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John Hears About the Popularity of Jesus.


John the Baptist (4) John 3:22-36

We have been looking at the ministry and witness of John the Baptist. And now we move now to an incident that occurred near the end of John’s ministry, just before his imprisonment. This passage could well be summed up in three simple words, ENVY, HUMILITY, and ETERNITY.

1 Envy. John 3:25-26  

John’s ministry, as we have seen, had met with great success, in numerical terms. But John was in Samaria now, – the people still came, but there would now be smaller crowds at John’s baptisms.

  • A report had been received that Jesus baptising people. It was provoked by the Jews, who had come to taunt John’s disciples. You can picture the scene. In fact, we later learn that it was not the Lord Himself, but His disciples. John 4:2. John’s followers were diminishing, while Jesus’ followers were increasing. This provoked a terrible and all too common reaction among the followers of John. They were JEALOUS. They were OFFENDED. John 3:26  
  • Now this is a common reaction among many who would profess the name of Christ today. Many members of the visible church are characterised by their envy of what others are doing. They are more interested in the increase of their own cause, church, denomination, or whatever, than they are interested in the increase of the kingdom of God.

We must be very careful andwatchful that we do not allow ourselves to be gripped by this awful envy. Wherever the Lord is truly manifesting His Sovereign Grace, we should be thankful that His is so doing. Paul said inPhilip. 1:18 So, the opposite to envy is:-

2 Humility. Now here is the very opposite reaction to that of John’s disciples.John teaches his disciples how to combat envy through the practice of true Christian humility.

Firstly by understanding our own human condition. John 3:27  

  • John states the absolute providence of God. Verse 27. John shows the disciples that no matter what we have, it is not of our own making, but rather is a gift of the kind providence of God. Never is this more the case than in respect of ministry and Christian work, where it is only through the grace of God that any man can serve the Lord. The disciples of John had heard him already speak of Jesus. John 3:28  
  • John illustrates our human position. He uses the illustration of a wedding. V29  He speaks of the bridegroom’s friend. Let’s call him the Best Man. The wedding is not the Best Man’s day. It is the Bride and Groom who are the cause of joy, so the Best Man rejoices when he hears the voice of the bridegroom as he takes his bride to himself John says that in Jesus, the heavenly bridegroom has come, and he will rejoice, for it is truly ‘the Day of the Lord.’

John did not simply preach humility, but he practised it as well. After the commencement of the ministry of Christ, John began to deliberately lower his own profile. He never saw Christ’s ministry as rivalling his, and so he went elsewhere. John 3:23Again you can see clearly how John is proving that he is simply the forerunner, not the Messiah.The antidote to envy and jealousy is true Christian humility.

Secondly, by proper exaltation of Christ.V30-35 John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 

John is concerned that proper honour and glory, that is, proper dignity is accorded to Jesus.  If only we really knew Christ, and knew his power, and knew his person, and knew his love. We would surely then be far more respectful in His presence and obedient to His word.This is the thesis that John adopts here also. He begins a series of powerful statements, teaching his disciples about the greatness and glory of the Lord. Bruce Milne suggests that John makes Jesus completely pre-eminent in this passage.

  • He is preeminent in his origin. John 3:31   
  • He is preeminent in his Word. John 3:34  
  • He is preeminent in his resources. John 3:35  

READ: Col. 1:18John taught the pre-eminence of Christ in his description of Him as the Bridegroom of the church, Him that came from above, whom God had sent, to whom the spirit is given without measure, the One whom the Father loves, into whose hands all things are given, in whom to believer is life eternal. Jesus is the head of the Church, He is the Creator of the World, He is the Coming King and Judge. He already has the pre-eminence in history, in creation, in the universe. The great question for us are these… Does Jesus have the pre-eminence in my life?  Does Jesus have the pre-eminence in our local church?  Do we have the knowledge of Him, are we sufficiently aware of His person to enable us to properly honour and worship Him.  

3 Eternity. John 3:36   

This is John’s summary of the work of Christ and I believe it is the most evangelistic verse in John 3.There are two simple parts to the verse.

  1. The present assurance of the saints. It tells us that for the one who knows Christ as Saviour and Lord, he already possesses eternal life, and he is already safe for all of eternity. John 6:47  This is a glorious truth. The very moment that you put your trust in Christ you have eternal life. But contrast this with the second part of the verse:-
  2. The present hopelessness of the Lost. Just as the Christian believer is already in possession of eternal life, so the Christ rejecter, the one who has not accepted the Lord as Saviour, is already, and presently, under the wrath of God. READ John 3:18   

Do you see that the consequence of this is that heaven is very close to the believer, but not to the unbeliever. Do you see that to say no to the claims of Christ upon your life is to imperil your soul for eternity?

Conclusion. Have you noticed, that in this passage at the end of his ministry, John is still proclaiming the same message of repentance, still calling on people to forsake their sins, still pointing people to Christ?And do you see that the only element of John’s life and witness that has changed is that he has become even more humble, even more submissive to Jesus? That is the key to a faithful walk with the Lord.

Every day we must love Him more, and ourselves less. Every day we must put Him first and ourselves last. Every day He must increase and I must decrease.

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