The motif of the disappearing person is even one we find in the Bible. Elijah is said to have disappeared from view, not to be seen again (2 Kings 2); and historically, a number of the prophets seem to have come onto the scene only to deliver their messages and then to vanish into obscurity – at least not to be heard from again. In the case of John the Baptist we have a little documentation regarding what happened. John was certainly highly visible throughout the early part of his ministry, while he predicted the coming of the Messiah, but when the Messiah came in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, John began to fade from view.
John continued his work for a while, announcing the One whose shoes he said he was unworthy to carry (Matthew 3:11), and repeatedly pointing his own disciples to Him (John 1:35-37), but John himself knew that his disappearance was imminent. We see this in John’s own words as he spoke of Jesus: “He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30). That’s exactly what happened, of course. Soon the work of the Messiah rendered John all but invisible, despite his earlier fame, and John was eventually martyred and vanished from view.
So, great biblical characters such as Elijah and John disappeared in varying ways, but the Bible shows that disappearing is something God has in mind for all of His servants, for everyone who commits to Him. Obviously, this applies in general to us all, as James says: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). But I’m not talking about the transience of our lives – rather the disappearance of our old selves within the life we have now.
Paul states this clearly in saying: “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and “... put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). If we are truly being renewed in our lives, the old person will gradually disappear as our old nature is replaced by a better one. We will never be perfect in this life, of course, but we do need to occasionally take stock of our lives and see if our old selves are truly disappearing or not. Disappearing is imperative if we are to fulfill the calling we have been given. Although it may be in a different sense, we need to be continually reminding ourselves of John’s words: “He must become greater, I must become less.”