John 3: 22-36
We live in a culture and a world where the “spirit of competition” exists and is promoted in almost every aspect of life; sports, business; technology; wealth; beauty, education; everything is competitive.
- And there is nothing wrong with that. Competition generates quality; promotes achievement; excellence; there are many benefits as a result of competition.
- But like anything else there are situations where competition is not necessarily a good thing and we will see that in these verses that were read.
- So, if you would, look starting in vs. 22:
Verse 22, John says: “Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.”
- Jesus, with His disciples, has left Jerusalem and has come to this place in Judea…and He, along with His disciples, are baptizing.
- Now, more than likely Jesus and His disciples were continuing the “baptism of repentance” that John the Baptist was doing because Matthew 4:17 says that Jesus was preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, the same message that John the Baptizer was preaching; Matthew 3:2.
- So, Jesus and His disciples are continuing what John and his disciples have been doing.
Now, look at vs. 23: And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and they were coming and were being baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
- For some time now John has been in this area preaching and teaching…and baptizing people.
- And now, Jesus comes to this area…and what you have here is John and his disciples baptizing…and down the stream a ways, perhaps just over the hill or around the bend…you have Jesus and His disciples baptizing.
- Now, look at verse 25.
25 There arose therefore a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification.
- Now, we don’t know for sure what was said in this discussion.
- It may have been that this Jew was talking with John’s disciples about ceremonial washing compared to baptism.
- And it may be that somewhere in the discussion this Jew wants to know what the difference is between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism and why more people are going to Jesus and His disciples rather than to John’s disciples?
- And John’s disciples are upset because they didn’t know that Jesus and His disciples are baptizing and to make matters worse more people are going to Jesus and His disciples.
- And so, John’s disciples come to John and look at vs. 26:
26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have borne witness, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him.”
- “All are coming to Him” is an indignant or resentful exaggeration.
- It is as though they are saying, “Rabbi, here we are, we have been teaching and baptizing all of these weeks and months, and all these people were coming to us….and now, we find out that the one you were with beyond the Jordan”, He is baptizing too, and worse than that, more people are going to Him than they are to us!”
So, how is John going to respond to this?
- Is the spirit of competition going to kick in and is John going to say, “If Jesus and His disciples are doing that then we have to step up our work of baptizing; we have to hire some singers; and we have to get a light show; and we need to do more advertising; we are going to have to do something because there are too many people going to Jesus.
- That may be what John’s disciples are thinking. Is that going to be John’s response?
Well, look starting in vs. 27 and what John is going to do is he is going to explain to his disciples and give them 4 reasons why it doesn’t bother him one bit that more people are going to Jesus. Look at what he says; vs. 27.
He says, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.”
- What John is saying to his worried disciples is, “I didn’t do what I did on my own accord. It wasn’t my idea. It was God’s idea and it was God’s purpose.
- And John understood that God is sovereign and God gave him his assignment.
- And he understood that God was simply working through him to accomplish what God wanted.
- And if God wanted Jesus and His disciples to come to the region and call the people to repentance and baptize them; then that is God’s sovereign prerogative, and there is absolutely no reason for him and his disciples to be upset about it.
In short, what John is saying is, “We are not in competition with Jesus and His disciples.
- Instead, God is working His will through them just as He is through each one of us; and we are all on the same team with the same goal.”
And that is the lesson to us: In the kingdom of God we are not in competition with each other. We are all working for the same goal. We may have different abilities and different gifts but those abilities and gifts were given to us by God for us to use for God.
- And if you and I have the right heart and spirit, then when we see a brother or sister doing whatever God wants them to do…instead of being upset…what we should do is be excited…and filled with joy…because after all, our whole purpose as Gods’ children is to bring glory to Him, and to bring others to Christ regardless of who is doing it.
Serving God is not a competitive endeavor and we will be amazed at what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.
So, look at the second thing that John tells his disciples. Look at vs. 28:
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’
- John says, “Why are you getting upset? I told you that I am not the Christ. Instead, I am the one who proclaimed who He was!”
- And what John is saying is, “I am just glad that I was part of all of this!”
- And instead of his disciples being upset that is how they should have been.
And that should be the way we should be.
- We are not in competition with each other; can you imagine if we were.
- Who would win the baptism contest? Would it cause some to be baptized when they didn’t have a clue what they were doing?
- Who would win the prayer contest? Who would win for the longest prayer award? The best prayer?
- Who would win for the most visits to our shut-in? How many would it take to win?
Remember in 1 Cor. 12, the Holy Spirit had given the people different gift; some were given the gift of prophecy; others the gift of healing; some the gift of tongues; and it wasn’t long that they were “competing with each other”; “My gift is more important than yours.”
- The Holy Spirit gave them their gifts so they could accomplish what God wanted!
We are not in competition with each other; you may be a teacher; you may be an encourager; you may be one who builds up others; you may be a giver; you may be one who serves or one who leads singing or one who prays; whatever your gift is; whatever your ability is; you are serving Christ and, like John, be glad you are a part of what God is doing through all of us.
Look at vs. 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. And so this joy of mine has been made full.
- Let me ask you, when you go to a wedding, who is everyone focused on?
- People are going to know who the bride and bridegroom are; but how many are going to know who the best man is? Not many.
- John is telling his disciples that he was not supposed to be the focus of attention; the bridegroom and his bride were.
- But, he was glad to be a “friend of the bridegroom.”
- And he was glad to do all that a “best man” was to do at a wedding.
And John says at the end of the verse that this arrangement “fulfilled his joy.”
- Isn’t that the way we should be?
- Shouldn’t we; can’t we, instead of being upset like John’s disciples were that we aren’t the center of attention; that we aren’t the one everyone is coming to; that we are not the one who everyone is praising; can’t we be filled with joy that we are “a friend of the bridegroom?”
And then in vs. 30 John says: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
- This should be the motto of every Christian.
John had fulfilled his mission and purpose; he had played an important part; but now it was time for the star to come to center stage and assume His rightful place.
- And John was glad to yield the stage to Him because John, and His disciples would all benefit eternally for what Christ does, not on a stage, but on a cross.
John knew that it wasn’t about him. He knew it was all about Christ and he was glad to yield to Him.
- And it is not about us and we should be glad to yield to Him too.
So, the “spirit of competition” caused the disciples of John to be upset with Jesus and His disciples and John says that he is not bothered one bit that more people are going to Jesus than they are to Him.
- Isn’t that the way we should be?
- Isn’t that what is important; getting people to Jesus regardless of who does it?
John understood that God was working through him and his disciples and if God wanted people to go to Jesus that was God’s divine prerogative.
- Either way, God’s will was being done.
And John understood who he was and who he wasn’t and he was good with that; he was just glad to be a part of what God was doing through Christ.
And John was glad to be “the best man; a friend of Jesus”; doing what he could do for Christ. Shouldn’t we be too?
And John was glad to exit and let the star come on stage.
Competition in society can be good; but it really has no place in the kingdom of God; because in the kingdom of God we are all on the same team, working toward the same goal of bringing others to Christ; and we might be amazed at what can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.
John was not bothered one bit about anyone who wanted to come to Christ and be baptized. Neither am I and there is no one in this auditorium this morning that is either. In fact, we are all here to encourage you or assist you in any way we can.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023