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First Ministry in JudÆa—John's Second Testimony.
(Judæa and Ænon.)
D John III. 22–36.
d 22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa [That is, he left Jerusalem, the capital of Judæa, and went into the rural districts thereof. We find him there again in John xi. and Luke xiii.-xviii. He gained disciples there, but of them we know but few, such as Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simeon, and Judas Iscariot]; and there he tarried with them [It is not stated how long he tarried, but it may have been from April to December, for the passover was in April, and December was “yet four months” before the harvest—John iv. 35], and baptized. [This baptism was not into the three names of God (John vii. 39), into which the apostles were afterwards directed to baptize (Matt. xxviii. 19). It was a continuation of John's baptism, preparatory to the organization of the church—a preparation for the kingdom. Some think that Jesus, at this time, baptized in his own name, and afterwards gave the full baptismal formula into the other two names—Father and Spirit. But there is no evidence of this, and Christian baptism is a baptism into the death of Christ (Rom. vi. 3). Christ would hardly have ordered baptism into his death before his crucifixion. Such a proceeding would have wrought confusion.] 23 And John also was baptizing [The fact that John also was baptizing is a further indication that the baptism administered by Jesus was 134preparatory. There would hardly be two kinds of baptism administered by divine consent at one time] in Aenon [This name means “springs”] near to Salim, because there was much water there [If one starts at Sychar, at the foot of Mount Ebal, and follows the Damascus road northward for seven miles, he comes upon the valley called Wady Farah. In this beautiful wady the stream flows eastward, having Salim three miles to its south and 'Ainun four miles to its north. For the most part the valley is narrow, and hemmed in by rocky cliffs. But if one follows the course seven miles eastward from the Damascus road, he comes upon a beautiful valley, about one mile wide and three miles broad—a place every way suitable for the gathering of multitudes to hear the preaching of John. A perennial stream, with copious springs all along its course, furnishes, even in the longest, driest summers, the “much water” required for baptism]: and they came, and were baptized. [“Here, then,” says Lieutenant Conder, “in the wild, desert valley, beneath the red precipices, where the hawk and kite find nests in 'the stairs of the rocks', or by the banks of the shingly stream, with its beautiful oleander blossoms shining in the dusky foliage of luxuriant shrubs, we may picture the dark figure of the Baptist, in his robe of camel's hair, with the broad leather Bedawi belt around his loins, preaching to the Judæan multitude of pale citizens—portly, gray-bearded rabbis, Roman soldiers in leathern armor and shining helmets, sharp-faced publicans, and, above all, to the great mass of oppressed peasantry, the 'beasts of the people', uncared for, stricken with palsy, with blindness, with fever, with leprosy, but eagerly looking forward to the appearance of that Messiah who came to preach the gospel to the poor.”] 24 For John was not yet cast into prison. [John's Gospel shows that the ministry of Christ was well under way before that of the Baptist ceased: a fact which the synoptists do not reveal.] 25 There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John's disciples with a Jew about purifying. [What this questioning was we are not told. The word “therefore” doubtless refers to 135the baptisms just mentioned, so that the dispute probably related to the necessity or purifying effects of that ordinance. But whatever the dispute was about, it brought to notice the fact that Jesus was baptizing more than John, a fact which some of the disciples of John quickly resented.] 26 And they came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him [This verse shows that John's disciples looked upon Jesus as one who owed all his position and popularity to the Baptist's testimony, and were, therefore, surprised to find that Jesus was surpassing John. They looked upon this conduct as a species of ingratitude on the part of Jesus. This verse also shows us that the witness of John did not pass unheeded. His witness was public and notorious, and men remembered it, though they did not always profit by it. That these friends of John felt unkindly toward Jesus is shown by their exaggerated statement that “all men come to him.”] 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. [Some take this to mean that Jesus could not have had this great success unless Heaven gave it to him; but it is more likely that John used the words with entire reference to himself. A man can only take what is given to him; the Son of God takes what he chooses. The friend receives only what hospitality extends to him, but the heir takes what he will, as the owner of the house.] 