Summary: A sermon on John the Baptist that focuses on John's humility and acceptance of his work as the one who prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. John's life is summed up in the words "He must increase and I must decrease."
Adding and Subtracting
“He must increase, but I must decrease”
But this chapter also records an incident that is very important to the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus
I. The Context
1. Verse 22 begins a new section
22After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized
2. The situation is ripe for conflict
a. Two groups baptizing in close proximity
b. The John the Baptist group and the Jesus group
c. vs 25 – “a discussion arose” (dispute - question – argument)
3. The nature of the dispute is not described in detail, but it seems to relate to the idea water baptism (purification rites)
a. The Jews practiced ritual washings, but John introduced something radically new with the act of baptizing (immersing) Jews
b. Jews were familiar with ritual washings and Gentiles had to go through a ritual washing in order to convert to Judaism
c. But no Jew had ever been baptized before
d. John burst upon the scene calling upon Jews to repent and submit to a type of washing once reserved for Gentile converts
e. Jesus begins a ministry of baptizing that quickly draws multitudes of people
4. There was confusion over baptism 2,000 years ago – there is still confusion today
a. Do you have to be baptized to be saved?
b. Does baptism wash away your sin?
c. Does the form of baptism matter?
d. Was John’s baptism the same as Christian baptism?
5. These are important questions, but they divert us from the real issue at hand
a. vs 26 suggests that the real issue was not theology but jealousy –
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." (vs. 26)
b. John’s disciples and supporters were jealous that Jesus was beginning to draw larger crowds than John
II. The Controversy
1. The disciples of John the Baptist were putting John in the position of competing with Jesus
2. The disciples of John wanted to make the conversation about him
a. YOU were here first
b. YOU baptized him
c. “He” was with YOU – by implication “YOUR disciple”
d. The crowds were coming to YOU
e. It’s not fair
f. “DO SOMETHING!”
3. It is often the case in life that we become jealous and envious of those who appear to be doing better than we are
a. True in the spiritual realm as well
b. Pastors do it – the “numbers game”
c. Among churches there is often the atmosphere of competition rather than celebration concerning spiritual victories
III. The Correction
1. When John the Baptist was made aware of the dispute, he lifted the conversation to a higher level