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9. John’s Joy and His Disciples’ Jealousy (John 3:22-36)


Like many of you, I too watched the winter Olympics on television. I was most interested in the women’s figure skating, particularly the gold medal performance of Tara Lipinski, who just happens to be from Texas. A number of very fine and more favored contestants performed ahead of Tara, but it was clear she had a chance for the gold. The pressure was on, which made her final difficult jump even more exciting. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she executed the jump flawlessly. Immediately, her face illuminated as she flashed her now famous joyful smile. She knew she had done it, and she was right! At that moment, Tara Lipinski experienced the joy of having fulfilled her mission, and she absolutely delighted in having done so.

Somehow, I’ve never really looked upon John the Baptist as a happy person. From some of his severe words, I must confess to thinking of John as a grouch, a sort of angry, hostile fellow, who didn’t know how to smile. A friend of mine used to say, “It’s hard for a watchdog to smile.” I guess I always looked on John as a “watchdog.” Our text forces me to rethink my opinion of John the Baptist.

Some parents in our church have their children sit in with them as they listen to me preach. Some of these young listeners draw cartoons for me of what they have learned from the text of Scripture. I know what to expect from my young artist friends at the end of this sermon. I will get a picture of John the Baptist, with a broad smile on his face. In the picture also will be his disciples, all wearing a huge frown. That which gives John great joy causes his disciples great concern, even distress. How can this be? What has gone wrong? We shall see in our study of John 3:22-36.

Is Our Text “Out of Place”?

It may seem difficult to believe, but some scholars try to tell us that this passage is out of place. I like what Leon Morris has to say on this point:

It is often suggested that vv. 22-30 are out of their proper place. Some advocate transferring them to a position after 2:12, others after 3:36. The arguments usually revolve round their suitability to the context in which we find them. There are suggestions of displacement at various points in this Gospel, and more or less plausible arguments are produced to support such theories. But we must always bear in mind that what we think an appropriate sequence is not necessarily the one that the compiler of this Gospel would have adopted. And in any case our first duty is to see whether the verses in question fit into the Gospel where they are traditionally found. … In the case of the present passage examination does not appear to disclose any such compelling reason.169

I point this out for a very good reason. Those who seek to change the order of the text show themselves to be very much “sons of Nicodemus.” Nicodemus comes as an authority to Jesus, and yet he simply cannot accept His authority. He wishes, it seems, to adapt Jesus to his theology, rather than to sit at our Lord’s feet and receive a new theology. Those who consider themselves experts are not as eager to learn as they are to teach and to correct. We do better to take the text as it is and try to learn what John is telling us by it, just as it is written.

Who Is Speaking in This Passage?

There is some discussion as to whether John the Baptist or John the Apostle is speaking in verses 31-36. Perhaps the major reason many think these must be the comments of John the Apostle is that the statements seem too advanced for this moment in time. How can John the Baptist know these things at this early point in the ministry of Jesus? Let us remember that John the Baptist is a prophet. His words, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29), might also be called too advanced.

The Structure of This Text

Our text divides into four sections: (1) Jesus baptizes, too (vss. 22-24); (2) John’s disciples are jealous (vss. 25-26); (3) John’s joy (vss. 27-30); and (4) the superiority of the Savior (vss. 31-36).

These are the final words of John the Baptist170 in the Gospel of John. They are a fitting and honorable tribute to this man, and they are also his final testimony concerning Jesus as the Christ.

Jesus Baptizes in Addition to John

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples came into Judean territory, and there he spent time with them and was baptizing.171 23 John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was abundant water there, and people were coming and being baptized.172 24 (For John had not yet been thrown into prison.) (emphasis mine)

Jesus and His disciples had been in the city of Jerusalem, where He had cleansed the temple (2:13-22), performed a number of signs (2:23), and spoken with Nicodemus (3:1-21). They are now leaving the city of Jerusalem, making their way into the countryside.173 There, Jesus “spent time with” His disciples. We should ponder these three words, “spent time with,” because they remind us of a very important element of discipleship. As it should be, the church is very interested in discipleship. Jesus is seen as the model for “discipling,” and rightly so. Nevertheless, our discipleship programs seldom do what our Lord actually did. Rather, we emphasize a kind of classroom instruction, and usually a highly structured program with “accountability” and other controls. While this may be commendable, I cannot overlook the fact that Jesus “spent time” with His disciples. To be our Lord’s disciple was to “be with Him”:

13 Now Jesus went up into the mountain and called for those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve (whom he called apostles), so that they would be with him and he could send them to preach 15 and to have authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:13-15, emphasis mine; see also Matthew 17:1; 26:37; Mark 5:37; 16:10; Luke 7:11; 8:1; 9:10; 22:14; John 15:27; 17:24; Acts 4:13).

