Testimony of the Two Johns

Posted: January 5, 2015 in John
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John 3:22-36, “Testimony of the Two Johns”

Have you ever been disappointed after reaching a goal?  It’s been something you’ve worked so hard to achieve, put so much blood, sweat, and tears into, and all of a sudden it’s over.  It was great in the moment, but now you’re not sure what to do anymore.  That seemed to have been the case with the disciples of John, though not necessarily with John himself.  We don’t know how many months or years that John the Baptist and his disciples ministered among the Jews, but it was certainly long enough to make an impact well into the first century.  Even long after Jesus had risen from the dead, there were still followers of John the Baptist, who were preaching his message of repentance from sin (as seen by Paul at Ephesus, Acts 19:3).  

So this was what they preached, as they prepared the Jews to encounter their Messiah.  Over and over they preached the coming of Jesus, and they weren’t sure when the Messiah would actually come.  And then, He came.  John baptized Jesus, saw the Holy Spirit come upon Him, and proclaimed Him to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. 

So now what?  What does someone do when the person they’ve been heralding actually arrives?  Obviously people would start going to the other person, and your own crowds would start to shrink.  John’s disciples weren’t quite sure how to handle it.  But John was.  John rejoiced as he worked himself out of a job.  The more people that left him to go see Jesus for themselves, the better.  John’s whole life goal was to exalt and glorify Jesus so that people would look to Him and be saved, and that is exactly what happened.  John just needed to get out of the way.

John 3:22–36
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.

  1. Jesus and the disciples had been in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and at some point they left Jerusalem, but remained in Judea.  We’re not told the exact timeline on when this happened, how long they remained in Judea for this particular ministry, where they stayed, or many other details.  We need to keep in mind that although the Biblical gospel accounts are accurate accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, they are not exhaustive.  As John will write at the end of his book, there are many other things that Jesus said & did which could not be contained in all the books in the world (Jn 21:25).  What we do know is that although much of Jesus’ ministry would be further to the north in the region of Galilee, that part of His ministry had not yet begun.  For the time being, Jesus still went north from Jerusalem, but remained further south in Judea. 
  2. What was Jesus doing?  No doubt He was teaching and ministering among the Jews, but one thing in particular that He and the disciples were doing was engaging in a ministry of baptism.  The apostle John will clarify later that Jesus did not personally baptize anyone, though His disciples did, no doubt under His direction (4:2).  What exactly the disciples were baptizing FOR is an unanswered question.  They could not baptize people as a symbol of their faith in the resurrected Christ, because Jesus had not yet gone to the cross and risen from the grave.  That particular aspect of baptism would not be given until Jesus gave the Great Commission after His resurrection (Mt 28:19-20).  It would seem the only baptism taking place at this time was the baptism of John: a baptism of repentance from sin in preparation for the coming Messiah (Acts 19:4).  Obviously Jesus IS the Messiah – He is the One for whom John the Baptist prepared the way.  Jesus may or may not have been that obvious about Himself in His initial preaching, but we know He did at least preach repentance (actually the same message as John: to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand – Mt 4:17).
  3. How does a pre-resurrection baptism fit in with all of this?  Perhaps it was Jesus’ way of encouraging people to take a step of faith.  Although the cross and resurrection wouldn’t come for a few more years, there was still work to do in the meantime.  Some of the people that they saw during these weeks they might never see again.  These people might not even hear of Jesus’ later ministry.  Jesus certainly wasn’t going to let this time go to waste.  He gave them an opportunity to express their faith with the knowledge that they had.  Thus they were baptized.  They publicly went forward to renounce sin and walk anew with God.
    1. Have YOU publicly expressed your faith in Jesus?  Have you made a public break with sin & a turn towards God?  What the Jews of that time did with incomplete understanding, we do with a full knowledge of the Person and ministry of Christ.  And it is something that Jesus commands that we do.  Our walk with God through Jesus is not something to be hidden away as secret; it’s supposed to be open and public, as a testimony to what God has done for us.

