John 3:22-36

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 1, 2009


Play Mexico Outreach clip

A few weeks ago we began to look at this night time appointment that Jesus had while He was in Jerusalem with a Jewish man named Nicodemus.

Jesus told him that he needed to be “born again”.

We also studied that most famous of Bible verses that came from Jesus’ time with Nicodemus:

(John 3:16 NKJV) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Last week we saw that God’s purpose in sending Jesus wasn’t to condemn the world, but to save it.

What happened to Nicodemus?

We know that at some point over the next few years, he would become a believer in Jesus Christ.

In John 7, Nicodemus will be accused of being a follower of Jesus (John 7:50-52).
When Jesus is crucified, Nicodemus will help Joseph of Arimathea bury the body.
(John 19:39 NKJV) And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

3:22-36 John’s Witness about Jesus

:22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.

:22 Judea – Jesus and His disciples had been in the city of Jerusalem, which is in the southern part of Israel, known as Judea.

From the city of Jerusalem, they moved down the hill, probably to the Jordan river, to continue to minister in Judea.

Actually, Jesus Himself wasn't doing the baptizing, but His disciples were.

(John 4:2 NKJV)  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),

Jesus was just hanging around, teaching and ministering to the people, while the disciples were baptizing.

:22 He remaineddiatribo – to rub between, rub hard; to wear away; to spend, pass time

(Prov 27:17 NKJV) As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

You get a picture of discipleship here. Jesus was rubbing off on His guys.

:23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.

:23 AenonAinon – “springs”

:23 SalimSaleim – “peace”

John mentions Salim because it must have been the more recognizable place.

We are not certain where these places are. The best suggestion is a place 7 miles south of ancient Beit She’an, known in Jesus’ day as the city of Scythopolis.

Some place it up in the hills of Samaria near the city of Sychar (Shechem) where there are springs.  The problem with this view is that in the next chapter Jesus leaves the area of Judea because of this controversy about His disciples baptizing more people than John.  It would make more sense that Jesus would go away from John rather than towards John.  If John was already in Samaria, this wouldn’t fit.

(Play “Aenon near Salim” clip)

Apparently, while Jesus’ ministry stayed in the south in Judea, John moved a bit north, closer to Galilee. The area of Salim is technically part of the “Decapolis”, ten pagan cities southeast of the sea of Galilee.

:23 much water – It doesn’t look like John used the “sprinkle” method of baptism. He needed a lot of water to immerse people.

:24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

:24 prison – This gives us a timeframe for this incident. There will be a time in the coming months when John the Baptist will be arrested by Herod the tetrarch. Herod has John arrested because John keeps rebuking him for having married his brother’s wife (Luke 3:19-20).

(Luke 3:19-20 NKJV)  But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, {20} also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.

Eventually, Herod will have John beheaded at the request of his wife (Mat. 14).

:25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification.

disputezetesis – a seeking; enquiry; a questioning, debate; a subject of questioning or debate, matter of controversy

purificationkatharismos – a cleansing, purification, a ritual purgation or washing

The dispute may have been about John’s authority to baptize. 

:25 purification – The dispute may have been over the meaning of baptism. For Jews, they had rituals for cleaning the hands. They also had rituals for full immersion when a Gentile became a Jew. But John was baptizing Jews, not Gentiles.

Perhaps the dispute was over the fact that Jesus’ disciples were now baptizing more people than John.

:26 And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified; behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!"

Note:  They are calling John “Rabbi”.

:26 Rabbi – “my great one”, “teacher”, “master”

:26 all are coming to Him

It could be that they’re trying to get John mad.

It could be that these were some who were following John, and they didn’t like the idea that their church was losing people to this other new church.

:27 John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.

:27 it has been given – John had a good understanding of the blessings in his life.


A gracious heart

One of the key definitions of “grace” is that of a gift. John saw His ministry as a “gift” from God.
He didn’t see his ministry as some great task he had accomplished for God, but simply something he had received.

God gave it. He received it.

He also saw Jesus’ ministry as a “gift” as well.
Jesus had the crowds because that was what God had given Him.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about their attitude problems:
(1 Cor 4:7 NLT) What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?

There were divisions in the church at Corinth. Some people thought they were better than others. Some thought that their ministry was more important than others.

In reality, all ministry comes as a gift from God. There is nothing to get proud about as if you have accomplished something great. It’s God who is at work.


F. B. Meyer was pastor of Christ’s Church in London at the same time that G. Campbell Morgan was pastor of Westminister Chapel and Charles H. Spurgeon was pastor of the Metropolitan Chapel. Both Morgan and Spurgeon often had much larger audiences than did Meyer. Troubled by envy, Meyer confessed that not until he began praying for his colleagues did he have peace of heart. “When I prayed for their success,” said Meyer, “the result was that God filled their churches so full that the overflow filled mine, and it has been full since.”


