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John 3:25-30, NIV
25 An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."
27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less."
December 21, 2010Someone tried to stir up trouble. An argument developed. As though it was time to debate the pros and cons, the ins and outs, ups and downs, of all this God-centered activity along the Jordan River. "John, that other guy is gaining more popularity than you are; you better do something about that!"
In response, John the Baptist sounds so sure of himself. If it were the Gospel writer, John, doing the talking I could better understand the confidence. He had the benefit of living and working with Jesus for three years before Jesus was crucified. He saw the risen Lord, and his ascension. After that the disciple/apostle had many more years for his beliefs about Jesus to be solidified and confirmed by other believers. But what did John the Baptist have?
What has Jesus done up to this point which would have made John the Baptist such a firm believer? He didn't seem to need additional evidence. When he baptized Jesus, John saw "the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him." He heard a voice assuring him this was the promised one, the Son of God who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist, more than anyone else, seems to grasp the greatness surrounding the birth and life's work of Jesus. His understanding of Jesus probably developed and grew from the re-telling of the supernatural circumstances involving his own birth, and in the resulting expectations of John's parents.
John fully understood and accepted his role as the forerunner of God's anointed one. He was the groomsman, not the groom. The perfect groomsman whose joy was equal to the groom's! He naturally bowed, and with a swoop of the hand, fastened all eyes on the main event, Jesus - Immanuel, God with us.
More journal entries
August 12 1982It was bound to happen. Things can't run smoothly for very long. John and Jesus plus their disciples--all sharing the same river, all baptizing and preaching repentance and the kingdom of God. Into this blessed experience of unity, someone raised a question which started some trouble and stirred up these peaceful waters. The question created discontent and jealousy, and appealed to the pride of John and his disciples..
Which is more natural--peace or strife? The questioner was agitating for strife, may have been looking to create some excitement. Just touch John's pride and see what happens.
August 13 1982Some who had been baptized by John are disturbed because now it's the "in thing" to be baptized by someone else, Jesus of Nazareth. Their charismatic preacher is beginning to lose his clout. And that makes them unhappy, others might think them silly, gullible or that they had acted with too much haste. Everyone wants to be on the winning side.
The whole matter of being cleansed--what does it all mean? It's not answered here in this passage, but Jesus refers and returns to that subject often.
The greater mission of Jesus was to baptize with the Holy Spirit of God. I heard a sermon by Myron Augsburger just the other night at the Mt. Gretna Campmeeting Tabernacle. In it he said: The sign of the Holy Spirit is love, love that is joyous, peaceful, patient, kindly, generous, faithful, gentle, self-controlled.
Joy is the sign of love.Peace is the state of love.Patience is the expression of love.Self-control is the restraint of love. (He went all through the fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, but I couldn't write fast enough to note them all.)
The concluding benediction included these thoughts: Long for God in your seeking and seek God in your longing. Find God in your loving and love God in your finding.
August 18 1982Who should I learn from and identify with in this passage, John or Jesus? John--who was wise and big enough to let Jesus become greater than he.Or Jesus--who kept moving on, not conforming to please people, but ever growing and changing in his ministry and persevering in doing his Father's will. Accepting life when its good; but not staying there. He didn't allow success to build a cage around him, to make him its captive.
The Jews were saying, "John, you shouldn't allow this man to copy you. He's becoming more popular than you are. That's bad news for you."
But to John, Jesus was good news. How not-normal! For John, preaching the kingdom went beyond personal ambition, pride and self-advancement. His motives, when tested, were pure. Wholly for the Other, not for self. When John heard the voice of Jesus, he recognized it as the Word sent from God and it filled him with joy.
A kingdom man is humble because his own pride and reputation is not at stake. He bears witness to God alone--not to his own cleverness or ability or knowledge or special brand of 'the truth'. He can accept his own decline because he lives in God's presence and sees God's hand in all things working out His will, and its OK. John exhibited this attitude: I do the best I can, keeping my side of the Covenant, practicing the disciplines necessary to live in God's presence, exercising the gifts he gives me, and the rest, the results, is up to Him. That's a beautiful message from a truly great man.--No wonder Jesus referred to him as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
August 19 1982John, referring to Jesus' ministry of preaching and baptizing--A man can receive nothing at all, unless it is given him from heaven. True in God's eyes, but not in man's eyes. There are a lot of self-made success stories. Even professional clergy can do mighty works, great things in God's name (Matt 7:22) without being a part of the kingdom. Just as it rains on the just and the unjust, so success comes to the just and the unjust--in the Church as well as in society as a whole.
To you, my questioner, my life appears on the decline and you think I should cling to my position and defend it. I choose not to fight, but to accept that my mission must phase out so Jesus' mission can take root and grow. I must move over and give him the space to surpass me and soar.
How could John see things so clearly? It must have been that he sat in the presence of God, in study, prayer and meditation, for so many years. How can John be so devoid of pride and personal ambition? Probably the same reason he could see so clearly.
Based on his own life experience, John believed a man could do nothing unless enabled to do so by God. That's how he lived--simply, and in faith. Strength comes from God as does all wisdom, knowledge, truth, skills, gifts, abilities. Life apart from God was unthinkable to him. That's not the typical way of thinking. I can remember years of my life when God didn't enter my thoughts from one Sunday to the next. We labelled it practical atheism, or living as though God didn't exist. I wouldn't own up to it, but the label fit pretty well.
August 21, 1982On the banks of the Jordan River, John's happiness was complete. There was nowhere else he would rather be than out there in that wilderness preaching and baptizing. Doing that for which God had equipped him, to which he was called. That's why imprisonment was such a trauma and tested his faith so severely.
John was intent on completing his mission and fulfilling the purpose of his life, not realizing that this completion would mean his death! Restrained and in prison, he lost it, although he was still within God's will. In confinement he was targeted with attitudes and actions which didn't seem as though they came from heaven. He learned some people received strength from the devil. They took God's good gift of life and created hell out of it, especially for their enemies.
August 22, 1982I need a word of Scripture to ponder during the day. What is the word from God for me today? He must increase. He must gain top priority, not in words but in reality. And as He increases in my spirit, I will gain accordingly.
November 24, 2001
This section is about baptism and controversy and contains a long quote. John was the Baptist; Jesus was God's one and only Son. Both were secure in their identities and there was no conflict between them. The conflict was with those around them. Some who came to John for baptism felt threatened because now more people were going to Jesus. A good thing was turning sour.
November 26, 2001
This is a case study on how to phase out and let another succeed you. John is very gracious and does not cling to past glory. John did his job as he understood it and did not envy Jesus who received the greater role. God gifted me to be the fore runner. Now that the One from above is here, I am the groomsman but he is the one who gets the bride. I look on and am happy, full of joy for the groom. He will increase; I will decrease.