John Testifies About Jesus

John 3: 22-36

DIG: Given the different ideas about baptisms, what do you think happened at that river? What do you think you would have said if you were one of John’s disciples at that point? How did the Baptist respond? What is the point of the allegory or story about the bride and the groom? What does John’s response tell us about him? What facts about Jesus does John bring out in verses 31-36? When Yochanan says for God’s wrath remains on them, whom is he talking about?

REFLECT: When you use your spiritual gift(s) to minister to others, who’s in the spotlight? The Lord or you? Would you risk being perceived as odd? Like John, is there an area of your ministry that you need to get out of the way and let God do His work? If the Holy Spirit didn’t mean eternal could He have inspired John to use another word? Does eternal mean eternal?

John didn’t have the qualities of greatness we value most in people we have a high regard for. He didn’t move among the rich and famous or the proud and powerful; he chose the solitude of the wilderness. He wasn’t sophisticated; he wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey. He didn’t climb the ladder of political success; he confronted and offended people as he spoke the truth without compromise. In the most extreme and most admirable sense of the word, he was . . . odd. Christ, who measures greatness on a different scale, called John the greatest man who ever lived (Mattityahu 11:11 paraphrased).

Yochanan was born to be the herald to the King – and he fulfilled his role flawlessly. As such, he had three main responsibilities. First, the herald was to clear the way, and remove obstacles from the minds of the people regarding the Messiah. Second, the herald was to prepare the way, and call Isra'el to a baptism of repentance. Third, the herald was to get out of the way . . . and that’s what made John great.341

After this, Jesus and His apostles went out into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them, and baptized. Now Yochanan was also baptizing at Aenon (meaning place of refreshment) near Salim (which means peace), because there was plenty of water, and people were coming to be baptized (John 3:22-23). This was before the Baptizer was put in prison (see Fl – John the Baptist Beheaded). Generally, John’s ministry of about a year had been in the wilderness of Judea and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan (which speak of drought and death). But as he was faithful to his calling, it became to him a place of refreshment and peace. Such is the experience of the obedient servant of ADONAI (Matthew 3:1 and 5).342

It is clear that people were leaving the forerunner for Jesus. John’s disciples were worried. They did not like their master taking a back seat to anyone. They did not like to see him abandoned while the crowds were flocking out to hear and see a new Teacher. An argument developed between some of Yochanan’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to the Baptizer and said to him, “Rabbi, that Man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the One you testified about - look, His talmidim are baptizing, and everyone is going to Him” (John 3:24-26).

It would have been very easy for Yochanan to feel injured, neglected and unjustifiably forgotten. Sometimes a friend’s sympathy can be the worst possible thing for us. It can make us feel sorry for ourselves and encourage us to believe that we’ve been treated unfairly. But the Baptist was above that pettiness. John told his disciples three things:

He told them that no one could receive more than what God gave them. To this John replied: A person can receive only what is given them from heaven (Yochanan 3:27). If the new Teacher was attracting more disciples it was not because He was stealing them from the herald, but because ADONAI was giving them to Him. What did the Baptizer do? Did he decide that Ha’Shem was done with him? Did he become discouraged because his disciples dwindled away? Did he fold his tent and go home? No he faithfully persevered: John was also baptizing (John 3:23a)! His crowd was thin; his season of prosperity was over; a brighter One had eclipsed his light; nevertheless, John was also baptizing! Therefore, let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

He told them that they were friends of the groom. The bride (Isra’el) belongs to the groom (the Messiah). The friend who attends the groom (John and the righteous of the TaNaKh) waits and listens for Him, and is full of joy when he hears the groom’s voice (John 3:29). One of the greatest pictures of the TaNaKh is that of Isra'el as the bride and ADONAI as the groom. Their relationship was likened to a wedding. When Isra’el went after strange gods it was as if she were committing spiritual adultery (Exodus 34:15; Deuteronomy 31:16; Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:6-9; Hosea 3:1-5). The New Covenant continued this motif and speaks of the Church as the bride of Christ (Second Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:22-32). In the herald’s mind, Yeshua had come from God and was the Son of Ha’Shem. Isra’el was His rightful bride and He was Isra'el’s groom. Yochanan did say, however, that he was the friend of the groom.

The friend of the groom, the shoshben, had a unique place at a Jewish wedding. He acted as the liaison between the bride and the groom; he arranged the wedding; he took out invitations; he presided at the wedding feast. But he had one special duty. He guarded the bridal chamber to let no false lover in. He would open the door and let him in only when he heard the groom’s voice and recognized it. Then he went away rejoicing for his task was completed and the lovers were together. He did not resent the bride or the groom, but gladly faded out of the picture.

