Jesus The Bridegroom
Jesus makes the point clear: stay connected to Him, and have no reason to fear. Jesus doesn’t mean that at the instant someone has faith, fear simply vanishes or only good things happen in that person’s life. In fact, the blessings that come with eternal life often have nothing to do with present or future circumstances, but they have everything to do with the individual’s connections to God and others. That is John’s message to his listeners. God came to earth embodied in flesh, and then He reached His greatest acclaim through a torturous death. If this is all true, then believers will find strength and beauty in places never imagined. Abiding in Jesus the Anointed is the good life, regardless of the external circumstances.
Not long after, Jesus and His disciples traveled to the Judean countryside where they could enjoy one another’s company and ritually cleanse new followers through baptism. About the same time, Jesus’ cousin John—the wandering prophet who had not yet been imprisoned—was upriver at Aenon near Salim baptizing scores of people in the abundant waters there.
The Voice (VOICE)
Until John the Baptist was arrested by Herod and put into prison, his ministry overlapped that of the Lord Jesus. John did not want anyone to follow him; his ministry was to point to the Lamb of God and urge people to trust Him. But when two popular preachers are involved in similar work, it is easy for both friends and enemies to get caught up in competition and comparison.
A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jewover ceremonial cleansing. So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
New Living Translation (NLT)
It appears that some of John’s disciples started the argument. It began on doctrinal grounds—the matter of purifying—but soon moved to personal grounds. Some manuscripts read “a Jew” instead of “the Jews.”
Could this unnamed Jew have possibly been Nicodemus? We cannot say, but it is a possibility.
The matter of purifying was important to the Jews (Mark 7:1-23). Under the Old Testament Law, it was necessary for them to keep themselves ceremonially clean if they were to serve God and please Him. Unfortunately, the Pharisees added so many extra traditions to the Law that the observing of it became a burden.
Without realizing it, John’s disciples were putting him into a situation of competing against the Lord Jesus! “Everybody is going to Him!” Sounds like a wail of despair. A leader often suffers more from his zealous disciples than from his critics!
John replied, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but rather, ‘I have been sent before him.’
New English Translation (NET)
John’s heart’s desire was to build God’s kingdom, not his own. Therefore, he wasn’t jealous of Christ’s success. Oh, that there could be more ministers with the purity of heart that John the Baptist had.
How did John the Baptist handle this controversy?
To begin with, he stated a conviction: all ministry and blessing come from God, so there can be no competition. Paul would have agreed with this (1 Cor. 3:1-9; 4:1-7). Our gifts and opportunities come from God, and He alone must get the glory.
John was able to avoid this trap of pride and envy because he knew who he was and what he was called to do. We cannot rise above selfishness without the security that comes from knowing who we are in Christ and what our calling is.
If you are confused, consider this: the groom is the one with the bride. The best man takes his place close by and listens for him. When he hears the voice of the groom, he is swept up in the joy of the moment. So hear me. My joy could not be more complete.
The Voice (VOICE)
Then John used a beautiful illustration. He compared Jesus to the bridegroom and himself only to the best man. Once the bridegroom and bride had been brought together, the work of the best man was completed. What a foolish thing it would be for the best man to try to “upstage” the bridegroom and take his place. John’s joy was to hear the voice of the Bridegroom and know that He had claimed His bride.
John wasn’t envious of Jesus, because he loved God and God’s will more than he loved himself. He knew he wasn’t the Christ, but he was a forerunner of the Christ. He could see the will of God being performed through Jesus, and he therefore rejoiced.
Those who love themselves more than they love God and His kingdom will always be sorrowful at someone else’s success, even if it advances the kingdom of God. But those who truly find their joy in God will rejoice with those who are prospering in the kingdom.
He must become more important while I become less important.
New English Translation (NET)
This was not God’s will just for John, but this is the way it should be for all of us. We have to lose our lives to really find life (Matthew 10:39 and 16:25). Anytime we get this backward and are seeking our own increase more than the increase of Christ’s kingdom, we are going in the wrong direction.
He Who comes from above (heaven) is [far] above all [others]; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and talks the language of earth [his words are from an earthly standpoint]. He Who comes from heaven is [far] above all others [far superior to all others in prominence and in excellence].
John 3:31 (AMP)
He was not simply called from heaven, or empowered by heaven; He came from heaven. It was this claim that the Jews disputed, because they knew it was His claim that He was God (John 6:38-42). John the Baptist certainly was not “from above,” nor did he claim to be. No earthly messenger of God came “from above.” Only Jesus Christ can make that claim and prove it to be true.
