John 3: 22 – 36
I Rejoice In Being His Friend
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison. 25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. 35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Upon the initiation of the Lord Jesus ministry John the Baptist moved his ministry. To try to stir up some trouble the Pharisees came to John and told him how Jesus’ ministry was starting to become notable successful. We will see that John did not take the bait but reflected the attention and praise back to the Lord Jesus.
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
The land of Judea is in Southern Palestine, below Samaria. Galilee was above Samaria in northern Palestine. Across the Jordan from Judea was Perea. Thus Jesus may have ‘come into the land’ of Judea from Jerusalem.
This agrees with Mark’s statement that Jesus’ Galilean ministry, of which the other Gospels are full, commenced after John the Baptist was put in prison (Mark 1.14), which has not yet happened at this stage as he is still baptizing at Aenon near Salim.
23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
Thus we have in John’s Gospel valuable new material about the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry which is not mentioned by the other Gospels. It demonstrates that His first ministry was in Judea, and carried out in parallel with, and alongside, John the Baptist.
Please note the significant statement that ‘There he remained with them and baptized.’ Our Lord Jesus Is at this stage carrying on a similar ministry to John the Baptist, identifying Himself with the work of John. The work of the Spirit which that baptism symbolizes has already begun. This is evident from the constant mention of the Spirit in John’s Gospel and in His indication that ‘the life of the age to come’ is available already. Indeed it is evident in John’s ministry also. But as yet it is to a certain extent localized.
While baptism is important as a commitment to God and to a new way of living, and a declaration of a desire to take part in the pouring out of the Spirit, it is that inner work that is most important. As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 1.17-18, ‘For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
Paul states that baptism is secondary to preaching the Gospel, for it is the latter which produces the saving work which the former confirms.
It is stated in chapter 4 verse 2 that our Lord Jesus Himself did not baptize, but left the responsibility to His disciples. Aware of His special status, it would certainly have been wise for Jesus to leave baptizing to His disciples, as otherwise all kinds of problems could arise as people fought to be baptized by Him. Jesus knew what was in men. He would therefore know very well the complications that could arise later if some people had been specifically baptized by Him. We can compare how Paul clearly left the baptizing of people to others (1 Corinthians 1.11-17) and was thankful that he had done so. Thus this is not a case of special pleading.
I have seen the wisdom of this position first hand. For all my life in ministry I have been an Assistant Pastor. On a few occasions the Senior Pastor came and joined us in the baptism. As you can understand, almost everyone one lined up for him to do their baptism while myself and others in the ‘much’ water just stood there in the water embarrassed, and freezing with nothing to do.
It is important to realize and take to heart that John the Baptist did not feel that his work was over because the One to whom he pointed had come. John is happy to go on preaching but to ‘decrease’ and turn people to Jesus. Jesus on the other hand is careful not to bring discredit on the ministry of John, but to work alongside him. Both recognize that each has a purpose to fulfill in God’s service.
It is natural for people to look at what others are doing, even those who are in the ministry of serving our Lord Jesus Christ. At Pastor Conferences I listen to the banter of the co-Sheppard of the Lord. Almost consistently I hear them ask one another about the size of their congregation. It should not be so. In truth if we are allowed to serve only of few of our Holy Master’s sheep than this is more than we deserve and we should be appreciative that we are allowed to do anything for Him.
We see that our Precious Holy Spirit now adds that John had not yet been put into prison. Thus this is before the ministries of Jesus mentioned in the other Gospels. Jesus is quite happy at this stage to be connected with John for whom He had profound admiration and they engage in parallel ministries. It was only when He learned that there was talk about His greater success than John, that He took the step of moving to Galilee so as not to upstage John.
It is clearly around this time that John was put into prison, and it is only then that Jesus was prepared to commence a wider, active ministry. While John was around, Jesus wished to act as support to his ministry and did not draw on his pool of disciples. But once John is in prison Jesus feels free to commence a new ministry in the power of the Spirit. We should note that we learn from the other Gospels that crowds followed Him ‘from Judea’. This tends to confirm that there had been an initial Judean ministry as Mark points out in chapter 3 verse 7 of his Gospel.
25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.
A discussion arose between John’s disciples and the Jews (or ‘the Judaisers’). As John’s disciples were in fact Jews this demonstrates that the term Jew or Jews, when used in the Gospel, is not to be taken as referring to the nation. It rather refers to those who were particularly zealous for Judaism. It was they who would be concerned about purification rites, and as we know some of the Judaisers had already challenged John on the matter (1.25).
We see here that it was possibly that the Jewish eldership was seeking to pin down the meaning of John’s baptism, possibly mistakenly seeing it as an aspect of ceremonial purification or connecting it with the proselyte initiation ceremony, for when a non-Jew became a proselyte he would be required to undergo a ceremonial bath, although that was self-administered and thus of a very different nature. It may be that while seeking to argue this theological point, he commented to them concerning the fact that Jesus was more successful than John (4.1). He was probably seeking to cause a division between John and Jesus. The fact that the author who is John is aware of what the discussion was about shows how close he was to the action, but he deliberately leaves the matter vague. The fact that he does so shows that it is not important to the meaning of this section. It is only mentioned because it happened. There was clearly constant communication between John the Baptist’s group and the disciples of Jesus.
We all need to be aware that there is nothing here to argue. The old purification waters of Judaism have been replaced by the new wine of the Spirit.
26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
John’s disciples being greatly worked up by the Jewish religious officials bring to their teacher this news regarding Jesus.
