Summary: A study of the Gospel of John chapter 3: 22 – 36
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.