This weekend, Life Church in Mission Viejo is moving into new facilities in Irvine. The church is 24 years old, and started with 11 people. The pastor, Phil Munsey is the son of a pastor. An article in the OC Register talked about their history:

All the while Munsey, who lives in Trabucco Canyon, watched Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church grow. “He was having great success when I was not,” said Munsey. “There were many times where I said, ‘Why even try? I should just join Rick.’” Each Sunday on his way out of the canyon and down El Toro Road Munsey sat in traffic with thousands piling into to Saddleback Church’s parking lots. Munsey was just trying to make it to his flock of hundreds. He decided to pray for Warren, his wife and children every time he passed Saddleback Church. Some days it would be five and six times.  … Phil concluded , “If I never built a massive church – what I did counted…” On Wednesday Pastor Warren will be one of 50 pastors to dedicate Life Church, now with 2,000 members and worldwide ministries. “Phil Munsey is a force for good & for God,” Rick Warren said from his Twitter account. “He is one of OC’s greatest gifts. He’s fun to watch & I love him like a brother.”

I like what I hear in Phil’s attitude.  Instead of grumbling or complaining, he learned to pray.


A.W.Tozer wrote, “Dear Lord, I refuse henceforth to compete with any of Thy servants. They have congregations larger than mine. So be it. I rejoice in their success. They have greater gifts. Very well. That is not in their power nor in mine. I am humbly grateful for their greater gifts and my smaller ones. I only pray that I may use to Thy glory such modest gifts as I possess... I will not compare myself with any, nor try to build up my self-esteem by noting where I may excel one or another in Thy holy work. I herewith make a blanket disavowal of all intrinsic worth. I am but an unprofitable servant. I gladly go to the foot of the class and own myself the least of Thy people... If I err in my self judgment and actually underestimate myself I do not want to know it. I purpose to pray for others and to rejoice in their prosperity as if it were my own. And indeed it is my own if it is Thine own, for what is Thine is mine, and while one plants and another waters it is Thou alone that giveth the increase.”

A. W Tozer, The Price of Neglect, 104-105.

Like John the Baptist, we all have a gift from God, a purpose for our lives.
God has plans for you.

(Jer 29:11 NKJV)  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Some of that purpose will involve things like your job or your family.
Some of that purpose will involve the ministry that God has for you.
(Eph 2:10 NKJV) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

God desires that we learn to discover and walk in the things that He has for us, things He’s given us.

As we learn to grow in ministry, we need to remember that it’s all a gift from God. That’s what keeps us useful.

:28 "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.'

: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. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.


Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?” “Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life,” her mother tried to explain, keeping it simple. The child thought about this for a moment, then said.... “So why is the groom wearing black?”

John is painting a picture for the people.  The people are the “bride” and Jesus is the “bridegroom”.

In John’s picture, the Groom is happy to be with His Bride.

And John sees himself as the best man, the friend of the Groom.

Sometimes a best man is not too happy for his friend that is getting married.

John is very, very happy for his Friend to get married.


God loves us

Notice that John didn’t say, “He that hath the prisoners is the jailer”.
The best picture that describes how Jesus relates to us is one of love, as in a marriage.
This isn’t a picture unique to John.
Paul also writes:

(Eph 5:25 NKJV)  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

When I was a kid, somehow I had this idea that God was like an old, old man, with a long white beard, sitting on a throne on top of a cloud, with a very big sledge hammer in his hand.
He was just waiting for people to do bad things so He could pound their puny little heads into the ground.
But that’s totally wrong!
Think of the Groom!
He’s coming back soon for His Bride!
When Jesus comes back, the multitude in heaven will say,
(Rev 19:7-9 NKJV)  “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” {8} And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. {9} Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ …

:30 "He must increase, but I must decrease.

:30 mustdei – it is necessary, there is need of, is right and proper

:30 increaseauxano – to cause to grow, to increase, become greater

:30 decreaseelattoo – to make less or inferior in dignity; to decrease in authority or popularity

It is necessary for that One to increase and for me to decrease”


More Jesus, less me

One of the biggest problems I face in being useful to God and useful in the lives of others is … me.
There’s a part of me that loves to be the center of attention.
If I were John the Baptist, I’d probably pout and complain that Jesus was getting more people following Him that I was.
Psychologist Milton Rokeach wrote a book called The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. He described his attempts to treat three patients at a psychiatric hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who suffered from delusions of grandeur. Each believed he was unique among humankind; he had been called to save the world; he was the messiah. They displayed full-blown cases of grandiosity, in its pure form. Rokeach found it difficult to break through, to help the patients accept the truth about their identity. So he decided to put the three into a little community to see if rubbing against people who also claimed to be the messiah might dent their delusion—a kind of messianic, 12-step recovery group. This led to some interesting conversations. One would claim, “I’m the messiah, the Son of God. I was sent here to save the earth.” “How do you know?” Rokeach would ask. “God told me.” One of the other patients would counter, “I never told you any such thing.” Every once in a while, one got a glimmer of reality—never deep or for long, so deeply ingrained was the messiah complex. But what progress Rokeach made was pretty much made by putting them together.
John Ortberg, "Leader's Insight: Curing Grandiosity (Part Two)," (1-29-07)
This desire to be the center of attention doesn’t just pop up in psychiatric patients. We’ll see it in Jesus’ group of twelve from time to time.
(Mark 9:33-35 NKJV) Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" {34} But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. {35} And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."

