Remember, why are we going through the book of John? To find out who Jesus is. To see Him, to see what the scripture actually says. To take our ideas of Who Jesus is, and compare them, and let our false ideas fall away. Let’s go on.
John chapter 3, beginning in verse 22. John the Baptist is coming back into the story.
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
Okay. So Jesus has disciples, and one of them, we know, is the man who wrote this gospel. John the author. And John the author used to be a disciple of John the Baptist. So Jesus takes his disciples and is teaching and going around and baptizing people, and yet John the Baptist is still doing this.
And then an antagonist, (it just says, “a Jew,” which, actually, they all were,) comes and gets into an argument and THEN he tries to get John the Baptist burned up because Jesus is also baptizing, and moreover, John’s disciples are leaving and going to Jesus. Among them, John the author, who is telling this story.
What do you expect to happen? If this happened in a modern church, what would you expect to happen? You would expect John the Baptist to trash talk Jesus.
How many times has someone left a group for another congregation, and people shake their heads or speak cutting words? It’s because we are all out to build our own following, and if someone isn’t with us, we’re against them.
But this isn’t what John the Baptist does. Listen to what he says.
John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.”
He humbly recognizes that Jesus is greater. In fact, he goes on to complete defend Jesus- and to make it clear that he backs everything Jesus says.
“He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
And then see what happens:
“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.”
What does Jesus do? He mercifully changes things so that his servant, John, is not dishonored any longer.
I know I’ve said before that the only perfect person in the bible is Jesus, and we have to weigh the actions and words of all the other people. But here, John gives us an excellent example to follow. Actually, they both do.
Especially those of us who want to be teachers.
Look back at the first statement John makes- “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
This is interesting. If we, who love the word and love to teach it, have received knowledge, insight, or wisdom, we ought to remember that it all comes from heaven. It’s all from God. We know and understand nothing on our own. So when we teach, we are only passing on what we have received ourselves, undeservedly.
And so, if another teaches more or even better, instead of being envious of their ministry, following, gifts, or publishing contract, we should acknowledge that they, like us, are only passing on the gifts from heaven they received. We shouldn’t discredit them or down talk them. We shouldn’t try to build our reputation by putting down another’s.
This reminds me of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, beginning in verse 10. Let’s read it in the Voice translation.
My brothers and sisters, I urge you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, to come together in agreement. Do not allow anything or anyone to create division among you. Instead, be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgment. I have heard troubling reports from Chloe’s people that you, my siblings, are consumed by fighting and petty disagreements.
What I have heard is that each of you is taking sides, saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with the Anointed One.” Has the Anointed One been split up into many small pieces? Do you think Paul was crucified for you? Were you ceremonially washed through baptism into the name of Paul? Absolutely not!
Now I am thankful that I baptized only Crispus and Gaius, so none of you can falsely declare you were baptized in my name. (Now wait, as I think about it, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; if there are others in your community whom I baptized, I cannot recall at this moment.)
The mission given to me by the Anointed One is not about baptism, but about preaching good news. The point is not to impress others by spinning an eloquent, intellectual argument; that type of rhetorical showboating would only nullify the cross of the Anointed.
And this is the message to all of the teachers in the church- to come together in agreement. To not allow anything or anyone to create division among us. To be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgement.
It’s interesting here that Paul talks about baptism, and how he did not baptise much. And remember above, that is says, Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples did it. It was for the same reason, I believe, that Jesus did not. So that no one would be able to assert his importance over another. “I was baptized by Pastor Big Wig of the Great City Church.” “…Oh yeah? I was baptized by Jesus himself.”
No, but we are all baptized, humbly, by the person who came before us in the church.
In fact, this is how we receive so much- through humility and teachability, by learning from those who have gone before us.
And so if we are lacking in revelation and understanding, we should not puff ourselves up and tear others down. We should humble ourselves, and learn, and seek the Lord.
And then let it be true of us what John said-
“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”
I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to do. I write and teach and want to share the good things God has given me, and it’s hard to be passed over or ignored, or to feel put aside. It’s not wrong to have a yearning to use our gifts, or to teach the things we’ve learned.
But I have to watch carefully that in my desire to do this, I’m not pushing for the sake of my own fame, or glorifying in my own success. When I write, or sing, or create, or teach, and it goes well, it’s exhilarating, it is.
But I am learning more and more the idea of using these things to please the Lord- and sometimes that means my gifts are not noticed or valued by the world. When that happens, it’s easy to look at others and be envious of their large platforms and ministries.
I have always wanted to be liked, I want so much to be affirmed and valued and praised. But I want my heart to be so turned towards the Lord that I delight in his affirmation and praise, and I can give and teach to one or thousands, and either way, I am satisfied.
I’m not there. I want to see a post go viral, of course. I want to sing and have audiences want to listen. And there are times when the Lord asks me to do things that I’m loathe to do because I’m afraid of what people will think.
But when I see this in the scripture, how John humbled himself, and in return Jesus mercifully made the situation less awkward and painful, It makes me trust him more. It makes me feel more willing to do some of these things that I’m scared of doing.
I want to fix my eyes on Him, the author and finisher of my faith. I want to do like Jesus says to Peter at the end of this book- to stop thinking about others and just remember that Jesus says, “What’s that to you, even if I were to let him live forever? You follow me.”
That’s how to avoid friction. We all just keep going towards Him, right?
This post is part of an ongoing series going through the book of John. You can subscribe by email using the link on this page, or you can browse by passage at the lead page. Just click here.