Last time we finished studying the discussion between Nicodemus and the Lord Jesus about being born again, for which John allocated 21 verses in his Gospel. This is a fundamental truth that explains the essence of Christianity. Christianity is not a religion of good deeds, a way of self-knowledge or a means of personal development. Christianity is about restoring man’s relationship with God, a relationship that was broken in the Garden of Eden because of man’s disobedience to God, the consequences of which we live and see to this day. Let us continue to study the Gospel of John, chapter 3, and today I will read from verses 22 to 30.
„After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.” (Ioan 3:22-30 NASB)
If in the beginning only John and his disciples were baptizing, then here we see Jesus with His disciples, baptizing people. This caused confusion in the minds of John’s disciples. Provoked by a discussion with a Jew about ceremonial washings, they came to John to ask for an explanation. How is this, that the One whom John promoted is now baptizing? they were wondering. If we describe it in our language, they perceived the actions of the Lord Jesus and His disciples as competition. The Jew probably asked himself whose baptism is more effective: yours or the Lord’s? The things they needed to perceive spiritually, they perceived only physically. Didn’t John explain to them who the Lord Jesus is and what His job is? Of course he did, they knew, but their pride was touched and their pride was speaking.
I liked John the Baptist’s answer. He was not drawn by his flesh, but he responded calmly according to his calling. He once again explained to the disciples his place in the picture of salvation. That He is not Christ, but is sent before Him. In fact, the message of the Lord Jesus was no different from that of John. He also called people to repent “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John presents the Lord Jesus as the groom and himself as the groom’s friend. The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, also presents Jesus as the bridegroom and the Church, which is the totality of the believers, as the bride. John the Baptist perceived the fact that the Lord Jesus was growing in popularity among the people of Israel as his success and not a failure. “He must increase, and I must decrease,” says John.
There are several things we can learn from this incident. Ignorance or improper treatment of God’s Word and of our calling hinders our ability to spiritually judge things around us. We start judging by our flesh, and pride takes over. We must be very careful and watch over ourselves so that we do not fall into the trap into which John’s disciples were drawn. On the other hand, knowing the Word and our calling helps us to remain strong in the truth and to bear fruit in patience. May God help us with this. Let’s pray:
“Our Father who is in heaven. Help us to be spiritual people and to judge spiritual things as such. Help us know well Your Word and the call you made to us so that we do not turn to the right or to the left. We want all our service to draw attention to You and not to us, and Your name to be praised. In the name of Jesus, Your Son, I prayed. Amen”
May God bless you. Next time we will look at John’s answer from verses 31 to 36.
Translated by Liza Bîrlădeanu