This is one of those sections that when I first look at it I have to ask myself, how am I going to teach that? It first seems like there isn’t much to say, but as I prayerfully read it themes start jumping out at me. As I study it I start to see that there is a lot more here than originally meets the eye. The bible tells us that Jesus talked in parables so that some would not understand. The bible does that also, when we look at a piece like this or a genealogy and forget that it is the inspired word of God, then we do not realize that God is talking to us through the scripture.
So the first thing happening here is Jesus’ disciples are baptizing followers and so is John. I know that it says Jesus was baptizing, but John makes sure we understand that it was not Jesus but His disciples in Chapter 4.
(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),John 4:2 (ESV)
So let’s picture what is going on. John is baptizing at Aenon near Salim. More than likely we are talking about some springs (Aenon means springs) near the city of Salim. While it is disputed exactly where this is if you look at a map you can see the the two areas Aenon and Salim listed next too each other a little east of the Jordan river a little past the halfway point between the Dead Sea and the Seas of Gaillee.
We see a disciple of John talking to some Jews who have recently been listening to Jesus preach. They brag about his preaching and talk about His baptism. They argue over the differences in John’s baptism and the Jewish purification rites. The Jews had regulations on what made a person unclean and therefore needing purification by washing.
It includes everything from childbirth, bodily fluids, skin disease and even coming into contact with the dead. These where based on the bible, but over time Jewish Oral Law as recorded in the Talmud started adding even more rites. I imagine John’s disciple was trying to explain the difference and as in most arguments when you come to a point you aren’t getting anywhere, you start making personal attacks. The Jewish people probably started talking about how many followers Jesus was getting and how he was baptizing a lot more people than John.
John’s disciple gets sick of hearing this talk about how great Jesus is and they go straight to John and tell him. We need to realize that John had followers so loyal to him that they had a hard time becoming followers of Jesus. Acts 19 talks about an encounter Paul had with some followers of John’s but they had not yet fully became followers of Jesus.
So this loyal follower of John is mad because someone other than his teacher is gaining in popularity. This is something that happens today. Some people will compare preachers and say this one isn’t as good as that one. Some preachers gain a following that is based solely on them and their abilities. It isn’t the man delivering the message, but the message that is being delivered. I honestly believe if Jesus appeared today like He did in the bible we would not leave our celebrity preachers to go and hear Him. Even worse I believe many godly preachers would get upset that their congregations were leaving them to go and follow Jesus.
So let’s get back to what is going on in the bible. John’s disciple goes to John mad that Jesus is gaining a following.
This guy Jesus that you baptized, well, he is ungrateful. First, you teach Him, then you baptize Him, and then he steals some of your disciples, and now everyone is going to hear him preach and be baptized by Him. I tell you it aint right.
I love John’s response,(John 3:27-28) John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ This response demonstrates true God worshipping humility.
John is not taking credit for anything he has done. It was all God. God is the one who is in control. God is the one who sent my disciples and He is the One that will send them to Jesus
John says, “Didn’t you hear me when I said I am not the Christ, I’m just a messenger to prepare everybody. Jesus is the one everyone needs to follow.” I’m nobody don’t look up to me Jesus is the one all eyes need to be on.
“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete”.(John 3:29) It thrills me that Jesus is getting such a following. That is what is supposed to happen.
The friend of the bridegroom is kinda like our best man. Except so much more, and this illustration John is using is symbolic also. The friend of the bridegroom in Jewish culture was the one in charge of the wedding. He planned, prepared and would even walk the bride down the aisle to give her to the groom. His purpose was to serve the Groom. When the groom is happy, then the friend of the bridegroom is happy. The friend of the bridegroom doesn’t want attention on the wedding day; he wants everyone to see the groom and bride.
John is saying I’m the friend of the bridegroom. I am preparing the bride for the wedding. It thrills me to know that the wedding is going good. He must increase, but I must decrease.(John 3:30) Because this is His wedding, I don’t want the honor today.
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. John is again pointing out to his disciples that Jesus is from above. He was sent from God. John is just an earthly messenger. He is just preparing everyone for Jesus’ ministry. John is just calling everyone to repentance and baptism. Jesus is going to make repentance, forgiveness and baptism with the Holy Spirit possible.
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. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. Jesus’ message is straight from God. It is the very words of God. As you read through the bible you will notice that when all the prophets speak they start by saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” They acknowledge that the message is God’s and not theirs. Jesus spoke with the very authority of God. “ I say to you.” The prophets and John spoke the words of God. Jesus was the Word of God.
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. It is important that in these final verse of this chapter we see the importance of Jesus. God the father has given all things to Jesus. We are saved by Jesus. Nothing else will do! Jesus was sent to die so that you could be saved. The curse of death that God has put on you has been taken by Jesus. Your sin has been put on Jesus.
The wrath of God is on everyone of us. Everyone of us is an enemy of God. But if you believe in Jesus you will have eternal life. The only way to have the wrath of God removed from you is by believing in Jesus. There are many religions that believe in God. There are many religions that worship God, but they are not enough. Jesus is the only way to eternal life, without Him you are still under God’s wrath and must be punished.
I want to take a minute to clarify what it means to believe in Jesus. John 3:16 said whoever believes in Jesus shall have eternal life. Verse 36 has just repeated that whoever believes in Jesus shall have eternal life. There is no exercising faith as some religions try to teach. Pisteuōn means to think to be true. If you believe the word of Jesus you can be saved.
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9–10 (ESV
The confession that Jesus is who he says He is, that he died and resurrected so that you could be forgiven of your sins and given eternal life is all it takes. Now that does require repentance. See it is easy to argue that all it says is believe, it doesn’t say anything about repenting, but the thing is if you believe in Your heart that is to say that you truly believe and it’s not just head knowledge. It’s not something you write on the test just to get a 100 even though you don’t understand it. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that God has put Him over all things, if you truly believe this then you are going to listen to what He says and tells you to do.
I know this is a poor illustration but it was what came to mind. If you have ever seen the movie Tombstone with Kurt Russell there is a scene where Curly Bill shoots Sheriff Fred White. Wyatt goes out to arrest Curly Bill and Ike Clanton steps into stop him. Wyatt puts a gun to his head and threatens to turn his head into a canoe if Ike’s friends rush him. Billy Clanton said he’s bluffing and Ike says, “He ain’t bluffing”. You see Ike knew that what Wyatt was saying was true and he would do exactly as he said he would.
If you believe in Jesus, then you are going to do exactly what He tells you! And Jesus tells us to repent. Let’s look.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
Jesus taught repentance. You can go through the gospels and see over and over Jesus teachings on repentance. In John 5:14 Jesus tell the paraplegic he has healed Go and sin no more. In John 8:11 Jesus tells the woman caught in Adultery go and sin no more. When on the day of Pentecost the people asked Peter, “what must we do to be saved.” “He said Repent and be baptized.” Repentance is a very important part of the gospel because if you believe Jesus is who He says He is then you are going to want to repent.
-  Jehovah’s Witness NWT translates these two verse as exercise faith to go along with their doctrine. ↩