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Gospel of John--High Christology

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3:22 - 36--John the Baptist Becomes Less


We return briefly to John the Baptist; indeed, it is the last we see of John in this Gospel (though he continues to be mentioned by others). And here, in his final appearance, John gives one last powerful testimony regarding Jesus.


The initial concern is on the part of John's followers: more people are going to Jesus! It is interesting to note that the statement in verse 26 is not quite correct, though it is not an error on the part of the author; rather, John's followers report that Jesus is baptizing. 4:2 later clarifies, "…although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples." Irregardless of their error, John's followers are clearly concerned (jealous is probably more accurate) about Jesus' growing popularity.


As mentioned previously, this seems to be a reflection of John the Baptist's exaltation by later followers. The Gospels are unanimous in conveying that John the Baptist pointed away from himself and to the coming Christ with his classic line about "one more powerful than I" whose sandals he was not fit to touch (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:15 - 16). However, Acts 18:24 - 25 shares with us a brief comment that may allude to a growing situation: "Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John." Though John clearly pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, he still continued his own ministry (as we are about to see), and it seems clear that ministry continued--and spread--after his death. Perhaps in the intervening years between John the Baptist's death and the composition of this Gospel, some began to exalt John's importance. If this is the case, this is the author's last commentary on the subject, made especially clear by John's statement in verse 30: "He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less." John the Baptist was always clear the Jesus was the Messiah, and greater; John the Author makes a special point of communicating this to his audience.


John's testimony is heavy on Christology--who Jesus is. John testifies that Jesus is from above, and as such is above all. To accept Jesus is to accept God's truthfulness. And speaking powerfully of Salvation, John says in verse 36, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."


What is particularly interesting to note, however, is that John the Baptist has not ended his ministry. Yes, the Messiah has come, and yes the Messiah is greater--and yes, John even recommends to some of his disciples that they follow Jesus (see John 1:35 - 37). But John continues on, right up to his martyrdom. There is insight to be gained here, for those of us in the church. The fact is that things change, even in the church. New things are introduced: new ministries, new styles of worship, new study and fellowship groups. And, sometimes it is important for the church to devote more resources to these new things; even at times to the expensive of older existing things. A church introduces a second, contemporary worship service, and in time it outnumbers the tradition. A church wants to hire a new pastor, and must take financial resources away from other areas in the budget. Rather than joining the existing women's group, younger ladies in the church start their own group. These things happen, inevitably, and sometimes it is important for these things to happen for the church to advance. As John says, some things must become greater, while others become less.


However, John did not end his ministry.


John continued on. He continued teaching and baptizing. He become less, and the number of his followers diminished--but even the arrival of the Messiah Himself did not mean that he was retired to a home, no longer useful. He continued on. Cherished ministries and aspects of the church need not end to make room for the new. We don't throw away the hymnals in favor of contemporary music. We don't abandon all other ministries to start one new. Existing groups don't abandon when a new one starts. There's often room for both. We continue on. Some things may indeed become "less," and this may be important for the growth of the church and advancement of the Kingdom. During those times, we adopt John the Baptist's wisdom and humility: "He must become greater; I must become less."


See you next week.


In Christ,


--Pastor Dan


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