23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

  1. John was also baptizing, though in a different area. John seems to have been a bit further north, closer to the region of Samaria.  The exact location of the town is unknown by archaeologists, and it’s also unknown if John was specifically preaching among the Samaritans, or if he was ministering to the Jews who were in the area.
  2. Wherever he was at this point, John was still very active in his ministry.  He would later be thrown into prison and killed (beheaded) for his unwavering stand for righteousness against King Herod, but it hadn’t happened yet.  It’s something the apostle John never personally describes, but rather assumes that the reader already knows.
    1. Tends to demonstrate that John was aware of at least one or more of the other gospel accounts.  He did not feel a need to duplicate the writings of others, but rather filled in some of the “gaps.”  In this case, John wrote of the early ministry of Jesus which was parallel with John the Baptist’s.  Mark’s gospel (and others) pick up with Jesus in Galilee after John had been put into prison (Mk 1:14).
  3. Why did John the Baptist choose this particular area to baptize?  For the most basic of reasons: “because there was much water there.”  Sometimes practical matters are exactly what are intended for spiritual purposes by God.  We tend not to think too much of them…it’s all too mundane to us.  But God might have something totally different in mind.  To us, we look at our day-to-day as just a job; to God, He has given us a mission field.  Where are you at day-to-day?  Where has God placed you?  There’s “water” there…there’s work to do.

25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.

  1. What does a dispute over purification have to do with John the Baptist and Jesus?  Perhaps everything.  Purification was one of the foundational elements of John’s baptism.  That’s where the whole idea of baptism (immersion) originated.  The Jews had baths called “mikvahs” which would be used anytime they required ritual cleansing.  Between the mikvahs & the practice of ritually immersing new converts into Judaism, John the Baptist took these ideas and adapted them to his own ministry.  In John’s practice, the Jews would be spiritually cleansed, not through immersion in a mikvah, but when their hearts were turned toward God in repentance.  True spiritual cleansing had nothing to do with the purity of the water (mikvahs vs. the dirty Jordan), but everything to do with the state of the heart.
    1. It’s no different today.  Rituals never purify us; they only portray the true work of God that He has already accomplished.  Baptism of water does not give us new life in Christ; that is accomplished already when we are baptized into Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:5, Gal 3:27).  Our physical baptism is a testimony that our true baptism has already happened.  That doesn’t make the symbol unimportant; it just keeps things in the right priority.
  2. At the core of all of this was purification.  Apparently there was a disagreement between some Jews regarding John’s version of immersion, and that which was done by everyone else.  Some may have wondered why John’s immersion was needed at all, and in the confusion, it seemed to lead some people to stop seeking out John entirely.  Instead, they began seeking out the new guy on the scene: Jesus.  See vs. 26…

26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

  1. We’re somewhat accustomed to seeing this kind of pettiness from Jesus’ disciples, but this time, it’s the disciples of John the Baptist who have the problem.  Actually, the pettiness that we perceive may not be all that dramatic.  The original Greek did not have the same grammatical markings that we have in English, and there’s no real reason for the NKJV exclamation point other than the interpretation of the translation committee.  Obviously there was some jealousy being exhibited, but we need to be careful about reading our emotions back into the text.  In any case, the disciples of John the Baptist were no more holy than the disciples of Jesus, and all of the rest of us.  They struggled with their flesh, just like we do.
  2. At one point, John the Baptist was the biggest name in Judaism.  He had been the first prophet among the Jews in 400 years, and people flocked to him.  Mark tells us at that “all the land of Judea” had come out to him to be baptized in the Jordan (Mk 1:4) – Luke shows even the Roman soldiers coming to him for spiritual counsel (Lk 3:14) – the gospel of John already showed the Jewish religious leaders interviewing John the Baptist to see if he might actually be the Messiah (Jn 1:19-20).  The ministry of John the Baptist could hardly have been bigger when it was at its peak.  He was as close to a celebrity as one could get in ancient days.  And yet now things were on the decline.  The crowds were beginning to thin – the attention was going somewhere else – people were even starting to question John’s reason for ministry.  It’s no wonder that his disciples were starting to get concerned: the ministry that they spent their days and nights on seemed to be crumbling around them.  They were trying to grasp onto what they still had & hang on.
    1. Have you ever kept trying to do something with which God has already finished?  As John will address with his own disciples, we need to remember that God is God & we’re not.  God is the sovereign King, and we are but His servants.  What God builds, God can take down.  He has His own time and purposes for things, and that is OK.  Too often we have our own plans in mind, and when things start to change we get upset & stressed trying to stick to the plan.  The problem?  We’re following the wrong plan.  Look to God’s plan, and do that.
  3. The interesting thing here is that the disciples of John the Baptist ought to have known better. Just look at what they said to John about Jesus: “He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified ”  They never mention Jesus by name, but they know exactly who He is.  He was the One about whom John testified.  He was the One that John had been proclaiming day-in and day-out as the Messiah.  John’s whole ministry was to prepare the way for the Lord, and his disciples knew that Jesus was the One whom John proclaimed.  And yet they are complaining about HIM.  They lost sight of the big picture.  They had become busy building a ministry, rather than actually participating in the ministry.  Their goal had been to prepare people for Christ and point people to Christ…and they had been successful!  John’s ministry wasn’t crumbling in decay; it has blossomed and reached its peak right in front of their eyes.  The disciples just had trouble seeing it.
    1. There is a similar danger for anyone engaged in ministry on any level.  It’s easy to get so busy with the physical details of ministry that we forget to actually participate in it.  We might teach a class on the importance of prayer, but we’re so busy in our preparations that we don’t pray.  We might help others worship, but we don’t engage in it ourselves.  We might keep distractions away from other people so they can hear the word of God, but we never take the time to listen for us.

