According to The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times, “A ‘friend who attends the bridegroom’ (John 3:29) negotiated on behalf of the prospective bridegroom and his father with a representative of the bride’s father. Arrangements had to be made for work compensation (the mohar) to be paid to the woman’s family, and a dowry had to be paid to the bride’s father.”
By referring to himself in this way (v. 29), John the Baptist communicated that he saw his ministry as one of preparation. Preaching a message of repentance helped prepare the way for the kingdom of God and the coming of Christ. It was very important, but it was not the main event. Without the wedding itself, the activities of the best man (as we might call him today) would have no purpose.
So when Jesus arrived on the scene, John celebrated that the Bridegroom—the whole purpose and point of his ministry—had come (see Matt. 9:15; Rev. 19:7)! This wasn’t their first encounter. John had already baptized Jesus, identified Him as superior to himself, and called Him the “Lamb of God” and “God’s Chosen One” (see John 1:15–37). He had been consistent in saying he was only the forerunner. He had even sent his own disciples to follow Jesus.
Apparently not all had understood him; during an argument over ceremonial washing, they asked John about Jesus’ ministry in a way that reveals they saw Him as a competitor (3:26). Somewhat exasperated, John repeated what he had said before: his ministry was defined by God. It was to prepare the way for Messiah (vv. 27–28). Now that Christ had come, John rejoiced to step aside: “He must become greater; I must become less” (v. 30). There was no regret in being displaced, rather, his joy was “complete” or “fulfilled” (v. 29).
Do we see our service as John the Baptist did? Do we understand we’re members of the wedding party and not the main event? American culture expects growth, success, and recognition, not “I must become less.” We tend to think God is lucky to have us on His team. The truth is, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty” (Luke 17:10).