He told them that he was merely the herald to the King. You yourselves can testify that I said: I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of Him. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater and I must become less (John 3:28 and 30). John’s task had been to bring Isra’el and Jesus together; to arrange the marriage between Christ the groom and Isra’el the bride. That mission had been completed and he was only too happy to step out of the limelight once his work was done. Yochanan’s humility was no less genuine than that of Moses, who, though raised to prominence by God, proclaimed himself more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). We need to remember that any task done for God is a great task.

One of the difficulties in interpreting the Gospel of John is to know when the different characters are speaking and when John is adding his own commentary. These next verses may well be the words of John the Baptist; but more than likely they are the witness and comments of John the evangelist.343

John begins by emphasizing the supremacy of Yeshua. If we want information, we have to go to the person who possesses that information. If we want information about God, we will only get it from the Son of God; and if we want information about heaven, we can only get if from Him who comes from heaven. The One who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all (Yochanan 3:31).

The idea that a virgin would be selected by God to bear Himself . . . The notion that God would don a scalp and toes and two eyes . . . The thought that the King of the universe would sneeze and burp and get bit by mosquitoes . . . It’s too incredible. Too revolutionary. We would never create such a Savior. We aren’t that daring.

When we create a redeemer, we keep him safely distant in his faraway castle. We allow him only the briefest of encounters with us. We permit him to swoop in and out with his sleigh before can draw too near. We wouldn’t ask him to take up residence in the midst of a contaminated people. In our wildest imaginings we wouldn’t conjure up a king who becomes one of us . . . But God did.344

When Yeshua speaks about ADONAI and about heavenly things it is no fairy tale because He has been there. Because the Son alone knows the Father, He alone can give us the truth about God, and these facts are the Gospel. He testifies to what He has seen and heard, but no one accepts His testimony (Jn 3:32). In the ancient world, if a man wanted to give his full approval to a document, such as a will, an agreement, or a constitution, he attached his seal to it. The seal was the sign that he agreed with it and regarded it as binding and true. So today, when people accept the message of the Messiah, they affirm and testify that they believe that what God says is true. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession (Ephesians 1:13b-14a).

We can believe what Jesus says, because on Him the LORD poured out the Spirit without limit. Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without limit. To hear Jesus is to hear the very words of ADONAI. Though the Rabbi from Galilee’s words were profound, they are plain. His words were weighty, yet they shone with a luster and simplicity of a statement that staggered His enemies.345 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands (John 3:33-35).

Finally, Yochanan the Immerser sets before us the eternal choice – life or death. Down through the centuries the choice had been set before Isra’el. Moses said: See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction . . . I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Joshua restated the challenge: Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). John then returns to his favorite subject. What matters most is our reaction to Messiah. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (see Ms – The Eternal Security of the Believer), but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (Yochanan 3:36). If that reaction is love and longing, then that person will know life. But the reaction is indifference or hostility, then that person will know death. Jesus Christ doesn’t send anyone to hell – they choose it.346

A football player scores the winning goal and is embraced by his joyful teammates. An executive completes an important business deal and sees the look of appreciation in the eyes of her coworkers. A teenager graduates from high school and is photographed by the proud parents. In our society, admiration generally comes only as a reward for accomplishing some legitimate achievement.

Yet the forerunner revealed that Christ looks at us differently. He simply rejoices in us for who we are, not for what we have accomplished or earned. Because we are now in the Dispensation of Grace (see my commentary on HebrewsThe Dispensation of Grace), we are the bride and Yeshua is the groom (Rev 21:1-2). He views us with such joy that He sings and rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17). We are the object of His love and He rejoices in blessing us simply because He loves us (Jeremiah 32:40-41). Our “achievement” lies in accepting His love and striving to live as His faithful bride.

As John observed our Savior beginning His ministry, he was happy to direct his disciples to the groom. His motto became He must become greater and I must become less. The delight that the herald took in having a part in the Master’s ministry was far greater than any temporary accolades he might have received. He was overjoyed at the mere sound of the groom’s voice (John 3:29-30).

Like Yochanan, we too can rejoice in our groom as we await the final wedding feast (see my commentary on Revelation Fg – Blessed Are Those Invited to the Wedding Feat of the Lamb). It will be a time of rejoicing and celebration as all pain, death, and mourning are done away with as God wipes every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4). ADONAI pulls back the curtain and allows us to see our homeland. Just try to imagine the angels singing His praises as they see Jesus’ generous love for His bride. Think about all the redeemed from every nation, tribe, people and language finally united with the Lord and one another in an unbreakable bond of love. What a time that will be!

Therefore, as we go about our day, let us be assured that God rejoices and sings over us. Yeshua ha-Meshiach is the groom and longs to spend eternity with us!

Jesus, thank You for loving me so much that You actually delight in me, even in my weaknesses. Lord, I want to be a part of your pleasing bride. Let Your ways increase in me and my ways decrease. I thank you for making my joy full as I draw close to You. Amen.347


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