Saturday, February 4, 2012

John 3:22-36

In the final passage of chapter 3 of John, the scene shifts suddenly back to John the Baptist. We never read about Nicodemus’s reaction to the words he had just heard from Jesus, although he had much to think about. Because he provided the burial spices for Jesus, it is assumed that he became a believer at some point. But in verse 22, we return to John the Baptist, who is now baptizing people at Aenon, which is where Jesus is also baptizing.

After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (John 3:22-23)

I would have missed this point, but Jon Courson actually asks why John was now baptizing at Aenon. He suggests it had nothing to do with heavenly revelation or fulfilling prophecy, but that the answer is simpler and very practical: because there was plenty of water. Courson writes that too often we make finding the will of God much more difficult than it needs to be. God often aligns the desires of our hearts with His will when we are trusting Him. He gives an illustration from Chuck Smith’s life. When asked why he chose to start up Calvary Chapel in the middle of a bean field in Costa Mesa in the 70’s, whether or not God had directed Him there, Chuck laughed and replied, “I took the church in Costa Mesa because I like to surf and it was the closest available church to the beach!” :)

Now, when John’s disciples saw Jesus and his disciples baptizing in the same area, they seemed to see it as a competition:

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—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ 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. He must become greater; I must become less. (vs. 26-30)

From the moment John first was near Jesus, while still in his mother’s womb, he leapt for joy. John saw himself as the best man, bringing the Bride to the Groom. At this point in his ministry, his joy was complete, for he saw the people going to the Groom. His own ministry was drawing to a close. He felt no competition, only joy in completing the task God had given him to do. As Jesus became greater, John was to become less.

I certainly see some practical application to my own life in John’s response. As a teacher, my job is to help educate the next generation. So why would I be jealous when I see another teacher do a fabulous job? If someone else is also working hard to prepare children for the future, wouldn’t I rejoice? If my gift were to sing for God (so NOT my gift), then why would I be jealous because someone else was given the position of choir director. As long as we are all using our gifts for God’s glory, then we need not feel competition toward others. We are ALL to become less, while Jesus becomes greater.

Finally, in the last verse of chapter 3, we see John repeat much of what Jesus had said to Nicodemus:

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (vs. 35-36)

I love what Jon Courson writes about this, so I’ll finish with his thoughts:

“Why does the wrath of God abide on the one who does not Believe in his Son? Because he who does not believe is trampling on the sacrificial blood of His only begotten Son. This world is sinking fast in the quicksand of sin. God does not condemn us for being in that place - only for refusing to reach out to the nail-pierced hand offering to pull us out.” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 462)

People aren’t sent to Hell because they are sinners. Christ died for sinners! They go there of their own free will, because they refuse the free gift of salvation that Jesus provides!

Wow!  Chapter 3 was great - but wait until we go to chapter 4 next week!  It just keeps getting better!


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