27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’

  1. John responds to his disciples by reminding them of two things.  First, John reminds them that God is sovereign.  God is the King, and God is in control.  The prestige that had been given them in ministry was something handed out by God & “given to him from heaven.”  John the Baptist received it in his time, and now Jesus was receiving it in His own.  God builds ministries, just like God raises up kings – and thus God also takes them down in His own time and way.  Our job is not to build our own kingdoms, but be faithful stewards with what has been given to us.  So many Christians are always looking to the “not quite yet,” without finding contentment in what they have.  There’s always a better ministry – there’s always a greater revival – there’s always something else that they are looking for, some spiritual experience that they haven’t yet attained that is just out of reach.  In the meantime, there are all sorts of things that God has placed all around us, and put into our care.  Instead of looking to what God hasn’t given us, what HAS God given?  Be about those things with passion and faithfulness.
  2. Second, John reminds them of their own words and witness.  They could “ bear witness” to the things John had said about Jesus, and about John himself.  John wasn’t worried about his own ego or reputation; he was always pointing others to the Messiah for the glory of God.  He especially made sure to do this among his own disciples (1:35-36), and two of his disciples listened so closely to John that they ended up being disciples of Jesus instead.  This wasn’t a bad thing; this was a good thing!  This was exactly what John wanted.  He wanted all eyes to be on Jesus.  That was his mission & goal, and it was coming true right before his very eyes. That wasn’t something to be upset about; that was something in which to rejoice!  And that’s what John did.  Vs. 29…

29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

  1. Jesus was the groom; John was the best man.  That was reason enough for John to rejoice.  Although the wedding traditions between 21st century Americans and 1 st century Jews are extremely different, imagine a wedding in which the best man breaks out in song & dance as the bride is trying to make her way down the aisle.  It’d be absurd, and put all of the attention in the wrong place.  John wasn’t trying to gain the attention for himself (or even for the bride); he was putting all of the attention on the bridegroom.  And guess what?  It was working!  The masses were starting to go to Jesus instead of John, and John could greatly rejoice in it.  It was as if his cup of joy had been filled to the very brim.  The news of Jesus’ rise at the expense of his own decline wasn’t something to be sorry about; it made John even happier.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

