If I were to give this passage a title, I would call it “Who’s the boss?”. In this passage John the Baptist makes it very clear to us and to everyone else, who between him and Jesus is the boss. Who between him and Jesus is in charge. Let’s look at it.
John 3:22-30 (ESVST)
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
After speaking to Nicodemus in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples went to the Judean countryside. He remained there with his disciples and was baptizing. We are told here that John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim. Now the reason we are told why John was baptizing at this place was that there was plenty of water there. Aenon was on the border of Samaria and Galilee across and near the river Jordan. So, here we find both Jesus and his disciples and John baptizing.
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John ‘s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 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.”
Here we see that John also had disciples with him. So we had Jesus and his disciples baptizing and John with his disciples also baptizing. Under normal circumstances and especially in today’s world, this was a recipe for disaster. Now as with all confrontations, it all starts with an argument between people and in this case, it was no different. Some of John’s disciples were having a discussion with a Jew regarding purification. We know from John 2:6 that purification was one of the Jewish’s rites. Some ceremonial washing that Jews performed but, based on the statement that they made to John, it appears that at some point in their discussion they saw and realized that Jesus was also baptizing and that became a point of discussion. They obviously saw that as a direct competition with John.
They came to John and told him that they saw Jesus and was baptizing and all were going to him. Rabbi means teacher. There were two issues that they had a concern with. One was that Jesus was baptizing as well and secondly that all were going to him. I am sure most of us if we were John, we would have said, “what! Who does he think he is, I baptized him. Now he thinks he can take my Job! He found me here and he will leave me here. I will show him!”. Is it not true, this is exactly what we would have probably said. Anyway, let’s see how John reacts to this.
27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
This is a very important statement that John is making here. This statement is as clear as it gets. You as a person, receive nothing unless it is given by God. Look at these verses:
James 1:17 (ESVST)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Hebrews 5:4-5 (ESVST)
And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“ You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
Now, as you can see even with the verses I quoted above, nothing comes to you unless given by God, nothing. Even the little that you have comes from God. So, instead of complaining, we should be grateful. Now why is John making such a statement? John wants his disciples to immediately understand that what Jesus does and what he is doing, is not based on their own choice but it is based on God’s choice. God gives whatever he wants to whoever he wants in whatever form he wants. So, what was given to Jesus was given to Jesus and what was given to him was given to him. I could preach for another hour about this verse. It is so rich but, that will be for another time.
28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. ’
Now, John says, you, of all the people, you can testify that I said I am not the Christ. I told you that I was sent before him. John is saying guys, have you forgotten so quickly that I said that I am paving the way of the one who comes after me. Have you forgotten when I said to you that behold the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Have you forgotten when I said this is he.
29 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.
Then John gives them an example of a bride and a bridegroom. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom or what we will know today as the best man, rejoices when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. Point being the best man does not have the bride but the bridegroom is the one that has the bride. The day does not belong to the best man but it belongs to the bridegroom. The best man is supposed to stand by and help whenever needed but all attention and all joy must be directed at the bridegroom and not the best man. The best man’s job is complete when the bridegroom is happy. The best man’s happiness is based on the bridegroom’s happiness.
So, John here is saying that Jesus is the bridegroom and he is the best man. All attention must go to Jesus and not him.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Then he makes a statement that finally settles the matter once and for all in all the minds of all who we’re listening.Jesus must increase and John must decrease.