The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: "Behold, I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You." "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; make his paths straight." John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all of the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
A reporter once asked the celebrated orchestra conductor Leonard Bernstein what was the most difficult instrument to play. Given Bernstein's experience, and expertise, the reporter was eager to hear the great conductor's valued opinion. To the reporter's surprise, Leonard Bernstein replied without any hesitation whatever: "Second fiddle! I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, or second French horn, or second flute, now that's a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony."
The ability to play second fiddle is not only a wonderful trait in the world of music; it is a necessary and noble role in life. A man's success in life, a company's growth in business, a church's ministry impact will invariably be built upon the back of many who are willing to play the second fiddle well. Unsung heroes who do their work without complaining, who find joy in other's success, who are willing to remain in the shadows or retreat from the spotlight so that others might shine.
In thinking of this indispensable talent, I am drawn to the ministry of John the Baptist. The ministry of John the Baptist was one of "preparing the way of the Lord and making His paths straight" (Mark 1:3). His was a pioneering, and preparatory ministry, one that involved Jesus' increase, and his decrease (John 3:30). The Baptist functioned as a forerunner to the coming of Christ (Mark 1:1-8). In calling the people to repentance, John was paving the way for the One who would come after him, the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In ancient times, the protocol was that before a king arrived in a region a messenger would go ahead of the royalty to make provision for his arrival. People would be assigned jobs, events would be scheduled, and it was not unheard of for roads to be resurfaced in anticipation of the king's heralded arrival. In a real sense, the forerunner's job was to clear the way, prepare the way, and then get out of the way. It was a second fiddle performance!
I want to be challenged, and I want you to be challenged by the example of John the Baptist. His life was about making life better for others. His days were spent setting others up for success. He felt fulfillment in emptying himself in the service of others, just like His master (Phil. 2:5-11). Who wants to join John the Baptist in playing the second fiddle well? This is the tireless work of the parent in bringing up the next generation in the fear, and admonition of the Lord. This is the work of the lonely evangelist who sows without reaping. This is the work of the church planter who builds a gospel foundation for the future. This is work of the scientist and researcher who leaves a body of work for others to build upon. This is the work of the patriot that gives birth to a nation. This is the work of the schoolteacher who sets students up for success in life. This is the work of the usher, and set-up team on any given Sunday morning. This is the work of the deacon in allowing elders to concentrate on the word and prayer. Like John the Baptist, may our lives be used to open doors for others to walk through into a better tomorrow?