4 July 2014

John 3:22-36

“Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 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 all are going to him.’ John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.’” (vv. 25-27)


John's Gospel is presenting Jesus as someone who overturned the old ways of Judaism and brought something new to God's people. One of the strongest symbols of this newness was Baptism.

John the Baptist tells us that the reason he came baptizing with water was to prepare the way for the Messiah so that the Messiah might be known to God's people (John 1:26-31). Even after Jesus has himself been pointed out by John (once John recognised who he was (John 1:32-34)) John continues to baptize people, Presumably his preaching is now even more fervent now that he can tell people who 'the one who comes after me' actually is.

In today's passage, we're not sure exactly where Aenon was, or what the dispute over purification was about, or who it was with - with 'a Jew' or 'some Jews'. But only one person is baptizing. And he's attracting the crowds. (We know also that this one person 'to whom John testified' is not Jesus - as Jesus himself did not baptize (see John 4:1-2).)

John's disciples want to protect their master's copyright! Perhaps this rival is easier to listen to - especially as John did not pull any punches in his preaching (see Matthew 3:7-12). But it is not a problem for John. If he has shared Christ with this Jew at his Baptism, then this Jew will be sharing Christ with those who he himself is baptizing. Nothing can happen without heaven's blessing.

In any case, John has fulfilled his purpose in showing people who the Messiah is. The Jews saw the Messianic age as being heralded by God becoming a husband to Israel (Hosea 2:16-20). Jesus calls himself the bridegroom in Mark 2:19-20 and it is no accident that his first 'sign' takes place at a wedding banquet (John 2:1-11). The best man is always second to the bridegroom. So John's disciples must now focus on Jesus, not him: for the one who comes from above has eternal life.

To Ponder

  • In what ways are Christians jealous of other Christians today? How might this jealousy be overcome?
  • It seems that everyone who has been baptized in the name of Christ should share the task of pointing others to Jesus. If you are a baptized Christian, how are you fulfilling that mission?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.