Lesson 16

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

3:22 After these things, Jesus came with his disciples into the land of Judea. He stayed there with them, and baptized. 3:23 John also was baptizing in Enon near Salim, because there was much water there. They came, and were baptized. 3:24 For John was not yet thrown into prison. 3:25 There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John's disciples with some Jews about purification. 3:26 They came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same baptizes, and all men come to him."

3:27 John answered, "A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. 3:28 You yourselves testify about me, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before him.' 3:29 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. This, my joy, therefore is made full. 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

 Today's Lesson

Today's scripture is another portion of the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus of Nazareth. The writer of the Gospel sets the stage with a few details. Jesus comes with His disciples into Judea. He begins to baptize Jews there. John the Baptist was also in the wilderness nearby baptizing. Some of John's disciples were concerned that there would be confusion and competition between the following of Jesus and the following of John. This is John the Baptist's response to this situation. Because of the length of John's reply, we will have to deal with what he says on two successive days.


John tells his disciples to remember what he had taught them. He is not the Christ. He was sent before one who would be greater than he was. He was the friend of the bridegroom, not the bridegroom. His purpose was to prepare the way for one that would come after him and who would exceed what he was to accomplish.


John prefaces these ideas by one important sentence. "A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven." What we are meant to accomplish in this life must be given to us from God the Father. Anything else we seek to accomplish will be wasted effort. It will be blown away as dust in the end of time. Only what is given to us from heaven will endure. John sees his whole life through the prism of what the Spirit of God has directed him to achieve. There is nothing else except what God has called him to accomplish. Such single-mindedness must have been a great blessing to him.


John tells his disciples that because he is doing what he has received from heaven, from the Spirit, that his joy is made full. He knows that Jesus will go beyond what he has been sent to achieve. In John the Baptist, there was no envy or jealousy. Perhaps John was able to see that there was a great price to be paid by the one who surpassed him. In any case, John was content with his position. He was the friend of the bridegroom. He would rejoice at the wedding. He knew that the bride belonged to another.


Perhaps the loveliest thought in this passage is verse 30. "He must increase, but I must decrease." John knew that in spiritual things, from this point on, Jesus would increase. His own time had passed. From this point on, the work of John the Baptist would decrease. The kingdom of heaven was at hand. One who would baptize with the Spirit of God had arrived. The times were passing up the prophet who would only baptize with water.


This phrase should also be the motto of every Christian. "He must increase, but I must decrease." In all things, Christ must increase. In my life, in my thoughts, in every way, Christ must increase. Who I am and what I am outside of Christ must decrease. Until I can say along with Paul, "To live is Christ," I have not advanced.


Heavenly Father, as I draw closer to the end, each day and in every way, let Christ increase. Let all that I am decrease in the light of His life and love. Until I am one with you, let Christ increase.


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