Sapphire Sky

November 16, 2014

The Competition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 2:52 pm

Thanks to John’s gospel account, we have been able to see the Son of God in both words  and action.  He has quietly called his first disciples, and then confirmed their belief in him at a wedding celebration.  He has shown his authority and his opposition to the religious elite as he throws out the corruption at Passover.  We are even able to witness his counsel to one of the elite rulers.

But now comes the first competition between ministries.  Jesus has left Jerusalem and his followers have only increased.  John the Baptist, the great teacher who initiated Jesus’ ministry with his baptism, can only watch on the sidelines as Jesus’ ministry threatens to eclipse his own. 

But John was not idle.  As Jesus was teaching and baptizing, John was sending people to him.  John’s message about the Messiah was now that he was here.  Yet you still see the disappointment in John’s followers.  Their leader was now losing followers to this new teacher.  When they confront John with this news, John does one of the greatest things in his career.

He quits.

This is the last recorded words of the greatest prophet who has ever lived, as he surrenders to Jesus’ growing influence.  John has no personal hold on his ministry.  Instead, he admits that it was only given him from God.

We would do well to put ourselves into John’s words here: “He must increase, but I must decrease”.

 

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John 3:22-36
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.


 

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing.

 

The “after this” refers to Jesus’ recent conversation with Nicodemus. We don’t know exactly how much time had elapsed but this was during a transition of about 6 months [1]. After the Passover showdown with the Sadducees, Jesus now retreats to the countryside where he begins to gather followers (John 4:2 indicates that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing, not Jesus himself).

 

 

John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

 

We don’t know the specific location of Aenon but the most likely possibilities are north in Samaria. Jesus is baptizing in Judea and John heads north. John is the greatest prophet who has ever lived(Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28), yet he readily defers to Jesus.

 

The note that John was not yet in prison gives specific timing of these events.  The Apostle John is letting us know that this is happening before Jesus travels to Galilee (Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14).

 

 

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

 

The centerpiece of John’s ministry has been his baptism. The various Jewish religious sects had their rules about ritual cleansing, but John may have been the first to employ baptism as a means to identify with his ministry [2]. The implied dispute with the Jew must have pointed out that Jesus was now baptizing and had a greater following than John.

 

The words of John’s disciples show outrage and jealousy. They don’t even mention Jesus by name, but instead only refer to him as, “he who was with you across the Jordan”. They also claim that all are going to him. To these faithful disciples, the fate of their great teacher is at stake!

 

 

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’

 

John’s answer to his disciples shows his true greatness. John has been preaching and gathering a huge following. But it is not about him!

 

Anything we have has been given to us by God. All of John’s ministry, popularly, and following has been given to him (see 1 Cor 4:7 and 1 Cor 15:10). There is no need to be defensive when God reduces it or takes it away.

 

But there is more to John’s reply. John reminds his disciples that they were forgetting his own teaching that he was only the forerunner of the true Messiah. John’s goal has always been to point people to Jesus.

 

 

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

 

John the Baptist concludes with the analogy of a wedding.  Jesus is the bridegroom while John is just the “friend of the bridegroom”.  The “friend of the briedgroom” is analogous in our culture to the best man, the master of ceremonies at the wedding, and finally as one who would watch over the bride until the bridegroom arrived [3]. The focus in the wedding was never on the friend of the bridegroom, and his job was complete once the bride and groom were together.  John’s function was to bring Israel to Jesus, as one would bring the bride to her bridegroom.  John’s role is now complete.

 

 

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

 

This continues the thought from earlier in this chapter (3:13): Jesus alone is qualified to speak of Heaven because he is from Heaven.  Jesus surpasses any religious teacher because he is from Heaven.  A human teacher is limited by earthly boundaries.

 

 

He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

 

Jesus is a reliable witness of Heaven, yet he has been rejected by mankind.  The one who has received Jesus Christ gives his certification (affirmation) that God is truthful.  Note that the opposite is also true — those who reject Jesus are calling God a liar (1 John 5:10).

 

But here is also a new concept.  God now gives the Holy Spirit without limit.  The Spirit in the Old Testament was only for limited times.

 

 

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

 

This is the fourth time in this chapter that you are urged to believe on the Jesus Christ.  You are not only encouraged but finally commanded to believe.  Those who refuse to obey this command to believe will not see life, but only the wrath of God.

 

“Unbelief is tragic ignorance but it is also willful disobedience to clear light.” [4]

 


 

[1] When Jesus was in Samaria, he says that there are “yet four months to harvest” (John 4:35). If Jesus is indicating a specific time of year, then he must have been in Samaria in September-October. Therefore, it would have been about 6 months after the Passover in John 2.

 

[2] It is arguable that John was the first to use baptism.  Some Jewish sects were known to practice proselyte baptism as early as the second century but we don’t know if this was done at John’s time.

 

[3] The “friend of the bridegroom” is notably absent in wedding scene at Cana (John 2:1-11).  The “friend of the bridegroom” was a Judean tradition and was not practiced in Galilee (in the North).  (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter vi.)

 

[4] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John 3, p. 280.

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