22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison). 25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 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. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The scene

The conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus has come to a close. An unknown amount of time has elapsed and the scene switches to a Judean country side. After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing (John 3:22). Jesus and His disciples were baptizing peoplealthough Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples (John 4:2).  It is speculated that Jesus did not baptize for the same reason the apostle Paul often did not baptize, so there would not be an argument over one person’s baptism being more valid than another’s based on the administer of the baptism. We’ll talk more about this in a couple of weeks.

According to John 3:23-24, John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison). Jesus and his disciples were baptizing and John along with his disciples were also baptizing people. Apparently there were a lot of people who were being baptized. Like the lyrics to the latest Carrie Underwood song, “there must be something in the water”. Baptism was associated with repentance and cleansing or forgiveness of sin. It was a turning point, a new beginning for people as they turned away from an old life to follow after God. Jesus and His disciples were baptizing people and on the other side of the river John the Baptist and his disciples were also baptizing people. That’s the scene.

The situation

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification (John 3:25). There was a discussion about purification. We know nothing about the specifics of this discussion, only that it had to do with purification. This makes since because baptism is the scene surrounding this discussion, but I want to know what the discussion detailed.  John doesn’t tell us. Did it have to do with qualification for purification or mode of purification/baptism? I don’t know and John doesn’t say. It only says there was a discussion.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him (John 3:26).”  There must have been a concern that “all” were going to Jesus. “Hey, we know you’re tight with that guy across the river, but everyone is leaving you and going to Him. Aren’t you concerned about that? The sheep are going to another shepherd. You are losing your following. Is His baptism somehow better than yours?”

The response

How does John respond? How would you respond? Verse 27: John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven (John 3:27). John is saying that the reason these people were turning to Jesus is because it was ordained by heaven.  He’s affirming what Jesus later said in John 10:29, “My Father, who has given them to me.” 

Remember, these guys are concerned that John is losing his following. John replies in verse 28, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him (John 3:28).”  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m not the Christ and it’s not my job to draw people to myself. I came before Christ to point people toward Him. It is the work of Christ to draw people to Himself. In John 12:32 Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John is explaining that it’s not about him, it’s about Jesus. He’s saying, it’s not my party; it’s not amy show. This isn’t my wedding.

Verse 29: 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).  John is simply stating, I’m just the friend of the groom and it’s His day. When I hear His voice, I am filled with exceeding joy!  In fact, these’s nothing that brings me more joy than seeing people hear His voice and turn to Him.

I think Johns attitude in this response is summarized in this last verse.  “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).  It’s all about Jesus. More of Jesus and less of me. It’t not about my will or my way, it’s about Jesus.

Applying Myself to the Word:

A test of a true spiritual leader is whether they develop a loyalty to self or lead others to follow and depend on Christ alone.

In today’s text John the Baptist is strongly focused on pointing people toward toward Christ alone.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He isn’t concerned about obtaining his own following, in fact he’s overjoyed when the attention is turned away from himself and toward Jesus. This is a mark of a real spiritual leader.

The apostle Paul warned the church at Ephesus about false teachers who would draw people away after them.  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30). 

False prophets/teachers will almost always assume a mediator role whether it’s through themselves directly or through their “church” or “religion. They lead people to believe that they or their religion stands between you and God. They add a step that nullifies John 14:6.  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). They teach that only through loyalty and obedience to them and or their churches ordinances can one inherit eternal life. They put themselves directly, or via their church, in the place of Christ. But 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

John rejoices greatly because they hear the voice of Jesus. He says his joy has been made complete because they are following Jesus and not himself. That’s the mark of a true spiritual leader. They promote loyalty to Christ alone. They find joy when people find Jesus. They realize their purpose when the people they lead are loyal to Christ first and His way and His teachings. They find satisfaction when people rely on Christ alone for comfort, security and salvation. Consider these thoughts as you evaluate whether a leader or religious group is truly of God.

The aim of a born again life is to follow and magnify Jesus.

What is the aim of your life? Have you ever thought about that? I’m not talking about what you think you should say in response to that question, but consider what the actual trajectory of your life is destined to hit. What’s the aim? In what direction are you pointed in life? Are you a people pleaser, trying to make other people happy? Maybe your self absorbed and seeking to please yourself. Let today be a day of recalibration. Readjust your sights to point toward Christ and begin to live in a way that makes more of Him and less of you.