After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison. Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 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 answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said,`I am not the Christ,’ but,`I have been sent before Him.’ 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. He must increase, but I must decrease.
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. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 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.”
Where is your focus at right now? What is taking up your mental space, directing your activities, guiding your steps? Today’s lesson speaks directly into that very issue.
The mind of Christ was certainly reciprocated, at least in part, in John the Baptist. Many of the elements of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus in the first twenty-one verses of John 3 appear again in the latter verses, and the way John the Baptist talks almost makes us have to look twice to see if it wasn’t Jesus Himself talking. This passage could be broken down into three parts:
- Fear (22-26). While this term is a very broad stroke for vv. 22-26, fear is the culmination on the part of the disciples of John the Baptist in response to the increasingly influential ministry of Christ. The ministry of Jesus Christ would cast a shadow not only on John’s ministry (He was the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s message), but also and especially with the Pharisees and Sadducees. On Palm Sunday, it says in John 12:19, “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!’” This forms a parallel response to that of John’s disciples. Another word in relationship to fear would be jealousy, which is the fear of losing what one possesses, or believes they possess, to another. Jealousy is a form of insecurity. We will see the pattern of jealousy emerge many times over throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The further into the ministry of Jesus Christ that we get in the Gospel accounts, the more jealousy we will see along the way, which indicates a great insecurity, a great fear, from those who have established themselves in some fashion that Christ’s message or ministry tampers with. It wouldn’t end with Christ, though; the accounts of Acts will show much fear and opposition to the followers of Jesus Christ in the expansion of the Church.
- Faith (27-30). John the Baptist had faith in Christ and trusted that what God intended to accomplish was greater than the agendas he might have had for himself. Notice that John the Baptist was not insecure, jealous, or fearful at all at the influence Christ was gaining with the people. He merely tried to calm his disciples down and to help them think of the bigger picture. John the Baptist showed great humility in his response. As someone once said, “Humility is not thinking of less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Listen to these words from C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity: “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” (Mere Christianity, Book 3, Ch. 8, “The Great Sin,” Kindle location 1665). John the Baptist saw his role as supportive to the primary role of Jesus Christ. His response remains a model for all of us in how we view our roles, especially in the body of Christ, as well as a challenge to us in seeing Christ as premier in our relationship to Him. The life of a believer is a “prop” to His plans.
- Focus (31-36). John’s words in vv. 31-34 show us how he viewed Jesus and exemplify Jesus’ testimony regarding Himself to Nicodemus in the first part of John 3. John the Baptist saw Christ as having come from Heaven; he recognized His testimony to be an account as the eternal Son of God and not just another man. Once more, the heavenly/earthly dynamic shows up in John’s conclusive statements. How can both John and Jesus speak so much alike and from the heart? For instance, John 3:36 is very similar to John 3:18: “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.” One major piece of the explanation is that John the Baptist was a man who had the Holy Spirit; He was truly born of the Spirit, a person in whom Jesus’ words on spiritual birth and belief was exemplified. At this point in the Scriptures, this is more unique; the Holy Spirit would not come in fullness upon believers until Pentecost in Acts 2, but John the Baptist had the Spirit even when in his mother’s womb. The testimony regarding John the Baptist in Luke 1:13-15 is as follows: “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” The “wind” (John 3:8) of the Holy Spirit had blown into John the Baptist’s life and he had the signs of spiritual life. He spoke of Christ in a way that evidences the Holy Spirit’s presence. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus [a]accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
Today’s passage offers us a very applicable remedy to insecurities we might have ourselves. When we place our focus on Christ, we will develop in living by faith, and that in turn will help us to not be brought low with fears tied to comparison with others. Joy is a byproduct of the focus of one’s heart, not the result of agreeable circumstances. Thankfully, the Christian life is not done in one’s own power; it is a calling that is assisted by the indwelling Holy Spirit who helps us bring our focus back to Christ, our faith rooted in Him, and our fears a place of conviction when He shows them for what they are.
Take a little time and reflect on John 3:31-36. How might God bring application of this passage to your own heart?
Prayer: A portion of David’s prayer from 1 Chronicles 29:10-17:
“Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You. For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You.”