John the Baptist #3: The Preparer and His Lord
Text: John 3:22-36
Immediately after John the Apostle records the meeting of
Jesus and Nicodemus and records probably the most well know verse and in the
New Testament, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life,” he then records the testimony of John the Baptist about
Jesus. Once again we see how important the words and testimony of John the
Baptist were in preparing the way of the Messiah. This passage also shows what the
Baptist understood about his role and his relationship to Jesus and opens a
window into the humble character of John. A lesson that every modern day
Baptist also need to learn.
John And His Disciples - John 3:22-29
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the
land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. And John also was
baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they
came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison.
Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
John’s Character and Calling
Occasion and Cause - This story of John begins in John 3:22 with Jesus and his disciples moving outside of Jerusalem and Jesus is preaching and his disciples are baptizing in the Jordan and near them John is also preaching and baptizing people in preparation to meet their Messiah.
In vs 25 a question comes up about purifying and this seems to have lead to baptism and baptism to John and Jesus. And that led to the disciples of John defending their master and his ministry. When the discussion ended the disciples of John went to their master asked about Jesus, who they said Jesus, who you introduced, who you put on the public stage, behold he is just down the river and he is now everyone is going to hear Him. John 3:25-26 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizes, and all men come to him.
John’s answer to his disciples is a window into this character and calling. He is a man…
Blessed by God and humbled by the blessing. He says in John 3:27 A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. He is telling his disciples all that I am, all that I have, all that I will ever be is because of what God’s blessing in my life.
He Is a man who understands his calling John 3:28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. John understood what his task, his work, his calling from God wae and therefore, he knew who he was.
And most important, He is a man who knew himself through his relationship and services to Jesus Christ. John 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. John illustrates his role in relationship to Christ as that of the best man, whose job it was to prepare everything for the wedding. He had to do all the work behind the scenes but then stands asides and takes great joy when the bridegroom can be heard coming and calling his bride. This now being completed, John says, fulfills my joy.
As we read what John understands about himself, his calling and his fulfillment, it should lead us to three considerations, three questions about ourselves concerning those same things.
First, How do you understand who you are? How do you see yourself and your talents, your abilities, your possessions, or any of the things that we know or define ourselves by? John said, A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. He was humbled by all the blessings that knew came from God above.
James, the brother of Jesus said it this way in James 1:16-17 Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Everything good thing we have, everything we own, everything we are is because of God’s blessing our life. When we know this then we will live in the humility that that understanding brings.
And if you don’t possess that kind of humility and knowledge the Lord sometimes has a way of teaching you. Like the pastor who was asked to speak for a large charitable organization that all the big wigs in town belonged to. The pastor thought he had done a pretty good job and was patting himself on the back when the program chairman tried to hand him a check. "Oh no, I couldn't take that," the pastor said, “It was an honor being asked to speak. You apply that to one of your uses." The program chairman asked, "Well, do you mind if we put it into our Special Fund?" The pastor replied, "Of course not. What is the special fund for?" The chairman answered, "It's so we can get a better speaker next year. -James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 296.
Know you are blessed by God and stay humble in those blessings.
Secondly, in light of John’s answer to his disciples we should ask, “Do we understand our calling?”
Every child of God is a called child of God. First we are called in salvation to God, and then along with that call and inseparable we are called to service for God. Listen to Paul in Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (Here is what the Bible teaches we are predestined to) in vs. 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.
You are called to the praise of His glory. You are called to bring the things of this world to nothing in the light of the glory of His presence. A light we are called to carry into this dark world.
Finally, Do you understand who you are in your relationship with Jesus? John said, my joy is fulfilled in my role as the preparer of the way of the Lord. He knew who he was by his relationship to his Messiah. That knowledge brought him fulfilling joy.
We can never know who we are or why we are here on this earth unless we know Jesus as our Savior, Jesus as our Lord, Jesus as our King and how we can and must serve Him. We have a role in our relationship with Jesus, it won’t be the role John had, but our own. In that role and relationship we will find the joy and fulfillment that only comes when we see ourselves through our relationship to Jesus.
My role may be insignificant in comparison to someone like John, but in the work of the Lord, every task is vital and every job has its reward. I remember as story about another John, John Brodie, who was the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers a long, long time ago. He was once asked by one of these eager to get new insight reporters, why a million-dollar player like him should have to kneel down and hold the ball for field goals and points after a touchdown. "Well," Brodie though for a moment and then said, "if I didn't, the ball would fall over." There you go.
John in answering the questions of his followers goes further in talking about his purpose in relationship to Jesus. And in vss. 30-31 He gives us a great rule to live by in our relationship to our Lord.
John And His Jesus - John 3:30
He must increase, but I must decrease.
John makes this simple but thought-provoking statement "He must increase but I must decrease." It is powerful because its shortness and directness force us to examine its depths. It is both an explanation to his disciples of what is happening right now along the Jordan river and also a reminder of his role and calling given to him by God.
John knew, and now his disciples knew, that his light must
fade while Jesus’ light must shine brighter. The more Jesus and his ministry increased,
John proportionately must decrease. This may not have seemed right to John’s
disciples, after all it was John who had baptized Jesus and called out,
“Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” But for John it
was not a hard truth, but a joyous one. It was not difficult to be humble because
he was looking to Jesus, how could he see himself as important compared to the
glory of Jesus Christ.
