The events of the present passage take place after Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem and his discussion with Nicodemus. The geographical setting is Judea, where John the Baptist and Jesus work concurrently for a period of time. This sets the background for the final recorded testimony of the Baptist in the Gospel.
Did You Know...?
1. Aenon (3:23) means “springs.” Its location is disputed.
- The baptism ministries of Jesus and John (3:22–24)
- The complaint of John’s disciples (3:25–26)
- John’s testimony about Christ (3:27–36)
We are given little information about Jesus’ baptism (v. 22). But on what basis do we know that this baptism is different from the baptism the disciples were to perform later after the descent of the Holy Spirit?Hide Answer
1. The baptism the disciples performed after the exaltation of Christ and coming of the Holy Spirit was based on the commission of the resurrected Christ (Mt 28:18, 19). The authority behind this commission, which is crucial for the remission of sins, lies with the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:21–23), and the disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit until the Day of Pentecost (Jn 7:39; Acts 1:5; 2:1–4). That is why it was only after the Holy Spirit was poured out that the disciples began to carry out the commission to baptize. On the contrary, the baptism Jesus administered (or more accurately, His disciples administered; Jn 4:2) while He was on earth was performed prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit—a very different stage in salvation-history. 2. Unlike the baptism performed under Jesus’ supervision while He was on earth, which was mostly restricted in its extent, the baptism the Lord Jesus commanded after His resurrection was to be administered to believers of all nations (Mt 28:19).
What does the fact that John continued to baptize at this time say about the nature of Jesus’ baptism?Hide Answer
The fact that John continued to baptize even while Jesus was baptizing shows that the baptism Jesus administered was not opposed to the baptism of John or meant to supplant it. Instead, we ought to think of John and Jesus as working side by side for the expansion of God’s kingdom. The ministry of John the Baptist transitioned smoothly to that of Christ, up until John was thrown into prison (cf. Jn 3:24). The harmony of the two ministries implies that the baptism administered or supervised by Jesus focused on the call to repentance for the remission of sin, which was also the goal of John’s baptism (cf. Mk 1:4).
Reading between the lines and looking at the context, what do you think was the point of the report in verse 26?Hide Answer
From the reply of John the Baptist, we may infer that those who reported the matter to John meant to raise concern that Jesus’ ministry was drawing a greater following than John’s. Whether intended or not, the reporters’ observation promoted a feeling of rivalry.
How do issues like these get in the way of the ministry today?
Identify pairs of contrasts in this segment.Hide Answer
The bridegroom and his friend; increase and decrease; heaven and earth; no one receives and he who has received; he who believes in the Son and he who does not believe in the Son; having eternal life and having the wrath of God.
Why, according to John the Baptist, was he not surprised at Jesus’ increasing greatness?Hide Answer
If Jesus was indeed the Christ and His authority given from heaven (3:27), people would be drawn to Him. This was the Father’s will. As far as John could see, it was only right for people to follow Christ.
What was the understanding of John the Baptist about his own role?Hide Answer
He was well aware of his role as a servant, just as the friend of the bridegroom serves the bridegroom. The spotlight is on the bridegroom, not the friend. The time had come. Christ must increase, and he must decrease. That was the way it ought to be. Not only so, as the friend of the bridegroom rejoices for the bridegroom, John rejoiced because the Lord was getting the attention He deserved.
What can we learn from John the Baptist about the attitude in serving God?Hide Answer
Knowing our identity and our role is basic to serving God. Without this proper attitude, we will eventually serve ourselves instead of God. Also, joy in serving derives from a genuine and selfless interest in the work of God. As we can see so perfectly exemplified in the Baptist, his sole purpose and interest was to faithfully carry out God’s mission. With this attitude, we would gladly give thanks to God when we see the growth of believers and the ministry, even if people do not appreciate or recognize our contribution (cf. Php 1:15–18).
What does this segment teach about the testimony of Jesus Christ in terms of: Its origin?Hide Answer
It is from heaven (v. 31). The Father Himself has sent the Son to testify to the world (v. 34).
Its trustworthiness?Hide Answer
Jesus’ testimony is trustworthy for two reasons. First, he testifies what He has seen and heard. He has firsthand knowledge of the Father and the things of heaven. Second, He has the Spirit of God without measure and the Father has given all things into His hand (vv. 32, 34, 35). In other words, He has full authority to speak for the Father.
Its reception and outcome?Hide Answer
Verse 32 tells us that no one receives Jesus’ testimony despite the truthfulness of the testimony. But the following verse also indicates that there are still some who believe in the testimony. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. He who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (v. 36).
How did you come to hear the testimony of the Son of God? What made you believe the testimony?
Both John the Baptist and Jesus had been sent to do the work of God (3:28, 34), although their roles were so different. What have you learned from this passage about serving as a witness sent by God?