Gospel of John 3:22-36
22-24 After this Jesus went into the country of Judea with his disciples and stayed there with them while the work of baptism was being carried on. John, too, was in Aenon near Salim, baptising people because there was plenty of water in that district and they were still coming to him for baptism. (John, of course, had not yet been put in prison.) Phillips
GJohn alone describes Jesus in a Baptizing ministry. He and the Twelve would have been at the Jordan River, likely somewhere east of Jericho. It is not clear who was doing the baptizing; was it Jesus, or the Twelve, or one or two of the Twelve, or Jesus and the Twelve? Chapter 4 will give a partial answer. And while we are asking questions, did Jesus/Disciples continue to baptize throughout the ministry? There are plenty of theories but few answers.
This passage places the Baptizer about 40 miles north on the Jordan River. Archeologists do not yet identify Aenon and Salim, but most believe they are located on the northern edge of Samaria near the river. The phrase, there was plenty of water, suggests an eyewitness. A possibility is one of the Baptizer’s disciples joined Jesus after the Baptizer’s arrest and told the author of our Gospel the details.
GJohn seems to disagree with Matthew and Mark. Matthew 4:12. When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. NIV Mark 1:14. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. NIV Knowing that the Baptizer was not yet in prison suggests GJohn is making a nod to Matthew and Mark. When the three records and placed side by side, there is no reason to assume that all could be correct. True, both Matthew and Mark have Jesus being tested in the desert by Satan immediately before the Baptizer’s arrest. But all the Gospels leave out piles of events. If someone had recorded every word spoken by Jesus and every action he took every day for three years, it would take us three years to read it, and I doubt it would add much to what we already know. We must be satisfied with a few leftover questions.
25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 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—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” NIV
We like to think the Baptizer and Jesus were able to pick men who would at least not be street brawlers, but alas, they are all too human. The phrase, a certain Jew, could suggest that many knew him at the time, but GJohn chose not to repeat the name. The Baptizer’s disciples took their case to their master, “everyone is going to him.” Notice they refer to Jesus as ‘that man.’ They seem to have a bit of jealousy at play.
27 Yochanan answered, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from Heaven. 28 You yourselves can confirm that I did not say I was the Messiah, but that I have been sent ahead of him. CJB
Yochanan is the Hebrew for our John. Heaven, or God, is stressed as the source of whatever power Jesus and the Baptizer have. The Baptizer, as the messenger from God, pointed out the Messiah. If GJohn were then a disciple of the Baptizer, as I suspect, that would explain how he knew the detail. Otherwise, he would have learned it from one of the Baptizer’s disciples who came later to follow Jesus. It would be interesting to know how long the Baptizer’s ministry had gone on when Jesus first walked up to be baptized. The Baptizer was not a social climber; he was content with his role. He would be satisfied today as the tenth pastor of a megachurch.
29 It is the bridegroom who possesses the bride, yet the bridegroom’s friend who merely stands and listens to him can be overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That is why my happiness is now complete. 30 He must grow greater and greater and I less and less. Phillips
The image of the bridegroom saturates Judaism. We have become so used to thinking of Jesus as the bridegroom that we tend to believe early Christians must have invented it. No, for most workers, especially in rural areas, weddings were the few times they were able to have some fun and eat and drink their fill. The author of Revelation also used the image, having Jesus marry the Church.
Being a friend of the groom made the wedding even more pleasurable. The two fathers arranged the marriages, though the bride could reject the proposed groom. Because of that, her father generally negotiated with the father of a boy she liked. Romantic love as we think of it was seldom even thought of, let alone considered.
The Baptizer wants his disciples to understand that they should consider themselves the groom’s friends. Some have already gone to become disciples of Jesus. The Baptizer is happy for them because they will get to know the groom in a way not possible for him. His ministry will become smaller as Jesus’ ministry expands.
31 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. NIV
As we saw earlier, the Baptizer recognized Jesus was coming down from Heaven. He knew that at his first sighting of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples seemed to take much longer to get it. The Baptizer’s preaching is of the earth, ‘repent.’ But Jesus’ Word comes directly from God, so you need to listen. Everything Jesus says is golden.
32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. ESV
William Barclay writes, “To put it very simply, because Jesus alone knows God, he alone can give us the facts about God, and these facts are the gospel.” Daily Study Series
“Yet no one receives his testimony.” This seems an odd thing to say this early in Jesus’ ministry. We know it becomes true, even of his disciples. But early on for all of us, there are still many questions to be answered, so we, like the disciples, misunderstand, misread, lack enough knowledge to make complete sense of it. Jesus did have a problem that none of us need to worry about. He had to pick words from a limited earthly language to explain God. Even for the Son of God, it was nearly impossible at times.
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. NET
The prophets were said to have a measure of the Holy Spirit. Here, the Baptizer says Jesus received the full measure. That full measure of the Spirit explains how a human body could have the wisdom of God packed into a tiny brain. When Jesus needed to know, the Spirit supplied the knowledge. Jesus did not need to know any more than the rest of us for daily matters. As he walked away from the Baptizer the second day, the Spirit told Jesus that two of John’s disciples were following him and that they would become his disciples. Jesus turned and invited them to come along. Because Jesus has instant access to all knowledge when he needs it, he knows all he needs to know.
There is another aspect to this knowledge. Jesus was untainted with sin, so whatever the Spirit told him was never twisted into something else. If Jesus did study with a rabbi as a youth, the Spirit would have kept him straight if the teacher said something off-kilter. I know Jesus could have had all that knowledge stuffed into his brain before he was twelve, as well as the ability to read Hebrew.
Luke 2 has the account of Jesus in the Temple while his parents were on their way home. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. NIV
Read this story closely and note that Jesus is asking questions. He is in learning mode. The men in the Temple were rabbis, scribes, and Pharisees. As we would put it today, they understood him to be a genius or prodigy. There is no indication that they thought him to be anything else, just that one super gifted child every teacher dreams of having. I doubt they questioned him on Euclidean geometry or how to calculate the distance to the sun (knowledge that existed then), but they were the experts on the Scriptures, and Jesus was learning from them.
Since the family traveled to Jerusalem for Passover every year, was it possible that he visited those same rabbis every year? If not, why when he was Twelve? That’s right, bar mitzvah time. Jesus was about to become a man.
“The Father loves the Son and has placed all things under his authority.” Add the words ‘on earth’ after ‘all things.’ Jesus received his inheritance from his Father; he gets us. For the rest of eternity, Jesus is our King, our Lord, and our Master.
“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life.” Life. A good reward. So many people do not realize that without Jesus in their lives, they are not living. As wonderful as this earth is, and every Christian should enjoy its beauty, it is nothing to the New Jerusalem that only believers will ever see. Imagine living with millions of people who are always kind, considerate, pleasing, thoughtful, praising, loving, with no inequality.
“The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.” John 3:16 NET
Cyril of Alexandria about 435 CE. He says that the believer shall have everlasting life, but the word has a different significance for the unbeliever. For he does not say that [the unbeliever] shall not have life since he too shall be raised by the common law of the resurrection. But he says that he shall not see life, that is, he shall not even so much as glimpse the life of the saints, he shall not touch their blessedness, and he shall not taste of their life spent in bliss. For that is indeed life. But to exist in punishment is far more bitter than any death, holding the soul in the body only for the sensation of suffering. ACCS
Be Righteous and do Good