Throwing out the ballast
John said, I must decrease in myself in order for Jesus to increase. That was not just a true statement about John and his relationship to Jesus but it is a universal true statement about us and our relationship to Jesus. This must be our understanding and also our action.
Think of it this way, If you were to be riding in a hot old fashioned hot air balloon, in order to rise higher, you must throw the ballast over board. To rise even higher even more valuable things must be tossed or even sacrificed. So, it is with the Christian in their relationship to Jesus. To rise higher with him I must toss out the things in my life that hold me down. I must decrease in myself that I might increase in Jesus Christ.
Survey this truth in Colossians
Col. 1:27 1st step Launch with the right pilot, it's Christ in you
To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Col. 2:6-7 2nd step Stay the course, As ye received so walk.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [so] walk ye in him:
Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Col. 2:20-22 3rd step Let go the regulation rope, tied to the world.
Therefore if ye are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
Col. 3:1-2 4th Step Breath the rarefied air.
If ye then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
We are alive with Christ, therefore, we must then look to Christ, love the things of Christ, and know that our life is hid with Christ.
If you're going to rise in your relationship with Jesus, then your own efforts, strength, and will must cease. They must be the ballast you throw overboard. Then you can rise up and Jesus will be the one piloting your course. "He will increase as I decrease."
Paul’s Landing on Melita in Acts 7
Do you remember the story of Paul’s shipwreck on the island of Melitat in Acts 7? It is a picture of throwing away our own resources and trusting in God. We won’t read the passage but you rember the story. Days without seeing the sun, terrible winds a terrible storm and all they could do was let the ship run before the wind. They began tossing over board everything that could weight the ship down. First the Cargo: They lightened the ship; then the Reserves: And the third day we cast out the tackling of the ship. Next any Hope in themselves: all hope taken away. Then even cut away their only means of Escape: cut off the ropes of the boat and let her fall off. Their threw away their Future: they lightened the ship, and cast the wheat into the sea. Finally, even Themselves: cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: When it was all gone, they realized, All they needed was God. Acts 27:43-44 they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.
They cast away everything until all they had left was God. There is a saying, “When you come to the place in your life when God is all you have left, then you will realize that God was all you ever needed."
Now John the apostle and writer of this book, adds own emphasis, his summary to the testimony of of John the Baptist. That commentary turns the focus directly on us.
John And His Message - John 3:31-36
He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
John’s (the Evangelist) Testimony of Jesus
In light of what John the Baptist said, John the Evangelist now adds his own testimony about Jesus and those who would be His followers.
First, he says, Jesus is above all because he came from heaven. No one on earth has greater authority for Jesus was sent from heaven above. Despite that authority, John looks at those around him and says, no man receives this testimony. He means that because of who Jesus is all show heard him should have believed in Him and yet the nation of Israel rejected Him, the Romans crucified Him and the Jews and the Romans were now persecuting the Lord’s church, left behind to give witness of their heaven sent savior.
It’s the second thing he said that is important to us. John 3:33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
Not all reject the word of Jesus for those who receive his testimony accept them as being from God. John says, he sets his seal, signs the document, put his reputation on the line. That person believes. They believe every word, every promise, every lesson, every parable that Jesus spoke. They believe what Jesus said.
And they believe who Jesus was. They believe that he was sent from heaven, loved by the Father, filled by the Spirit, and given authority over all.
One final thing Jesus says in this passage about those who believe and those who don’t believe. Those who believe John says, have everlasting life but those who don’t believe will not see life, instead of light and life all they will ever see is the wrath of God that abides on them right now. A terrible judgment that cannot be removed without faith in the One from Above.
Trusting In The Testimony
John says there are two groups of people when it comes to Jesus, those who believe His testimony and those who will not believe. Those who believe, accept the truth of Jesus’ words, life and teaching. They accept Jesus as the Son of God sent by God to save us from the wrath of God. They believe that Jesus is above all and that in Him and only in Him we have eternal life and hope.
The other group are those who will not hear or if they hear will not respond in simple faith. They aren’t just rejecting a belief system, a religion, a world view. No, John says they are rejecting Jesus. In vss 30-36 Jesus is referred to 12 times. Its all about Jesus and if we don’t believe in Him, then we are denying Him, we are denying His words, denying His invitation to come unto Him and denying His death on the cross for my sin. We are even denying that God is true.
Which of those two groups are you in this morning? There is no gray, no in between. There is only believing or denying, everlasting life or everlasting wrath. John says that God’s wrath hovers over all of us and waits like a sword dangling from a thread, it hangs there. Our trust in Jesus will remove it and replace it with the shield of God’s love. Our refusal to believe will leave it over our eternal soul, until the time of choosing passes with the passing of earthly life. If that happens then God’s wrath drops and we must experience all that the rejection of God’s own Son will bring for all eternity.
I stand this morning before you and declare, I have chosen to believe. I believe that Jesus came from above. I believe that He is above all. I believe He died for all. I believe He is coming for all who believe in Him. I believe that I have a calling in Him, a purpose that will echoe in eternity. And I believe I can only find full joy and fulfillment in that calling if I decrease and Jesus increases.
I want to hang like a banner in my heart, that simple, powerful, deep truth that John understood, lived and died by, "He must increase, but I must decrease."