Matthew 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Through the process of time these religious power-brokers had become the exclusive definers of the symbols. They were the self appointed gatekeepers of God's intent. To them, the symbol was theirs to disclose, and it had to be fulfilled as they explained and expected.
In the previous verses Jesus and his disciples were verbally confronted by the very people who daily displayed the Old Testament ceremonial symbols exactly as commanded in the Bible. Doesn't that seem strange. The people who were tasked with preserving and presenting the symbols were blind to the meaning of the symbols. They were messengers who missed the message.
In that corruption we find the fatal flaw that moves sincere followers of God into the hardened religions of men. We are not to control the message, we are to hear and convey the message. It was God's message, not theirs. We who are tasked with displaying God's message must ever remember it is His message not ours. We must seek out the Author's intent and convey it as clearly and openly as possible. In a sense, it must always seem distant from us... above us... outside us... not from us. The message of God should be seen by us as a wild, uncontrollable thing that will not survive in a cage, but is comfortable living near us.
When the message bears the fingerprints of our greed it is soiled... stained. Oh to be as John the Baptist was when he saw the substance of the symbol. He immediately pointed at the fulfillment and said, “Behold the lamb of God...” John's philosophy was simple but vitally profound: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It was not about John, and it is not about us... when it is about us, we miss the message.