sin and give assurance of the eternal life, to ALL who believe in Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the witness and prophetic ministry of John the Baptist - the humble forerunner of Christ who died to his own self -importance and was ready and willing to point people to Jesus. Help me to develop the characteristics of humility that are so evident in his ministry, and I pray that I may be ready and willing to say "I must decrease, and He must increase. We praise and thank You that Jesus came into the world to save sinners and fulfilled all righteousness, so that by faith in Him I have been forgiven of my sin and received life everlasting - thank You in Jesus name, AMEN.