But John's role in the story of salvation was crucial: preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. To preach, teach, and whet the people's appetite for Someone much greater. John's ministry set the stage for Jesus' arrival and made it possible for Jesus to attract spiritually-hungry crowds and to build on John's prophetic message.
You see, John didn't get to talk much about the gentle grace and mercy of God's love. He was called to a fiery ministry of justice and wrath and confrontation. He lived a tough lifestyle, and he had some rough enemies.
I also love John's humility. Hanging around preachers as I often do, I know how difficult it would be to say something like, "He must increase; I must decrease," or "I'm not even worthy to untie his sandals." John's lack of ego is breathtaking. He never had any confusion that he was greater than he was, certainly not greater than the One he was privileged to baptize.
Let's be thankful for John the Baptist!