  1. Here’s the crux of the matter: It’s all about the glory of God.  It’s all about the exaltation of Jesus Christ.  Ministry isn’t about us; it’s about Jesus.  Christianity isn’t about us; it’s about Christ.  Too many supposed “ministers” try to keep the glory of God for themselves, and they place little to none upon Jesus Christ.  And that’s not just a danger for the guys on TV; that’s something that creeps into the lives of everyday Christians.  When we talk about eternity, we talk about all of the benefits we will receive – we talk about our own inheritances in the future.  Even in our Christian walks today, people are looking for their “best lives” right now, thinking that God’s primary concern for our lives is for us to be as happy as we can possibly be.  Let’s be perfectly clear: that has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.  Biblical Christianity has everything to do with Jesus, and anything that we receive comes from that starting point.  Are we joyful?  Absolutely!  We are to rejoice always (Phil 4:4).  Will we receive a future inheritance?  Yes!  We have been made joint-heirs with Christ Jesus (Rom 8:17).  We will receive all kinds of blessings in heaven, and those things are definitely worth looking forward to.  BUT…life is not primarily about those things.  Life is not man-centered; it’s God-centered.  It is about the glory of God, and Jesus continued exaltation. 
  2. Specifically to John the Baptist, he wanted to keep decreasing & wanted to see Jesus keep increasing.  Jesus’ ministry was to grow continually bigger, while his own became continually smaller.  John was to give way to Jesus, and that was exactly what he desired.  Why?  Because John the Baptist couldn’t save a single soul.  As great a prophet as John was (and there was none greater among men than John), John could not grant salvation to anyone.  In fact, even with as great a man as John was, John the Baptist was just as much in need of salvation as anyone else.  What good would it do to try to keep the focus of men upon himself?  He couldn’t help them, but he knew who could.  So John pointed to Jesus, and continually pointed to Jesus.  If all people ever heard from John was the name of Jesus, that was enough.  He wanted people to so see Jesus in his own life and ministry that they ceased seeing John himself.
    1. It sounds like such an admirable goal – something so spiritual, and reserved for only the most holy of people.  Not at all.  That’s something for all of us as believers in Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, we don’t want people to see us; we want them to see Jesus.  Can we save anyone?  Can we offer them eternal life?  Of course not – but (like John) we can take them to the One who can.  We are to be witnesses of Jesus… We are to be the aroma of Jesus…  We are to look like Jesus…  Do you get the picture?  We’re not to show people US; we’re to show people Jesus.  How do we do it?  We decrease, so that Jesus can increase.
    2. Keep in mind that this can go both ways.  We can show people Jesus, or we can distract people from Jesus.  Which are you doing?

At this point, although scholars debate it, it seems that the words of John the Baptist cease, and the words of John the Apostle begin.  As the Apostle John did in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, he inserts his own commentary on what has just been presented by John the Baptist – specifically on the idea that Jesus’ ministry must increase because He is superior to John.  Why might we think these are the words of John the apostle?  The themes reflect the things that Jesus and Nicodemus were speaking about; something that John the Baptist would not have been aware of, and the testimony of John the Baptist is compared with the testimony of Jesus.  Some Bible translations reflect this change in speaker (ESV, HCSB), while others include everything at the end of Chapter 3 as the words of John the Baptist (NKJV, NASB, NIV).  Again, we need to remember that the original Greek did not have grammatical markings, such as basic punctuation or quotation marks – quotes are determined by the context and wording.  Of course the speaker may be unclear, but ultimately these are all the words of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit through the pen of the Apostle John that continues His testimony of Jesus – and that’s the most important part!

31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

  1. Here, John the Baptist is contrasted with Jesus.  Jesus is “ He who comes from above;” John the Baptist is “he who is of the earth.”  That’s not saying that John the Baptist is worldly & sinful; it’s just a reference to his place of origin.  John was a great man, but he didn’t exist from eternity past and come to earth from heaven.  No, John was just a man like all of the rest of us.  He came from the earth & was able to speak of earthly things out of his experience.  However, Jesus is different.  Jesus “comes from heaven” – He “ comes from above” (the same word is used here, as in 3:3, when Jesus speaks of the need to be “born again” or “born from above”).  Jesus came from a different place than John – a greater place.  This goes back somewhat to the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus: John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." [] Jesus came from heaven, and His testimony is greater than any testimony that could come from earth.  If John the Baptist was worth hearing, then Jesus’ teaching is even better.

32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.