Since Jesus came from heaven, He represents the Father; and to reject His witness is to reject the Father (John 5:23). We know that His witness is true because He is the true God. We can trust it and rely on it.
It is to what He has [actually] seen and heard that He bears testimony, and yet no one accepts His testimony [no one receives His evidence as true].
Whoever receives His testimony has set his seal of approval to this: God is true. [That man has definitely certified, acknowledged, declared once and for all, and is himself assured that it is divine truth that God cannot lie].
John 3:32-33 (AMP)
He shares what He has seen and heard from the Father. Those who receive His witness and act on it know by personal experience that His witness is true (John 7:17). Our Lord’s teachings are not to be studied intellectually, separated from everyday life. It is when we obey His Word and put it into practice that we see its truth and experience its power.
For since He Whom God has sent speaks the words of God [proclaims God’s own message], God does not give Him His Spirit sparingly or by measure, but boundless is the gift God makes of His Spirit!
The Father loves the Son and has given (entrusted, committed) everything into His hand.
John 3:34-35 (AMP)
God sent Him (another key theme in John’s Gospel); God gave Him the Word; God gave Him the Spirit; and God gave Him all things (John 13:3). What a commissioning! To reject the Son’s witness is to rebel against the highest authority in the universe.
Jesus didn’t just have a token measure of the Holy Spirit. He had the full measure of God’s Spirit and power in Him. And every true follower of Christ has received that same fullness (John 1:16 and Colossians 2:9-10).
The fullness of God’s Holy Spirit in us enables us to speak His words. No one would speak God’s truths on their own. We have to be empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).
We usually think of God’s love for a lost world (John 3:16), but John reminds us of the Father’s love for His Son. Jesus is the Father’s “beloved Son”. Because the Father loves the Son, He has given Him all things, and He shows Him all things (John 5:20). It is a love that can hold nothing back.
Therefore, when we receive His witness, we share in His love and His wealth. To reject Christ’s witness is to sin against love and light. No wonder our Lord wept over the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39). They had rejected His witness—both His messages and His miracles—and their rejection led to judgment.
And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life. But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God’s displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually.]
John 3:36 (AMP)
Some people who don’t know God think they are really living. They have money, fame, and assets, and indulge every lust. But the truth is they have never really lived. Without God we cannot see life.
This is the only place in any of John’s epistles or his Gospel that he uses the word wrath. (He uses it six times in the Book of Revelation.) This verse parallels John 3:18 and makes it clear that there can be no neutrality when it comes to the witness of Jesus Christ: we either trust Him or we reject Him.
“Everlasting life” does not simply mean eternity in heaven. The believer possesses that life right now! It is the life of God in the believer. The opposite of eternal life is eternal death, the wrath of God. A person does not have to die and go to hell to be under the wrath of God. “The one who does not believe has been condemned already” (John 3:18). The verdict has already been given, but the sentence has not yet been executed. Why? Because God is patient and long-suffering, and continues to call sinners to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
As you review John 3, you can see that the Apostle John is emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
- It is a living relationship that begins with the new birth, the birth from above. When we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, we share His very life and become children in the family of God.
- It is also a loving relationship, for He is the Bridegroom and we are a part of the bride. Like John the Baptist, we desire that Jesus Christ increase as we decrease. He must receive all the honor and glory.
- It is a learning relationship, for He is the faithful Witness who shares God’s truth with us. What a delight it is to receive His Word, meditate on it, and make it part of our very lives.
But we must never forget the cost of these blessings. For us to be born into God’s family, Jesus Christ had to die. For us to enter into the loving relationship of salvation, He had to endure the hatred and condemnation of men. He had to be lifted up on the cross so that we might experience forgiveness and eternal life.
May we never take this for granted!
“He must increase, but I must decrease” .
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I can receive nothing that has not been granted to me from heaven. Ultimately, there is no other source of supply.
It is God who has made me what I am. Every good gift that I have comes from my heavenly Father.
I listen intently to the words of Jesus and my heart greatly rejoices in the sound of His voice. I have given Him free reign to increase within me and take over the lordship of my life. He has become the chief executive who guides me in all that I set my hand to do.
God has sent me into the world to proclaim His own message – the good news of the kingdom. He does not give me His Spirit sparingly, but fills me to overflowing with Himself.
My Father’s love has been poured out upon me. He has entrusted all things into the hand of Jesus and Jesus, in turn, has made me an ambassador on His behalf.
I believe in Jesus with all of my heart and right now, this very minute, I have eternal life. I shall never be condemned or experience God’s wrath.