After Jesus finished talking with Nicodemus, He “and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. For John had not yet been thrown into prison. Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification. 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!" John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' "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. He must increase, but I must decrease. 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. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. 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" (John 3:22-36).

Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus had taken place in Jerusalem, which was in the Roman province of Judea. But after that conversation, Jesus went out of the city into the “land,” that is, out into the country districts of that province. We learn from this passage that Jesus followed the practice established by his forerunner of baptizing. We learn from John 4:2 that Jesus did not baptize personally, but that His apostles baptized with His sanction and under His direction. The baptism they practiced at this time was prepatory for the kingdom of heaven, which was at hand, just as was the baptism practiced by John.

We might note in passing that John had chosen the place where he was teaching and baptizing because “there was much water there.” The so-called “baptism” of most denominational churches today doesn’t require much water, but the baptism practiced by John and by Jesus’ disciples, did.

Some detractors came to John and sought to arouse his envy by telling him that Jesus was baptizing and “all are coming to Him.” Rather than being upset, John was pleased. He said, “Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Just as Jesus had indicated to Nicodemus, John indicated to those who came to him that Jesus could speak authoritatively about heavenly things. He closed his testimony with “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life…”

John used an illustration from their wedding traditions to show the relative importance of himself to Jesus. Jesus was the bridegroom. John was simply the groomsman, the friend of the groom. Though their ministries overlapped for a few months, basically John’s mission was accomplished when Jesus’ ministry was fully established. The time had come for John to fade into the background, and for the multitudes to turn to Jesus and hear His teachings.

By – Clarence R. Johnson
via the Susquehanna Sentinel 8-14-2005

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