  1. What did Jesus teach?  The things that “ He has seen and heard.”  Because Jesus came from heaven, He can teach of the things of heaven.  It’s one thing to teach of things you have learned; it’s another thing to teach of things you have experienced.  That doesn’t make book-knowledge bad; it’s just different.  We can teach people about other countries and cultures even if we haven’t been there before.  The information can be completely accurate if we’ve done our proper research.  However, the same teaching becomes far more authoritative when coming from someone who has actually been to those places.  A military vet from Iraq can speak with a lot more passion about the war than someone who read about it in a book.  It’s no different with John the Baptist and Jesus.  What John the Baptist taught about the kingdom of God was by no means inaccurate, but it certainly did not come with the same authority as Jesus.  John could teach about heaven, but Jesus came from heaven.  Jesus had been there.  Jesus had experienced the glory of God from eternity past and could teach of the things of heaven from personal experience.  That is a greater testimony, by far.
    1. We could say something similar about Christianity as a whole.  It’s one thing to know about salvation; it’s another thing to actually experience it.  There are many people who could teach accurately of the life of Jesus, the cross & resurrection, and what the Bible says about heaven.  They could even tell you that the way the Bible says to be saved is to repent and believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord.  All of that is accurate…but they haven’t done it for themselves.  It’s all head-knowledge for them; not personal experience.  Head knowledge is necessary, but it doesn’t save anyone.  If you haven’t personally experienced Jesus, then you are not saved…period.  The salvation of God is something that must be experienced to be truly known – and that is exactly what we are invited to do.  Psalm 34:8, "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" []  Have you tasted of the goodness of God?  Have you personally put your faith in Christ?  You need to experience the Lord Jesus for yourself.
  2. Considering that more people were starting to go to Jesus than John the Baptist, is it truly accurate to say that “no one receives His testimony”?  Overall, yes.  The apostle John is using a literary technique to make a point.  In general, Jesus was rejected by the Jews.  This was especially seen at the end of His earthly ministry, when He was betrayed and given over to be crucified.  Of course even at that moment, some people received His testimony (i.e. the women who never left His side), but generally speaking He was rejected.  The Scripture is not inaccurate in vs. 32; John is intentionally using a generalization, as he did in 1:11 when he wrote that Jesus’ “own did not receive Him.”
  3. How do we know that John intended the phrase to be taken generally & not literally?  Because he seems to go on to say precisely the opposite in vs. 33…

33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.

  1. SOME people have “ received His testimony.”  Obviously not every literal person rejected Jesus, or there wouldn’t have been a gospel account written about Him in the first place.  John the Baptist had received Jesus’ testimony, as has John the apostle.  Both men could certify from personal experience that “God is true.”  The things that God had said through the prophets of the past concerning the coming Messiah were accurate – that the things that God did through the ministry of Jesus was true – that everything about the gospel of Jesus is true.  These men bore witness to the witness of Jesus.
  2. And they weren’t the only ones.  Every person who comes to faith in Christ certifies that the gospel is true.  Those who have personally experienced the salvation of Jesus know that Jesus is real.  We can attest to others the goodness of God and truth of the gospel.  To “certify” speaks of affixing a seal to something, as a government office might put its official seal to a document, or an ancient Jew might imprint a special ring into wax.  There’s a personal touch, designating a personal witness.
    1. Christian: your life is that personal touch.  The way your life has been transformed by Jesus is the certification to everyone around you of the reality of Christ. 

34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. 35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