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said [In stating that John had borne witness (ver. 26) John's disciple had already committed themselves to the fact that John disclaimed to be the Messiah, and that Jesus was the Messiah; for it was concerning these two things that John had given his testimony], I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, that standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is made full. [John looks upon the body of disciples as 136the Lord's bride, and prophetically anticipates the very title which was subsequently applied to the church. It was the duty of “the friend of the bridegroom” to arrange the preliminaries of the wedding, and to promote the mutual interests of the bride and bridegroom. His duties and responsibilities greatly exceeded those of our “best man,” for it was his place to demand the hand of the bride, and to prepare everything for the reception of the bride and bridegroom. Joy at the sound of the bridegroom's voice is part of the drapery of John's figure. Voices of bride and bridegroom are a Biblical symbol of festivity and joy (Jer. vii. 34; xxv. 10; xxxiii. 11). The Song of Solomon is the only book in the Bible which dwells upon the relationship of bride and bridegroom, and in it the voice of the bridegroom is mentioned with joy (Song ii. 8). If John meant anything more by the phrase than mere drapery, he used it to express his pleasure that the Messiah was directing his own affairs and speaking his wishes with his own voice, instead of using his friend as a mouthpiece.] 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. [Noble words! “He must increase”—because the divine law has ordered it, and prophecy has foretold it (Isa. lii. 13 ), and because the very divinity of his nature absolutely requires it. “I must decrease”—in popularity, in power, in following. The Christian minister finds the increase of his work the same as the increase of Christ's kingdom; but with the Baptist the case was different. He was a Jewish prophet, and as the power of the New Dispensation, under Christ, gained headway, the Old Dispensation, of which he was a part, waxed old, and was ready to vanish away.] 31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaketh: he that cometh from heaven is above all. [Some think that the testimony of the Baptist closes with the thirtieth verse, and that the rest of the chapter is the comment of the apostle John, but there is certainly no sufficient ground for such a view.] 32 What he hath seen and heard, of that he beareth witness; and no man receiveth his witness. [In verses 31 and 32 the Baptist 137draws a contrast between his testimony and that of the Messiah. The Baptist's testimony was largely of a negative character. He testified that he was not the Christ (ver. 28), and while he pointed Jesus out as the Christ, the worthy one, the spiritual baptizer, he nowhere undertook to elaborate as to the character or nature of Jesus. He looked upon Jesus as being so far above all earthly prophets that no prophet could reveal him. The task of such revelation devolved upon Jesus himself. God must be self-revealed. It was no heavy disappointment to John that his disciples had failed to grasp his testimony concerning himself, and yet so few were persuaded by the testimony of Jesus that John hyperbolically says “no man receiveth his witness.”] 33 He that hath received his witness hath set his seal to this, that God is true. [We have here a metaphor, taken from the sealing of a document, as an expression of trust in or adherence to it. Compare John vi. 27; I. Cor. ix. 2. To receive Christ's witness was to publicly confess a conviction that God was true—true to his promise that he would send a Messiah, a Saviour (Rom. iii. 4). To believe Christ is to believe God; to make Christ a liar is to make the Father one also, for he speaks concerning Christ (I. John v. 10) and through Christ—John vii. 16; xvi. 24.] 34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure. [To give anything by measure indicates a partial, scanty bestowal (Ezek. iv. 16). The Spirit of God, even in inspired prophets, was but a partial and intermittent gift (I. Cor. vii. 25; xiii. 9; I. Pet. i. 11; Heb. i. 1 ), but in Jesus, the Son of God, the Spirit of God dwelt fully and uninterruptedly (Col. i. 19). The present tense, “giveth,” points to a continuous communication of the Spirit. If Christ had received the Spirit “by measure,” then his gift of the Spirit might be exhausted.] 35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. [This fact was afterwards asserted by Jesus (Matt. xxviii. 18). Jesus is indeed King of kings—Ps. ii. 6–8; Matt. xi. 27; Acts ii. 33; x. 36; Eph. i. 22.] 13836 He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life [the New Testament represents everlasting life as a present possession obtained by belief]; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. [In the second clause of this verse “obeyeth” stands in contrast with “believeth” in the first clause. No mental assent, however strong, is reckoned by the Scriptures as faith unless it results in obedience (Jas. ii. 20; Rom. i. 5). “Wrath of God” is a strong phrase, and is not to be lightly explained away. The unconverted sinner rests under this wrath. His study should be not only to avert a sentence to be pronounced at some future day, but to be freed from one already resting upon him. This verse shows conclusively that Christ's atoning work had its divine as well as its human side; that God had to be propitiated as truly as man had to be reconciled. The Baptist had already repeatedly warned the Jewish people of wrath to come if they rejected the Messiah, and in this, his last recorded utterance, he boldly reiterates that warning.]
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