22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside where he spent some time with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People kept coming and were being baptized, 24 for John had not been thrown into prison yet. 25 Then an argument broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew about purification. 26 His disciples came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, about whom you testified—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him!” 27 John answered, “A man cannot receive a single thing, unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and listens for him, is overjoyed when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 31 The one who comes from above is superior to everyone. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in a way that belongs to the earth. The one who comes from heaven is superior to everyone. 32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 The one who has received his testimony has certified that God is true. 34 In fact, the one whom God has sent speaks God’s words, for God gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has put everything in his hands. 36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, God’s wrath remains on him.
It’s just not fair. I worked so hard and this is all I get for my efforts. On the surface it would seem that John the Baptist had every right to feel that way. He’d given his best working daily in the wilderness of Judea preparing people’s hearts for the coming Savior. He didn’t hesitate to proclaim a message of repentance even among those who had the power to put him in prison or even take his life. (Example: King Herod) Now that the Savior arrived it seemed that John was being pushed into the background. The big crowds that once followed him were now turning to Jesus. The crowds coming to John were getting smaller.
But John wasn’t saddened by what was happening. In fact his heart was glad. John was a powerful messenger of God. Jesus even said in Matthew 11:11, “Amen I tell you: Among those born of women there has not appeared anyone greater than John the Baptist.” But John knew that he was still a sinful human being. He couldn’t do anything to earn his own salvation, much less save anyone else. He wasn’t even worthy to do even the humblest acts of service for his Lord. (See Matthew 3:11) John was glad for the arrival of the Savior God promised to send. Jesus was here for John’s salvation and for the salvation of all people (including us). It was necessary for the people to turn toward Jesus. It was necessary now that Jesus’ public ministry had begun that he must become greater and that John must become less. (See verse 30) The people needed to hear Jesus’ message and believe that he is the true Son of God and the Savior God promised to send.
Instead of feeling angry or jealous that the crowds following him were getting smaller, John kept on carrying out the role God gave him. He kept on pointing people to Jesus. There is some debate whether the words of verses 31-36 were spoken by John the Baptist or the apostle John whom God divinely inspired to write the Gospel of John. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Both men continued to serve in their God-given role of pointing people to Jesus as long as God gave them the strength to do so. Both proclaimed that eternal life in heaven comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Without Jesus we remain under God’s wrath and judgment.
Not long after the events of our lesson, John the Baptist was cast into prison. His time of public ministry ended. Not long after, John would die a martyr’s death. But no matter what his situation was, John continued his mission to point people to the Savior. He was faithful to the very end and now he enjoys eternal life with his Lord in heaven. We pray that our Lord would continue to give us strength to carry out whatever mission he gives us no matter what hardships we face. We believe that Jesus has already completed his mission to save us. Like John, an eternal reward is waiting for us through faith in Jesus.
1 – What complaint did John’s followers have concerning Jesus?
Before Jesus came along huge crowds were coming to John the Baptist to be baptized and to hear him preach. But now that Jesus was also preaching and baptizing he was attracting the bigger crowds. The crowds coming to see John were getting smaller. It didn’t seem right to them that John had worked so hard and now everyone was seemingly turning their back on him.
2 – How did John answer his disciples?
John knew that his role was to prepare the way for Jesus by calling people to repent of their sins and trust in the Savior God was about to provide. Now the Savior had come. John could not help but be glad that people were now going to Jesus. John confessed again he was not the Christ. He could not save anyone. Only Jesus could bring forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven.
3 – What does John’s answer say to us when we become jealous of others who seem to have greater gifts and enjoy greater success in service to the Lord?
We are not here to bring glory to ourselves. We are God’s servants. Our goal is to give glory to God by pointing people to Jesus as their Savior. If someone else seems to be enjoying greater success than we do in this work we should be glad. God is being glorified by their work as he is being glorified by our work. In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 one servant was given five talents and another was given two. The one who had five talents served God faithfully by earning five more. The one with two talents worked hard and earned two more talents. In the end the master (God) commended both of them for their faithful service. As God’s people we should faithfully serve our Lord with whatever gifts he has given us. We should give thanks for our opportunities to serve and for the co-workers in Christ who serve along with us.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.