When I was in high school I took a class called “Theater Arts.” Basically we did little skits and dramatizations all semester, being coached by one of the best teachers ever. I’m not the world’s greatest actress, but my classmates and I sure had a lot of fun. By semester’s end we did a 3-act play called The Curious Savage. It was centered on the residents and staff of a mental institution. I didn’t have the lead role but I wasn’t a bit-part either. I played the part of “Miss Willie,” a nurse who assists the doctor with the patients. I had two entrances from stage left—one near the beginning of the play in Act I, and one near the end of the play in Act III.
Now…when I mentioned earlier I wasn’t the world’s greatest actress that was really an understatement. You see, at our live performance in front of the entire school, during Act I when I entered at stage left, I mistakenly said my lines from Act III. I took the entire play from Act I to Act III in a brief, but very awkward instant. I’ll never forget it! Someone on stage, far more talented and brilliant than I in the field of acting, quickly helped us recover. (And yes…when Act III came and I entered from stage left, I said the exact same lines. Talk about embarrassing!) Needless to say, that’s all it took for me to realize I would never star on Broadway. I was far better suited to be a mere stagehand rather than the main character.
The main character. Center stage. There are certainly times in our lives when we like this kind of attention. We want the kudos and accolades that being front and center bring. We sometimes enjoy being the focus of the crowd, our co-workers, or family.
Then there are times when we don’t set out to achieve this kind of notoriety, but it just happens. When you lead, people follow. When you tell a story, several people tune in. I think this is how John the Baptist was. I think he had a unique personality, lifestyle, and message that made people naturally curious, so he drew a crowd. All kinds of people engaged him in conversation. On one such occasion, he said to the crowd, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16, NIV). There was John—the center of attention, the main character—but he didn’t want to be front and center. He indicated to the multitude that there was one greater than he. He told people about God’s message. He challenged them that it was time to rethink everything. In a sense, he said, “No…it’s not about me…it’s all about Jesus.”
Check out how The Message translation renders this same verse: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” John was the mere stagehand. Jesus was the main character.
In your life, in your world, in the drama of your day-to-day coming and going, who is the main character? And who is the mere stagehand?