The word “progression” is usually seen as a good thing. The definition of the word is: the process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state. Everyone likes progress.
In the Gospel of John, we see some good examples of progression. In two conversations people experience a progression in their understanding of who Jesus is. When the woman at the well meets Jesus, she thinks He is an ordinary man. She sees Him as a Jewish man who would dare speak to a Samaritan woman (John 4:9). But she soon sees He is more than that. After He tells her things about her life, she progresses in her understanding and thinks He is a prophet (4:19). Finally, at the end of the conversation, she comes to realize He is more than even that. He is the Christ/Messiah (4:25-29).
The same progression in understanding of who Jesus is is also found in John 9 in the account of the man born blind. After Jesus cures him, he is asked by his neighbors how it was that he could now see. He says that the “man” named Jesus made clay, put it on his eyes, and had him wash the clay off. When he did so, he could see (9:11). A little later, when the Pharisees ask him what he thinks about the man Jesus, he tells them that he thinks Jesus is a prophet (9:17). Still later, after the religious leaders kick him out, Jesus finds him. Jesus reveals to him that He is the Son of God, that is, the Christ. The man comes to believe that (9:35-38).
This progression in understanding is a good thing, especially in the Gospel of John. John wrote the Gospel that bears his name with the purpose that the reader would go through the same progression. He wants the readers to know that Jesus was more than a man. He is the Christ that gives eternal life to all who believe in Him for it (John 20:30-31).
When it comes to a person’s understanding of Jesus, such progression is always a good thing. Many unbelievers think that He was a good man or maybe even a great prophet. But He is much more.
But we can also say that sometimes progression is not a good thing. In fact, we could say that in many instances the opposite is true. The antonym of progression is regression. In some instances regression is what is called for.
In the Gospel of John, we also see an example of that. In John 1, religious leaders ask John the Baptist who he is. The questions are in inverse order of what we see in the understanding of the woman at the well and the man born blind. They first ask John if he is the Christ. His answer? Nope. Then they ask him if he is Elijah. Again, the answer is “nope.” Then they ask him if he is the prophet that Moses said would come. Once again: Nope. Then they ask him who he is. He says he is just a voice crying in the wilderness, pointing people to Christ. Whatever John understood about himself, one thing is clear. He didn’t want people thinking too highly of him. He wanted them to think less of him and to think more of Jesus. Their opinion of John needed to regress. Their opinion of Jesus needed to progress.
That is the way it is with us as well. If we seek status, fame, or the applause of men, we need to tamp that way down. Like John, we might need to suggest, and even demand, a regression in the opinions of others. That would be a good thing. However, when it comes to Jesus, the unbelieving world needs a progression in their understanding of Him. Whatever they might think of Him, He is more. He is the Christ who gives eternal life to all who believe in Him for it.