Yesterday we covered the first episode recorded in chapter 3 and the is Jesus discussion with Nicodemus. And now today we come to the second episode recorded in chapter 3 and that is a discussion between John the Baptist and his disciples. Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s ministries overlapped for a brief time. The events described in John’s Gospel up to this point described the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry described in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). John the Baptist’s final words in this Gospel appear in John 3:30.
After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”—3:22-26
Verses 22-36 can be divided into two sections. In the opening section, John the Baptist helped his followers understand why Jesus’ ministry had to increase and his own ministry decrease (vv. 22-30). In the next section, John the apostle reflects on why Jesus is superior to John the Baptist (vv. 31-36). Some of John the Baptist’s disciples and another Jew approached John the Baptist on the issue of ceremonial washings. The ensuing discussion had more to do with the success of Jesus’ ministry and less to do with ceremonial washings.
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”-3:27-30
John the Baptist responded to the concerns of his followers over the growing popularity of Jesus’ ministry with several thoughts. The growth of Jesus’ ministry was the result of divine providence. Instead of being jealous over Jesus’ successful ministry, should have rejoiced in what God was doing through Jesus. John the Baptist reminded them that he was not the Messiah, but the forerunner. He illustrated his relationship to Jesus by comparing it to serving as the best man at a wedding (v. 29). Jesus is the bridegroom; John the Baptist is the bridegroom’s friend. John the Baptist’s joy was full because of privilege of serving the bridegroom. Finally, John the Baptist recognized the absolute necessity of his ministry drifting into the background as Jesus’ ministry came into the foreground. The greatness of John the Baptist is reflected in the genuine humility of his final words in this Gospel.
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.—3:31-36
The simple, straightforward explanation of the previous verses now expands into more abstract statements about Jesus’ superiority. Jesus is superior because of his heavenly origin, heavenly testimony, and heavenly authority. Jesus came from heaven, while John the Baptist was of the earth. The words “above all” (v. 31) mean Jesus is superior to all things and all people. He is uniquely qualified to reveal the Father and speak for him because he came from him. Those who accept his witness acknowledge its truthfulness. The apostle adds the thought that the Father has given Jesus the Spirit without limit (v. 34). In addition, Jesus’ superiority is based on the Father’s love for him and his gift of all authority (Colossians 1:16-18). John 3 concludes by contrasting those who believe and those who reject the Son. And we will pick up with Chapter 4 and one of the most telling and important episodes in this Gospel tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21, John 5:1-23, Psalm 105:37-45 and Proverbs 14:28-29