  1. Our lives testify of Christ, and Christ testifies of God.  He was sent by God the Father, speaks the words of God the Father, and was empowered by God the Holy Spirit.  The apostle John has written much about the Deity of Christ already, and vss. 34-35 simply underline it even more.  The Son knows the mind of God, and “speaks the words of God.”  Of course Jesus IS the Word (λογος ) of God, but He also speaks the words (ρηματα) of God.  How does He do it?  By the “Spirit” of God.  As much as all of God’s children are empowered by the Spirit, none has been so empowered by the Holy Spirit as the Lord Jesus.  As John the Baptist testified, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove & remained upon Him.  Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit in infinite supply, as the Father gave the Spirit without “measure. ”  Unlike the ministry of John the Baptist & other prophets of the past who received the filling of the Spirit for a short period of time, Jesus received the Spirit to an unlimited degree.  (And thus Jesus is able to give out the Spirit in the same measure!)
  2. Not only is the Son sent by the Father and empowered by the Spirit, but the Son is loved by the Father.  In John 3:16, we are told that God so loved the world with a perfect selfless αγαπη love; in John 3:35 we’re told that God loves His Son with exactly the same type of love.  There is no limit to the love that the Father has for His Son, and still He gave His Son for the world in order that we would be forgiven of our sin.  Truly the love of God is beyond comprehension!
  3. In one final contrast between John the Baptist & Jesus, we see the superior authority in which Jesus was sent.  The Father sent the Son, the Father gave the words of God to the Son, the Father gave the Spirit to the Son, the Father loves the Son, and the Father has fully authorized the Son – He “has given all things into His hand.”  This is something that the apostle John could truly write of Jesus after His death and resurrection, which Jesus affirmed during the Great Commission when He said “All authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to Him (Mt 28:18).  Nothing is beyond the command and authority of God the Son.  Even before the kingdom of God is fully realized, Jesus already has authority over all things.  He waits only for the perfect timing of God to bring it to consummation.

36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

  1. John wraps up the whole chapter here.  This is what Jesus and Nicodemus had been speaking of, and this is what John the Baptist had been leading to in his own teaching.  They all pointed to the Son of God.  Why?  Because it’s a matter of life or death. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life;” he who doesn’t has “the wrath of God.”  Stark choice!  It’s not that God will throw a temper tantrum on the person who rejects Jesus; rather the wrath of God already “abides” on the person who has not believed upon Jesus. This was the point earlier in Ch. 3: John 3:18, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." []  Men and women have sinned apart from Jesus, and we’ve already earned our condemnation from God.  It is belief in Jesus that would save us from that condemnation; otherwise the only thing we have to face from God is His determined, righteous anger.  That is the just punishment for our crimes, and it is something that will be measured out in full upon millions of people in eternity.
  2. Our only escape?  Belief in the Son of God.  We start out with the wrath of God abiding on us, but it doesn’t have to remain upon us.  Jesus took the wrath of God in our stead when He hung upon the cross and died there.  With every blow from the whip, Jesus endured the wrath of God.  With each spike thrust into His limbs, Jesus took the wrath of God.  With every labored breath until the moment He died, Jesus took the wrath of God in your place and in mine.  He endured it all, so that we could have life.  Life everlasting, that would last eon upon eon in the presence of God.  Jesus came from heaven in order that we might be able to live in heaven with Him.
  3. But just as before, it all comes down to belief.  You must believe in the Son.  We might translate this: “The one believing in the Son is having life eternal.”  IOW, the person who currently & continually believes in Jesus experiences what He has to give.  (And we don’t even need to wait to experience it.  Eternal life doesn’t begin upon our death; it begins the moment we put our faith in Christ.)  Do you believe?  Do you currently trust Jesus as your Lord?  Is your faith in Christ something that was in the past that you never think about, or is He right now (and always) your only hope?  That’s the kind of faith that saves.

There was a brief time when Jesus and John had concurrent, overlapping ministries.  John was not yet in prison, and Jesus was not yet in Galilee.  At the time, they were doing very much the same thing.  Yet already, John was beginning to be eclipsed by Jesus.  This is exactly what John desired, but not necessarily his disciples.  They struggled with letting go of their ministry.  They didn’t want to see everything that they had spent so much effort on, crumble away.  But when Jesus arrived, their ministry didn’t “crumble;” it came to fruition.  John the Baptist understood this, and continually pointed to Jesus as having the superior ministry.  The apostle John also understood this, and affirmed the superior ministry and Person of Jesus.  It is belief in the superior Son of God that brings life; not the Son’s messenger.

Where is your faith?  In a ministry – a kingdom – a pet project – a particular brand of theology?  Or is it in the Son Himself?  All of these other things might be greatly used of God, but they are pointers to Jesus; not replacements for Him.  Our life is found in Christ, and in Him alone.

As to the problem of jealousy among John’s disciples, are you building God’s kingdom or your own?  It’s easy to go about our own plans in the name of the Lord while leaving the actual Lordship of God behind.  We need to remember it is HIS kingdom, and our job is to exalt Jesus; not ourselves.  We are to point people to Him, and be careful not to get in the way.

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