We will be looking at John 3:22–36 to close off our in-depth look of this chapter. Here John describes an argument between followers of John the Baptist and a Jewish religious leader, over purification. The passage does not name who the Jewish leader is, but it is possible this man was Nicodemus, who had just been discussing the same topic with Jesus. John the Baptist isn’t upset that his followers are dwindling, while Jesus attracts more followers. Instead, he makes it clear that this was his mission, and seeing it succeed makes him happy. Rather than being selfish about our own applause, we should be happy when our efforts cause people to praise and follow Jesus.
Follow this series on the Gospel of John here:
John 3: 22-36
John Testifies Again About Jesus
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
Jesus spent some time with the disciples, teaching them about baptising. This is one of the most important aspects of being a Christian – time with God. The Bible gives believers many promises of knowledge, wisdom, and strength for a person who spends considerable time communicating with Christ. Simply becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically make a person spiritually strong. The disciples were able to transform the world because they were deeply, intimately connected to Jesus. We as Christians should be doing the same.
The people began responding to this message that Jesus and John the Baptist were a legitimate spiritual threats to Jerusalem’s established religious ways. It is evident that there was an extremely strong response to the messages John and Jesus brought. The location John chose had plenty of water, suggesting many people were being baptised that was necessary to find a place with “plenty of water,” The message was having an impact.
John the Baptist is confronted with the fact that Jesus is attracting many followers, more followers than him. This meant that people were leaving John the Baptist to follow Jesus instead. Rather than becoming jealous, petty, or angry, the Baptist has the right response.
John the Baptist’s mission was to call people who would follow Jesus. Seeing this happen means his mission is a success! And, since this was never about him in the first place, the Baptist is very happy. Later on, John the Baptist compares himself to the best man at a wedding, and Jesus to the groom. Seeing the happiness of the groom, and the attention he receives, makes the best man ecstatic, not jealous. For the Baptist, it’s wonderful to see Jesus gaining the interest He deserves.
This is an important guideline for Christians. As John the Baptist says, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” No matter what success we have, we owe it to God. We shouldn’t be angry or frustrated when others seem more successful; God is ultimately the one in control and His approval is all that we should desire.
John the Baptist’s words in verse 30 are especially important for all Christians “He must become greater; I must become less”. The goal of teaching and preaching is to lead people to follow Jesus, those people should then grow and mature in their walk with Jesus. The point of ministry is not to make the minister look good, but to help others in their walk with God. We must humble ourselves before the Lord.
Jesus’ ministry is from God, but, unfortunately many people reject it. Verse 36 is an important ending to the core Gospel message “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them“. Those who put their faith in Christ will be saved, but those who reject Him will face the wrath of God.
What we have on our own is so limited and imperfect; but what Jesus has for us is limitless and impacting. Be transformed and renewed; be His and His alone so your life shines His Way; allow His uniqueness and impact to take you beyond your own set limits and your doubts into the far reaches and depths of your spiritual formation so you are more faithful, assured, and fruitful, because your life belongs to Christ. He is your Lord, so be and do and act in accordance with who He is and what He has done for you!
This passage emphasises the exclusivity of the Gospel: there is absolutely no other way to obtain heaven, but through Jesus Christ.