3:22 - 36--John the Baptist Becomes
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, "
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
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
See you next week.
If you have anything of interest to add to
or you have general comments, questions, or ideas,
we welcome your
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