The Understanding! — John 3:22-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 9, 2014
We may think we know something to be true when in fact it is not. This can cause jealousy, anger, or misunderstanding. Kind of like those biblical sayings that are not really in the Bible but folks think they are: “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” “cleanliness is next to godliness,” “God works in mysterious ways,” “pride goes before the fall,” or “moderation in all things.” None of which are found in Scripture. Folks need to read their Bibles more in order to know their Bibles more!
Here we discover that the disciples of John the Baptist were not immune to misunderstanding what God desired and how he was working through John and through Jesus. It resulted in an interesting discussion and following statement by John that clarifies for his followers and others exactly who Jesus is and who John is and what their ministries were meant to be. John wanted his disciples to come to an understanding about Jesus, let’s find out what occurred and why…
We learn that…
I. Jealousy brings misunderstanding! (Vv. 22-26)
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. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 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.”
1. After Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night to meet with him, we find that “Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.” However, we will learn later that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. (John 4:2 NIV)” Evidently there were now two differing camps baptizing folks in the Jordan River, Jesus’ disciples and John’s. We see that “John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.)” Yet John’s people come to him and lay kind of a false charge against Jesus when in fact it all began with “An argument [that had] developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.” The problem begins when “a certain Jew,” probably a Pharisee or teacher of the law who came deliberately to John’s disciples and tried to stir up trouble by arguing with them concerning “ceremonial washing.” More than likely they came and wanted to argue as to why John would have anyone baptized, when all someone had to do in their way of thinking is ceremonially cleanse themselves in order to honor God. The Pharisees practiced this kind of washing to show that they were indeed clean and righteous people. Remember John was baptizing for the forgiveness of one’s sins in order to prepare they way of the Lord for the people to be able to realize the Messiah had come! In fact we read how Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem would begin to argue with Jesus because they “saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were ‘unclean,’ that is, unwashed. (Mark 7:2 NIV)” Mark explains that “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. (Mark 7:3-4 NIV)” So, John’s disciples fall for the baiting tactic and jealousy erupts. So they run “to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man [meaning Jesus] 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!’” And isn’t that just how Satan works with God’s people? We learn that jealousy brings misunderstanding!
EXAMPLE: There is godly jealousy and ungodly jealousy. Godly jealousy makes us so love the words and teachings of Scripture that we defend it with respect, the same is true for those we love as well. Ungodly jealousy brings hurt feelings, anger, and or disrespect. I do not like it when someone deliberately disdains or disrespects the word of God, nor do I like it when another man deliberately disdains or disrespects my relationship with my wife. James would write, “But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy and selfishness, don’t brag or lie to cover up the truth. That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above. It is earthly and selfish and comes from the devil himself. (James 3:14-15 CEV)” We learned that jealousy brings misunderstanding, especially about Jesus!
We discover that…
II. Humility brings joy! (Vv. 27-30)
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.
1. To John’s credit, he does not fall for this satanic entrapment. Instead he calmly replies, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” What a wonderful response this is! In fact it is a good lesson for many of us in our day and age to learn! We can only receive that which we have been given from heaven! Wow! I like that. I honestly believe that some of the Pharisees wanted to create a rift between John the Baptist’s disciples and Jesus’, but John does not allow it to occur. Over the decades I have been sickened and saddened to hear fellow believers fall for similar satanic prideful tactics. What this does is feed on the ungodliness of the emotional moment instead of strengthening and encouraging the body of Christ. John reiterates the ministry God had given him. He bluntly retorts, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’” John never professed to be more than what God desired him to be, nor did he aspire to that which he knew God did not call him to. He was to be the one preparing the way of the Lord, period. John was satisfied and knew that “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.” Here is the first reference to Jesus being referred to as the bridegroom. Perhaps John was giving his listeners a foreshadowing or teaching of how the church was to view itself! The church belongs to Jesus! It is his body, his message, his ministry to save the world – not John’s! He was simply the best man, the bride, the church was Jesus’. He attended the bridegroom by waiting and listening for him, “and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice!” What a lovely picture of the Jewish wedding and a wonderful portrayal of John’s duties as Jesus’ best man! John reinforces his satisfaction by stating, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” His joy was to wait and listen for Jesus! John knew in fact, “He [meaning Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” We discover that humility brings joy!
EXAMPLE: There is something truly beautiful about a person who is humble. Not the false worldly humility we often see the world express, but the true nature of Jesus, who is intrinsically humble. I worked with a man who exemplified this in his life. When I wanted to confront folks, he remained cool. When I wanted to rant a bit, he remained calm. And, when I thought I knew best, he often would quietly comment and that was enough. He never pastored a church larger than a 60 or 70, but hundreds came to pay their respects when he passed from this earthly existence and went home. He was one of the most content people I ever knew. John the Baptist knew that humility brings joy!
John the Baptist realized that…
III. Understanding brings eternal life! (Vv. 31-36)
“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. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 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.”
1. John does not stop with his teaching concerning Jesus because he does not want his own disciples to miss the message Jesus brings. So he now deliberately sets them straight and tells them, “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.” John was born as a mere man, the last Old Testament prophet of God, and Jesus was born the Messiah. Jesus was from “above” and he was from the “earth.” John knew that “The one who comes from heaven is above all.” He was above John, his disciples, and the Pharisees or the Jewish people themselves! In fact, he was “above all”! Paul would write that Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:21 NIV)” And “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV)” For John the Baptist, Jesus “testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” He echoes John the apostles’ teaching that “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10 NIV)” However, “The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.” That person knows without a doubt God’s word is true concerning Jesus because “the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.” John the Apostle would later write, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NIV)” Not only does Jesus have “the Spirit without limit,” but “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands!” Father, Son, and Spirit all testify as to who Jesus is and if we as mere humans accept this truth, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him!” John knew that understanding brings eternal life!
EXAMPLE: I thought if I went through the motions of religion, I was being spiritual. I thought I was a good man, but learned I was not good enough. I thought that this life brought to us all there was, and then I learned that there is an eternity to live for. I thought I knew it all, when I did not understand anything. What changed my mind? What occurred to make me rethink what I had thought I knew? I read the gospel of John and with that, by faith, I accepted the words of Jesus. With understanding comes eternal life!
We learned that jealousy brings misunderstanding, especially about Jesus! John the Baptist knew that humility brings joy! John knew that understanding brings eternal life!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.