Discipleship is about witnessing, accountability, and one-on-one relationships with those who come to faith in Christ. But first and foremost, a disciple is one who spends time with the Master. Those of us who are professionals in ministry (who make our living by our ministry) often confuse the time we spend in preparation for our ministry with personal time with the Lord. Our time of study should be a time of fellowship and intimacy with the Lord, but we also need time with Him for His sake and ours, personally. Let us not lose sight of the fact that a significant part of our Lord’s discipling was simply spending time with His disciples.

While in the Judean countryside, the disciples of our Lord baptize those who come to them. At the same time, John and his disciples are also baptizing.174 We would expect that John’s baptism had not changed from what it had always been. His was a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. Our Lord’s baptism—or rather the baptism our Lord’s disciples conducted in His name—was essentially the same as John’s.175 His disciples could not baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, since our Lord had not yet been crucified, buried, and risen from the dead.

John then interjects a parenthetical explanation in verse 24: “(For John had not yet been thrown into prison.)” Why would the Apostle John feel this statement is necessary? The Synoptic Gospels all start our Lord’s public ministry after the arrest of John the Baptist:

14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God. 15 He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:14-15; see also Matthew 4:12f.)

At this later point in time, Jesus picked up where John left off, with virtually the same message as John. Only in the Gospel of John do we learn of an earlier time when both John and Jesus were ministering simultaneously, with both groups (John and his disciples, and Jesus and His disciples) doing virtually the same thing at the same time (baptizing those who came to them).

John wants his readers to know of this unique, if very brief, period of simultaneous ministry because it is the setting from which a perceived problem arises. This problem arises because of our Lord’s successful ministry at this time. In our text, the Apostle John bids what I suspect is a sad farewell to John the Baptist. He will be referred to later in this Gospel, but this is the last time we read his own words. Our text is a fitting tribute to a great man. John the Baptist’s response here is a model of humility and Christian servanthood. Let us listen very carefully, not only to his words, but to his heart.

John’s Disciples Are Distressed

25 Now a dispute came about between some of John’s disciples and a Jew concerning ceremonial washing. 26 So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, about whom you testified—see, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him!”

John tells us of a dispute between the disciples of John and “a Jew,”176 who argue over ceremonial washing. If this Jew was resistant to John’s message and his baptism, it may well be that he argues for the superiority of the Jewish ceremonial cleansings. Somehow, the conversation seems to gravitate to a comparison of John’s baptism with that of Jesus. The dispute between John’s disciples and this Jew appears to prompt them to return to John with their concerns about Jesus.

We are not told what is said in this dispute. For the purposes of illustration and clarification, allow me to suggest one possible scenario: John’s disciples encounter a Jew and ask him if he wishes to be baptized. He responds that he is not interested; he is convinced that the Jewish ceremonial cleansings are more effective. Unwilling to leave it at this, the disciples begin to debate with him. Seeing that he is not making any progress, the Jew may have “put the icing on the cake” with a statement something like: “Well what are you so dogmatic about? Don’t you know that Jesus is baptizing in the same way you are, and far more people are going to Him than to you folks? Why don’t you just give it up?”

John’s disciples return to him frustrated and upset, not with the Jew, but with Jesus. They are distressed that Jesus and His disciples are more successful than they are. In fact, they almost seem distressed at John the Baptist, irritated that he has not done anything to remedy this situation. After all, it was John who pointed the crowds to Jesus, and he who had greatly contributed to the success of Jesus. Listen to the anger and frustration in their words to their “master”:

“Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, about whom you testified—see, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him!”

The words of John’s disciples give them away. Notice how they choose to refer to Jesus. They do not call Him by name (Jesus), nor do they refer to Him as the Messiah, though that is the way John refers to Him. They speak of Jesus as “the one who was with you, … the one about whom you testified.” I believe they did so because they actually came to resent who Jesus was. His identity and His success are related. If they are jealous of His success, they are not as enthusiastic about His identity as they should be. Neither are they as enthusiastic about acknowledging Jesus as Messiah as John is. John associates himself with Jesus, giving Jesus credibility. Worse yet, from their point of view, John testifies about Jesus (notice that they don’t mention what he testifies). Now, they complain, “everyone is going to him!