You might think that the twelve disciples were the most spiritual men that walked the earth. In reality, they were just a bunch of knuckleheads like you and I. Do you think they learned from what Jesus said?

Look at the next chapter in Mark.
(Mark 10:35-45 NKJV) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask." {36} And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" {37} They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory."

They are asking to have the top two seats near the King.

{38} But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" {39} They said to Him, "We are able." So Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; {40} "but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared."

Jesus is gently warning them that they too will have to suffer for the kingdom of God.

{41} And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.

Why were the others “displeased” with James and John?  Because they wanted to be the “top dogs”.

BTW, this is John, the author of our gospel. In those early days, he was still learning these lessons about humility. When we talk about John “filling in the blanks” of the other gospels, here we see John showing us that John the Baptist understood this principle early on.

{42} But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {43} "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. {44} "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. {45} "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Even the greatest of all, Jesus, chose to be a servant, not a “lord”.

The world doesn’t need “more of you”. The world needs “more of Jesus”.

The world doesn’t need more “lords”, it needs more “servants

:31 "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

from aboveanothen – from above, from a higher place.  This is the word used in the first “above”.

:31 is earthy – John the Baptist is talking about himself. He is “earthy”.

Jesus actually called John the greatest human that ever lived. (Mat. 11:11)

(Mat 11:11 NKJV)  "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Yet the best that John can do is give an earthly perspective. Jesus is different.

:31 is aboveepano (“upon” + “above”) – above. This is the word used in the second and third “aboves”.

The word stuck out to me because it’s describing something that’s not just “above”, but “above above”.

For John, Jesus wasn’t just some sort of competing ministry.

John the Baptist realized that Jesus was in a different class than he was. Jesus wasn’t just another different preacher, Jesus was from heaven.

Jesus is above all.

:32 "And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.

:32 what He has seen – Jesus is the one who is from “above”, He is the one from heaven.

He came from heaven. He knows heaven. He has seen and heard things in heaven.

And yet John the Baptist is saying that people aren’t paying attention to what Jesus is testifying about.

:32 No one receives – The apostle John wrote earlier,

(John 1:11 NKJV) He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

:33 "He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.

:33 certifiedsphragizo – to set a seal upon, to authenticate, place beyond doubt

John the Baptist is putting his “seal of approval” on the things that Jesus says. All others who receive Jesus are putting their “seal of approval” on Him.

:34 "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

:34 wordsrhema – that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word

The phrase “word of God” or “words of God” is found 45 times in the New Testament.

Usually the Greek word is “logos”.

Eight times the Greek word is “rhema”.

I’m not sure I can tell the difference between “logos” and “rhema”.
Both can describe words that are “spoken”.
Both are used to describe the Scriptures.
When Jesus is called the “Word of God”, its exclusively “logos”.

:34 the words of God – When Jesus spoke, He spoke with the same authority as Scripture. He spoke God’s words because He was God.

:34 measuremetron – measure, an instrument for measuring

:34 Spirit by measure – When God put His Spirit on Jesus, He didn’t just get a portion of the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit worked in an unhindered way through Jesus.

:35 "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.

:36 "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

:36 the wrath of God

We sometimes think that God is some guy with a bad temper who has gotten out of bed on the wrong side.

The wrath of God speaks of His justice.

You do like justice don’t you? When you watch one of those crime shows on TV, do you root for the criminal to get away with his crime, or do you want him to be caught and punished?
Justice in Cleveland , Ohio
Cleveland, OH (AP) - A fifteen-year old boy was at the center of a Cuyahoga County courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him.. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulation requiring that family unity be maintained to the highest degree possible. The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried and said that they also beat him. After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him. After two recesses to check legal references and confer with the child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to the Oakland Raiders, whom everyone firmly believed were not capable of beating anyone!!!
God is just. He will not allow sin to go unpunished.
The paradox of God is that He loving as well as just.
God loves you and doesn’t want you to have to pay for your sins because He knows that it’s too high a price to pay.
And that is why God sent His Son. To pay the penalty for our sins.
Jesus came to save us from the very correct, very appropriate wrath of God.
To escape the wrath of God, you need to have your sins paid for. That will only happen if you are trusting in God’s remedy, His Son Jesus.


Pointing back to Jesus

Look what John the Baptist is doing.
He starts out being questioned on whether his feelings were hurt when Jesus’ ministry was doing so well.
And he ends up doing what he’s supposed to be doing anyway, bringing people back to hearing the gospel.
It’s as if you were at work, and the guys started asking you, “Weren’t you upset that you didn’t get the promotion you were looking for?” And you just answer, “Hey, I’m not here to get promotions. I’m here to be a good servant of Jesus Christ by doing a good job and being a witness for Him.”


Are you ready to believe?