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John at Ænon.

22. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea. Shortly after the passover and the interview with Nicodemus, he left the Jewish metropolis. It had refused to hear him and he retired to the country districts, probably on the banks of the Jordan. There he tarried with them and baptized. This is the first intimation of Christ administering the baptismal rite. He did not baptize in person, but by his disciples (John 4:2). His baptism at this time could not have been the Christian rite that he instituted after his resurrection, but was preparatory like John's. Christian baptism could not exist until the Son had demonstrated his relation to the Father by the resurrection, and until the Holy Spirit was given. The baptismal formula recognizes the authority of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Joh 3:23)

23. John also was baptizing at Ænon near to Salim. The location of Ænon 62was long in doubt, and it was left for Lieut. Conder, of the British Palestine Exploration, to settle the question so satisfactorily that the authorities on the sacred localities, Robinson, Stanley, Thompson, Schaff and McGarvey, have accepted his discovery. He, the only man who has made a scientific survey of Palestine, locates it northeast of Samaria, in a beautiful valley, not far from the Jordan. He says (Tent Work, p. 92): “The valley is open in most of its course, and we find in it the two requisites for the scene of the baptism of a large multitude,—an open space and abundance of water. Not only does the name Salim occur in the village three miles south of the valley, but the name Ænon, signifying 'springs,' is recognized as the village of Ainun, four miles north of the stream. There is only one other place of the latter name in Palestine, Beit Ainun, near Hebron, but this is a place that has no fine supply of water and no Salim near it. On the other hand there are many other Salims all over Palestine, but none of them has an Ænon near it. The site of Wady Far'ah is the only one where all the requisites are met,—the two names, the fine water supply, the proximity of the desert, and the open character of the ground.” Prof. McGarvey, who visited the locality, says: “The much water we found all the way, and although the season was exceptionally dry, pools well suited for baptizing were abundant. . . . Here, then, was the open space required, and a more suitable place for the gathering of a multitude could not be found on the banks of any stream in Palestine. . . . We cut an oleander cane apiece from the bank of the stream, and took a bath in one of its pools.”—Lands of the Bible, pp. 508–9. Because there was much water there. This is assigned as a reason, not why John was at Ænon, or preached at Ænon, but why he baptized at Ænon. It explains “baptizing.” “Much water” was essential to baptism in New Testament times, and Ænon provided it. It shows the stress of Pedobaptists when they insist that he chose Ænon because the great multitudes would require much water for domestic purposes. The Scripture explains its necessity otherwise. Nor does the criticism that polla hudata means “many waters” help their cause. The phrase is applied in the Septuagint to the Euphrates (Jer. 51:13), and in Revelation to the Tiber (Rev. 17:1). It may mean either “much” or “many” waters. There were many fountains at Ænon and many pools in the stream they created. Whatever polla hudata may mean it explains the reason why John was baptizing there, a fact that can be reconciled only with immersion. The reason why the historian gives this explanation is that all the other accounts of John's baptizing locate him at the river Jordan. As it is here affirmed that he was baptizing at a place some distance from the Jordan, it is explained that there “was much water there” also. (Joh 3:24)

24. For John was not yet cast into prison. This incident occurred just before the seizure of John. The testimony following is the last words recorded of the great forerunner before he was sent to prison and from thence to death. As the other Gospels omit this incident, and, after the baptism of Christ, 63mention John next in prison, the author of the Fourth Gospel is particular to say “he was not yet cast into prison.” (Joh 3:25)

25. There arose a question between John's disciples and the Jews. The Revision reads “a Jew” which is supported by the best manuscripts. We can only conjecture the nature of this dispute. “The Jew,” evidently not a disciple of either John or Jesus, but perhaps a Pharisee (see John 4:1), associated baptism with the bathings of the Jewish law for purification. The context shows that in a discussion with disciples of John he gave preference either to Christ's baptism, or to Christ himself, over John and his baptism. He probably also spoke of the great numbers who resorted to Christ. (Joh 3:26)

26. Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, . . . the same baptizeth. Full of jealousy for the reputation of their master, they rush to him with their complaint, as if the growing influence of Jesus and his practice of baptism were an infringement on the rights of John. Note that they had been impressed by the witness that John had borne to Jesus at Bethabara. (Joh 3:27) (Joh 3:28)

27, 28. A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven. This trial of John would have been a sore one had he been swayed by human feeling. To see his great popularity and influence gradually waning, and another coming up to take his place, was well calculated to arouse jealousy. But John, in the spirit of his mission, rose to a sublime superiority over carnal weakness. He declares, first, that what he is, and what Jesus is, is due to the will of heaven. Each will fill his appointed mission “given him from heaven.” Next, he cites his own words before spoken, of which they were witnesses, in which he declared that he was not the Christ, but only the messenger who went before the King to prepare his way. The superiority of Jesus was only what he himself had predicted. (Joh 3:29)

29. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom. This expressive figure is often used. The church, espoused to Christ, is the bride; Christ, the bridegroom. John, in the growing influence of Christ, already sees in anticipation the bridegroom united to the bride. As the friend of the bridegroom he rejoices 64in the happiness of the bridegroom The good news that his disciples bring him of Christ, so far from arousing envy, causes him to rejoice. He feels that his own work is done: “My joy therefore is fulfilled.” (Joh 3:30)

30. He must increase, but I must decrease. As the light of the moon fades out before the rising sun, so John must decrease before the bright light of the Sun of Righteousness. His own decrease is, however, only a proof of the increase and fulness of Christ. These last words of John are in the spirit of Christian sacrifice and are a fitting close of his work. (Joh 3:31)

31. He that cometh from above is above all. It is generally supposed that the following words are, not those of John the Baptist, but of the Apostle. There is a contrast of style, and a part of what follows contains references to the words of our Lord. The one that cometh from above is Christ, who is above every earthly teacher, prophets, apostles, and John the Baptist. (Joh 3:32)

32. What he hath seen and heard, he testifieth. He hath no need for instruction, for the one from heaven knows personally of what he testifies. No, man receiveth his testimony. The world, in John the apostle's time still rejected Christ. Here and there were churches who honored the Master, but mankind refused to receive his testimony. (Joh 3:33)

33. Hath set his seal that God is true. A few, comparatively, had received his testimony, and these thereby demonstrated their conviction that God is true; that his promises have been fulfilled in Christ. To attach a seal to a document is to confirm it. (Joh 3:34)

34. He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God. So Christ affirmed of himself. It was the Father who spoke in him. He had the fulness of the Spirit. It is the testimony of the whole world, believing and unbelieving, that “he spake as man never spake.” The reason of this is plain. It was the Father speaking through him. (Joh 3:35)

35. The Father loveth the Son. Therefore he had the Spirit without measure, and in him dwelt the “fulness of the Godhead.” (Joh 3:36)

36. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. Eternal life and death 65turn on the question of faith in Christ. They turn on this principle because “without faith we cannot please God,” for we cannot live the life, while unbelievers, that pleases him. Faith is the mightiest power of earth to move men to action, and faith in Christ moves to the life that is needful to become the sons of God. He who believes with a heartfelt, obedient faith, a faith that trusts all and surrenders all to the will of Christ, is born again and “hath eternal life,” while the unbeliever remains in disobedience and abides in death. It is not “faith alone” that gives life, but “faith made perfect” by obedience. See James 2:22.

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