Note the similarity of these words to the words of the Pharisees:

17 So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it. 18 Because they had heard that Jesus had performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him. 19 Thus the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:17-19, emphasis mine.)

One is also reminded of these words in the Book of Numbers:

26 But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” 29 Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:26-29, NKJV)

Lest we think John’s disciples are the exception, let me suggest that their mindset is virtually the same as the disciples of our Lord. Our Lord’s disciples are jealous for Jesus’ success. They don’t like it when others attempt the same ministries they perform (see Mark 9:38; Luke 9:49). They dread the thought of failure and suffering (Matthew 16:21-22). In the Gospels, the disciples of John and the disciples of our Lord are in it for themselves, until they learn the meaning of taking up one’s cross. John’s disciples therefore are put out with John for having created this situation. They do not like the fact that Jesus is now baptizing, just as they are, but with greater success. They see the end in view, for themselves and for their ministry. Yet this is the way God meant it to be.

This raises an interesting issue: Why don’t John’s disciples—the ones chastising him—leave John to follow Jesus? Why do they stay on with John? What do they expect, as far as the future is concerned? John’s ministry was to introduce the Messiah. He has done that, and his mission has been accomplished. John’s disciples are acting as though John is the Messiah. They seem to think that their mission and ministry will continue on indefinitely. Judging from the broad impact of John’s teaching (e.g., Acts 19), they may have worked at it for some time. But they look upon Jesus as their competition, rather than as the culmination of their ministry. None of these men seem to be considering leaving John and joining Jesus, as the first two disciples of John did.177 Had they cast their lot in with John, so that now they are unwilling to face up to what is in store for him and for them? It seems so. It is not a pretty picture which the Apostle John draws for us, but it is certainly true to life.

With the attitude of John’s disciples, one can understand why it was necessary for John to be imprisoned and then beheaded by Herod. Even then, one wonders how long it took John’s disciples to give it up and to begin to preach Christ.

A Servant’s Heart

27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but rather, ‘I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This then is my joy, that is complete. 30 He must become more important while I become less important.”

If John the Baptist were a coach, I know exactly what he would say to “his men” at this moment: “Men, it’s time for us to get back to the basics.” Coaches always have to take their teams “back to the basics.” Preachers must do the same thing (Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1; 2 Peter 1:12; Jude 1:5). John is about to do this as well. In verse 27, he takes his disciples back to the basics of what his ministry is all about, and reminds them about their ministry as well.

John’s ministry is the ministry he received from God. His God-given ministry was not to be the Messiah, but to introduce the Messiah. He was the forerunner; Jesus was the fulfillment, the grand finale. John illustrates what he is saying by using the analogy of marriage. Jesus is the “bridegroom”; John is the “friend of the bridegroom.” The “friend of the bridegroom” is not distressed when the “bridegroom” appears at the wedding celebration to take his bride—he is elated. The friend’s task is to bring the bride and the groom together. When the voice of the groom is heard, the friend of the groom knows his task is accomplished, and he can rejoice in fulfilling his mission. He can rejoice that the bride and the groom are joined in marriage.178

Verse 30 projects this principle and practice into the future. John’s disciples do not like things as they are at the moment. John is about to tell them it will get much “worse” (from their point of view). John is saying, as it were, “But wait, there’s more. If you think Jesus’ success has peaked, and that my humbling has ceased, you are wrong.” We see then yet another governing principle:

“He must become more important while I become less important”179 (verse 30).

Jesus must become preeminent, while John must fade from the picture. The “must” of verse 30 is crucial. John is showing deep humility, it is true, but he is also saying that this is the way it “must” be, the way it will be—because this is the plan and the purpose of the sovereign God. Verses 31-36 spell out some of the ways in which Jesus is superior to John.

The Supremacy of Christ

31 The one who180 comes from above is superior to all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is superior to all. 32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, and no one accepts his testimony. 33 The one who has accepted his testimony has confirmed clearly that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he does not give the Spirit sparingly. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority. 36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him (emphasis mine).

Here, John the Baptist sets out to prove the supremacy of Jesus Christ and to show how vastly superior Christ is to him. John hangs his whole argument on several key premises. First, John informs us that He is superior to John because of where He has come from. Jesus has come “from above,” “from heaven.”181 Jesus is “from above”; John is “from the earth.”

