Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 3:22-24 AAfter these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Aenon, near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.@
Having been in Jerusalem, Jesus now went to rural areas of Judea. People thronged Him. He began baptizing followers. The actual baptizing was probably administered by His disciples (see 4:2).
Not yet in prison, John the Baptist in his ministry at this point overlapped the work of Jesus. This was a potential spawning-ground for problems. Jealousy did develop among the followers of John.
John 3:25-26 AThen there arose a question between some of John=s disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.@
People were leaving John for Jesus. This worried John=s disciples. A dispute arose among John=s disciples and the Jews over the issue of purification. The dispute possibly regarded whose washing brought purification, Jewish ritual cleansing or John=s baptism or Jesus= baptism? This conflict illustrates the inherent conflicts that can arise when replacing an old system with a new one.
The dispute, unimportant to us, was another test of John=s character. A friend=s sympathy can often be damaging. Beware flattery and applause intended to arouse jealousy in us. Our friend=s jealousy for our honor can be our downfall.
People have been known to overcome abuse, revilings, and neglect with Christian love, only to fall into an ugly spirit when a friend grinds into them how mistreated they are. A friend=s sympathy can make us feel sorry for ourselves and cause us to think we have been treated unfairly. John rose above even this difficult test. To the end, he was undaunted in his devotion to Jesus.
John 3:27-28 AJohn answered, and said, a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.@
No person has a patent on God=s blessings. He distributes gifts according to His pleasure. No one can receive more than God decides to give them. If Jesus was receiving new followers, they were a gift from God, not stolen from John.
Remember, a person=s success is given by God. If genuine, its fruits will remain. If counterfeit, its results will dissipate. Leave judgment to the Lord.
John=s position has not changed. His views are the same as before. John had spoken straightforwardly regarding his servant role, but his followers= ears were deafened by their devotion to him.
They did not want to be eclipsed by Jesus= group. Desiring a monopoly of honor and respect has always been the bane of the Church (and churches). It is a shame on members and ministers, as they are vying for attention, jealousy, rivalry, and competition. The success of others will make us rejoice if our chief desire is to please God, for we see His joy in their success. The success of Godly endeavors by others should be seen as motivation, not competition. Envy reflects negatively on the Government of God.
John 3:29 AHe that hath the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom=s voice; this my joy, therefore, is fulfilled.@
John stresses his secondary role by using a metaphor based on Jewish marriage celebrations. The followers of Jesus are the bride, Jesus the bridegroom, John the friend of the bridegroom.
Among the Jews the groomsmen asked the bride in marriage on behalf of the bridegroom, and communicated between them during the wedding feast. He distributed invitations, and was responsible for arrangements and preparation for the wedding.
He guarded the bridal chambers once the groom entered it. He protected against the entering of any false lover. When the bride arrived, the groomsman let her enter. Once he heard the groom say everything was okay, he departed, retiring into obscurity when his appointed task was finished.
John saw himself as the groomsman. His calling was to seek out a bride for Jesus. A safe-guard against false brides, he had faithfully served the groom. John wanted everyone to see he did not consider Jesus a rival, but a fulfiller.
The groomsman=s joy was in seeing a work happily consummated. Had Jesus not come, John would have been frustrated and disappointed. The appearance of Jesus fulfilled John=s life as it did Simeon=s (Luke 2).
Even when eclipsed by Jesus, John kept preaching until the very end. We humans often find it degrading to do a secondary task, but when done for God, every task is great. Mrs. Browning said, AAll service ranks the same with God.@ The greater gifts of some do not render the labors of lesser people needless and useless. There is work enough for all hands. If you have but one talent, use it.
John 3:30 AHe must increase, but I must decrease.@
John and Jesus both died a criminal=s death. John=s life ended at the murderous hand of Herod. Jesus faced an infinitely more bitter and appalling death. John=s work was preparatory, absorbed by Jesus= ministry. Jesus= work was permanent and continues to flourish.
If we desire permanence in our life=s work, attach it to Jesus. What=s done for Him will last. Attach people to Jesus, not to us. Seek the loyalty of others for Him. Personal credit for kingdom work must be forgotten and transferred to Jesus.
AThose who win the church over to themselves rather than to Christ faithlessly violate the marriage which they ought to honor@ (Calvin). It is never a servant=s place to displace the Master. We must be willing to do anything, or nothing, if necessary, to see that Christ is everything. John 3:30 should be the motto of every believer. This verse is also critical for the lost. Salvation comes by humbling self and exalting Christ.