A thing I notice often in counseling is people use the terms ‘all’ or ‘none’ I like this observation highlighter by a counselor. His patient told him that ‘no one likes him’. To this comment the counselor said, ‘that statement cannot be true.’ To which the patient asked, ‘why not?’The counselor responded, ‘everyone or all people have not met you yet.’ Stop and think on that statement.
We see the same thing done here by John the Baptist’s disciples. They tell John ‘All’ men come to Him’. It really means huge crowds were coming to see Jesus.
27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’
John recognizes that each man must do well the task he has been given. He has been given the position of being ‘the voice’ preparing the way, and he is satisfied with that. It is Jesus Who has been given the greater task of being the Messiah. John is happy at doing well the job he has been sent to do. There is no room for jealousy in God’s service
The statement ‘A man can do nothing except it has been given him from Heaven’ is referring that ‘nothing’ is worthwhile and effective in God’s work unless God Is the Source behind the work. He recognizes that Jesus’ very success is proof of God working through Him so that John is well content. Indeed he has stressed in his ministry that he is not himself the Messiah but has come to prepare the way for Him (the Christ). Please note the constant emphasis on the fact that Jesus is the Christ.
29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease
In the Old Testament Israel was regularly pictured as God’s bride, so when John says that it is right that she should listen to the bridegroom, there is an implication of Jesus’ status as Son of God. The bridegroom’s helper can only be glad at hearing the Bridegroom’s voice, because it means that he has been carrying out his duties successfully. The depiction of Jesus as the Bridegroom is another indication of His status, for in the Old Testament God was the bridegroom and Israel the bride. John gladly recognizes the total superiority of Jesus as a unique divinely chosen figure.
John states that he is ‘The friend of the bridegroom’ - Not strictly ‘the best man’ but with a fairly similar function. He would make all arrangements for the success of the bridegroom. Thus having prepared the way John is delighted that the One has come Who Is the Way. Just to hear His voice brings joy to John’s heart and he is fully satisfied.
‘He must increase, and I must decrease’. John does not hide the truth from himself, nor does he wish to. These words should be written on all our hearts. We are most successful when we are seen as unimportant because men’s eyes are turned on Jesus. John is content to become unimportant, so that the One to whom he testifies is recognized for what He Is. The very fact that Jesus is ‘The Christ’ makes His increase certain, and John accepts that this must lead to he himself being put into the background.
31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
John contrasts the One Who has come from above, the Lord Jesus Christ, with himself who is but an earthling. The latter can only speak of earthly things for he is limited to earthly knowledge even if it is revealed knowledge. But the One Who comes from Heaven is above all.
Our Great Holy Spirit inspires John to repeat for emphasis the awesome deity of our Lord Jesus. He has knowledge both of earthly things and of things that none on earth can know, even by revelation, for He is over everything in Heaven and earth. This contrast is true not only of John in contrast with Jesus, but of all men in contrast with Jesus. Men who claim special heavenly knowledge deceive themselves. It is beyond their understanding.
Only the One Who has come down from Heaven can understand those things which are spiritual. This is because He has actually seen and heard them. So He bears witness to what He has seen and heard above. Even John in Revelation only had a partial revelation of such things in dreams and visions which were largely symbolic, for they are beyond man’s vision even when in the Spirit. But Jesus, being Himself ‘Spirit’, and being above the spiritual and angelic world, has full knowledge of all things. This is the most emphatic statement possible of the uniqueness and unique knowledge of Jesus.
Look with me at the powerful statement regarding our Lord Jesus’ testimony that He Is The Messiah, The Son of God, God in the flesh. – ‘Yet still ‘no man receives His witness’. Men as a whole reject His testimony. Our Lord Jesus will state as we read in chapter 5 of John’s Gospel this, “I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”
It is only man as enlightened by the Spirit of God Who can even begin to receive it for such things are spiritually discerned as the apostle Paul who also was in the dark speaks about this spiritual enlightenment in 1 Corinthians 2.6-16, “6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It did not continue that all would not receive His Testimony. There are those who did and do hear Him. We recognize that the One Whom God has sent is uttering God’s words. And by believing those words we believe God Himself. And in believing God we are testifying to the fact that God Is true, for no one believes someone unless they accept him as true.
35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.
We accept Jesus Christ’s words because He has the Spirit in full, without measure. Jesus receives the Spirit without measure because He is ‘the Son’ and ‘the Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands’. The title stresses His total uniqueness. He Is not one of many but the only One, with a unique relationship to ‘the Father’ above that of the angels. Indeed it is a ‘family’ relationship. He Is of the same essence as the Father and The Holy Spirit- a Blessed Holy Trinity.
There is no restriction to what has been committed to Jesus. He has been set over all things and has power to do whatever He will. He is sovereign over all.
36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
There is a powerful warning in this verse. Please notice that believing and obeying are used synonymously. Not to listen to the Son is dangerous indeed. ‘He who believes on (believes into) the Son has eternal life, ‘the life of the coming age’, spiritual life, immortal life. He who does not obey the Son will not see such life, but God’s divine anger will rest on him with its consequent results.
Those who believe will always obey, although belief precedes obedience, and lack of obedience indicates lack of faith. The believer has God abiding in him. In contrast the non-believer does not obey God and has God’s wrath, and the results of that wrath, abiding on him. God’s wrath is not anger as we know anger. It is not because He cannot control His feelings. The word is describing His total antipathy to sin and all that sin involves, expressed by judgment on that sin and on the sinner. It is thus steady and unchanging unless the sin is atoned for through the means that He has provided. God’s revulsion to sin cannot cease. What was therefore necessary was to deal with that sin in such a way that it could be removed as being a hindrance to man’s relationship with God.