Second, Jesus is superior to John in that of which He speaks. Since Jesus is “from above,” He speaks of the “heavenly things” which He has seen and heard in heaven. John is “from the earth,” and thus he speaks about “earthly things.”182 It sounds irreverent, but there is an idiom that says: “I got this right from the horse’s mouth.” That is what John is saying about Jesus and His words. In spite of this, John also calls attention to the amazing truth that even though Jesus speaks divine truth, “no one accepts his testimony” (verse 32).

Third, Jesus speaks as One who has the fullest measure of the Spirit of God. Jesus speaks for God with full authority; indeed, Jesus speaks as God. He alone has the Spirit without limit. He is the One who speaks as empowered by the Holy Spirit. You may remember that this is the very thing which set Jesus apart from all the others in the land. The Messiah would be the One “on whom he saw the Spirit descending and remaining” (John 1:33-34). It is not John who is to have the spotlight, but Jesus. No one knows that better than John, and so he informs his disciples.

Fourth, Jesus is uniquely loved by His Father in heaven and has been given the Father’s full authority (verse 35). The Father loves the Son, and all things have been placed under His authority. You simply cannot go any higher than this. Who is John compared to the Son? Why would his disciples seek to defend him against Jesus, when he is His servant?

Finally, Jesus is the One on whom the destiny of every human being rests. Jesus is the key to our destiny. The answer to one question determines where we will spend eternity: “Who is Jesus Christ, and what have you done about His claim to be God’s only means for your salvation?” The one who accepts His testimony has declared that “God is true” (verse 33). To reject the words of our Lord, who speaks for the Father, is to call God a liar. To believe in the Son is to have eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life; indeed, God’s wrath abides on him (verse 36).


The most important question anyone can ask and answer is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The answer is the key to everything. It is the key to one’s eternal destiny. It is the key to one’s ministry and service. It is the key to the gospel itself. Is it any wonder that the truths John the Baptist affirms here are the same truths the Apostle John emphasizes in this Gospel? Is it any wonder that these same truths are those most under attack by unbelieving “scholars”?

The claims Jesus makes, which John the Baptist declares here, and which the Gospel of John was written to proclaim, are found everywhere one looks in the New Testament. But perhaps nowhere is the thrust of our text more clearly stated elsewhere in the Bible than in the Book of Hebrews:

1 After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, 2 in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. 3 The son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my son! Today I have fathered you”? And in another place he says, “I will be his father and he will be my son.” 6 But when he again brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him!” 7 And he says of the angels, “He makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire,” 8 but of the son,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.

9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.
So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing

10 And,

You founded the earth in the beginning, Lord,
and the heavens are the works of your hands.

11 They will perish; but you continue.
And they will all grow old like a garment,

12 and like a robe you will fold them up
and like a garment they will be changed;
but you are the same and your years will never run out

13 But to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation?

1 Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, 4 while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 1:1-2:4).

Do you believe what John the Baptist has said about our Lord? If Jesus Christ is who the prophets of old prophesied He would be, who He Himself claimed to be, and who the apostles laid down their lives to declare Him to be, then what have you done about Him? He not only claims to have come from God, but to be God. He claims to have been sent to bear the penalty for your sins. He claims to be the only way to heaven. Have you acknowledged your sin and received the gift of the forgiveness of your sins and the assurance of eternal life through Him? If not, then I urge you to reconsider who Jesus Christ is. If so, I urge you to continually reflect on who He is. This is what shaped John’s ministry and mindset—and this is what his disciples failed to grasp.

As I read this text, I am impressed with John’s joy and with his disciples’ jealousy. John’s joy comes from knowing Jesus Christ—and from knowing his relationship to Him. John understood that his ministry, his moment in the spotlight, and his declining popularity, were all a part of God’s sovereign plan and purpose. John’s preoccupation was to make Christ preeminent, not to promote himself, his ministry, or his disciples. In this, John found great joy. He saw himself swallowed up in the service of Him who is the greatest. Whether by life or by death, his ministry was to exalt Christ. In this, John the Baptist sounds like the Apostle Paul (Philippians 1) and all the other apostles.

In contrast to John and his joy, we see the jealousy and frustration of his disciples. How can this be explained? What went wrong here? I would begin by saying that this same “sourness” seems to characterize many Christians and their service to the Lord. How quickly and easily we lose sight of Christ’s preeminence, and start to think of our position and our pleasure. Is this not what characterizes the disciples of our Lord? Are they not interested in promoting Christ so that they can prosper with Him? Is this not why they react so strongly to His words about His own rejection, suffering, and death? They are serving God for self-serving reasons.

Too often I hear Christians in ministry talking in terms of success, and this is problematic. But I also hear too much talk about “personal fulfillment.” Is this what motivates our service? A friend sent me an e-mail message this week, which seems to directly relate to our text and its teaching for us:

Bob: I just finished reading over your above outline and commentary. Would have loved to have been in the audience. Just wanted to pass something along that you probably have already read from Enoch Coppin of New Zealand. On Page 5 of his small book on The Any-Moment Coming of Christ, he makes this statement: “The Hope of The Church is the Bridegroom, for the simple reason that the Church is the Bride of Christ. Collectively the Church has one aspect of Hope, and individually the disciples who form the Church have another. So the time is coming when the Appearing will take place, and personally I must say that the greatest desire a Christian could have today would be, not his own satisfaction in being snatched away from the world, as he certainly will be if he is alive at the moment, but that His Master to whom he owes his present and eternal all, Who has been rejected by a world of sinners, who has been Crucified and put to shame on the cruel Cross on Calvary, might be vindicated before the world. It will be so, in the day of the Manifestation, for that is what it will be when He comes in that way, He is going to be Manifested (2 Thes. 2:10) and that is the true Hope of the disciple even in this age.” I thought this was an important point that most believers miss today. Most talk about the coming of Christ and how good it will be to have all the suffering past and forget that God has one purpose, to glorify His Son Jesus Christ. I myself at times really want it to be all over and live in the eternal happiness of the cleansed Kingdom just for my own selfishness.183

Is this perhaps the reason why your joy and mine is not that of John the Baptist? Are we serving our Lord selfishly? Jesus calls us to “take up our cross.” Serving God is in our own best interest, but when we begrudge the glorification of Christ because it seems to come at our sacrifice and our expense, then we have become like John’s disciples. If this is the case, we should repent of our sin, asking God to restore to us the joy of our salvation.

12 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel. 13 The results of this are that the whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ, 14 and that most of the brothers, having confidence in the Lord because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. 18 What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20 My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me; yet I don’t know what I prefer: 23 I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, 24 but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. 25 And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may overflow because of me, through my coming back to you (Philippians 1:12-26).

169 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), pp. 235-236.

170 John the Baptist is mentioned again (5:33; 10:40-41), but he essentially departs here. In John’s Gospel we are not given an account of his death (see Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:9), nor of his doubts (see Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23).

171 This is the first and only reference to our Lord or His disciples baptizing.

172 “The tense of the last two verbs is continuous and we might give the force of it as ‘they kept coming and being baptized.’” Morris, p. 237.

173 Jesus seems to have settled here for several months. Hendriksen theorizes that our Lord remained on here from May to December of 27 A.D. William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-1954), vol. 1, p. 146.

174 The exact location of Aenon is not known, nor is the location of where Jesus was baptizing.

175 Morris writes, “We do not read of Jesus as baptizing in any other Gospel than this, and from 4:2 we learn that the actual baptizing was carried out by the disciples, not by Jesus in person. It is difficult to think of this as Christian baptism in the later sense. More probably it represents a continuation of the ‘baptism of repentance’ that was characteristic of John the Baptist.” Morris, p. 237.

176 Some manuscripts have the plural here. It really doesn’t seem to matter whether the dispute was with one Jew or many.

177 If the Apostle John was the second disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus, think how he must have felt as he wrote this account, realizing this could have been him, and knowing that he is exposing the self-serving attitude of his former associates.

178 One can hardly dismiss the distinct possibility that John has a double meaning here, based on the fact that Israel is represented as the “bride” of God (Isaiah 62:4-5; Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 2:19; Ezekiel 16; Malachi 2:11. See also Matthew 22:1ff.; 25:1ff.; Ephesians 5:32; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19; 21:2, 9; 22:17.).

179 I am inclined to say, rather, “He must become more prominent, and I less so.”

180 Note the way John uses the expression “the one who …” He first uses it to contrast Jesus and John. He then employs it to contrast those who believe in Jesus with those who do not.

181 “Some forty times in the Gospel through John, Christ is spoken of as being sent from heaven or going back to heaven.” John G. Mitchell, with Dick Bohrer, An Everlasting Love: A Devotional Study of the Gospel of John (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1982), p. 63.

182 In John 3:12, Jesus claimed the ability to speak both “earthly things” and “heavenly things.” John claims to be able to speak only “earthly things.”

183 This e-mail message came from my friend, Dick Plowman. Dick and his wife Beth were members of our church before they moved to Waco, Texas. Dick and I served together in prison ministry, as he continues to do with Bill Glass Ministries.

Related Topics: Christology

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