CALL THE FIRST TWO WITNESSES – John 5:30-35

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I.  INTRODUCTION:

The Lord Jesus Christ had just claimed equality with God in seven areas.  The magnitude and the significance of Jesus’ claims called for substantiation.  Jesus now introduces five witnesses to validate those claims.  We are going to examine the first two witnesses in this study of John’s Gospel.

I.  HIS WITNESS CONCERNING HIMSELF (verses 30-31)

On the night I became a Christian, I was encouraged to read the Gospel of John.  In the first five chapters of John’s Gospel, two verses of Scripture really spoke to a need in my life as a new Christian, so I wrote down the references and the verses on the inside cover of my Bible.  The first verse was John 3:30, where John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease”.  The second verse was John 5:30, and I just wrote down the first part of the verse, “I can of mine own self do nothing”.  Those two verses described to me what living the Christian life was all about:  putting Christ first in my life, living to glorify Him, and realizing my own inability to do so apart from His enabling.

Verse 30 seems to be a transition verse.  I think Jesus is restating what He said in verse 19.  In that verse He said, “Truly, truly,  I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”  By saying these words in verses 19 and 30, Jesus is declaring that His testimony about Himself is true.  Notice that, in verse 30, Jesus starts speaking in the first-person again, using the words “I” and “Me” instead of “He” and “Him” when referring to Himself.  In the remainder of verse 30, Jesus says, “As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.” Therefore His witness and His judgments are true because it’s the Father’s witness through Him, and it’s the Father who is making the judgments.  Their witness and judgments are one-in-the-same.  The Greek word, “martyrion”, translated “witness”, is a very important word in John’s gospel.  We get our English word “martyr” from that Greek word, and it occurs 47 times in the gospel of John; so we’ll be seeing it again and again as more and more witnesses take the stand.

In verse 31, Jesus says, “If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true.” He’s speaking in a legal sense, meaning that it is not admissible in a court of law.  Of course, Jesus’ testimony is true for the reasons He has already given.  He and the Father are one and He always does the will of the Father.  But He is living among sinful men who may give false testimony if it’s to their advantage, and they think they can get away with it.  Even the law given to Moses does not allow a person to testify in his own case.  In Deuteronomy 17:6, God says, On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”  Again, in Deuteronomy 19:15. Moses writes, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or more witnesses a matter shall be confirmed”.  So Jesus is going to follow the Mosaic law and provide them with other witnesses of His deity and of His authority to judge men.

Have you ever placed the names of personal references or character references on your resume or job application?  Have you ever been asked by others if you would be willing to be a personal reference for them?  It’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility, isn’t it?  We choose personal references who are up-to-date in their relationship with us and can vouch for our character and abilities.  We want references whom we respect; who have known us for a number of years, and who think highly of us.  Isn’t that true?  Let’s see whom Jesus chooses to be witnesses of His character and deity.

II.  THE WITNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (verses 33-35)

In verses 33-35, we find that Jesus chooses John the Baptist as a witness.  I’ve skipped verse 32 for now because Jesus is alluding to Someone He is going to be describing in greater detail in verses 37-38.  For now we will call that person the “mystery Witness”.  Jesus reserves this Witness for later because He is the “Expert Witness”.

John the Baptist bore witness to the deity of Christ several times in John’s gospel.  You will find his testimony in chapters one and three.  John the Baptist was considered to be a prophet of God, and many, including a few of the Pharisees, believed his words, repented and were baptized. In verse 33, Jesus says, “You have sent to John, and he has born witness to the truth.”  He’s making reference to John 1:19.  The Jews sent priests and Levites to John asking, “Who are you?”, and John answered them truthfully.  Quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah, he says, “I AM THE VOICE OF ONE  CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD’ ” (John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3).  In another instance, John calls himself the “friend of the bridegroom”, making all the preparations for the wedding and waiting to hear the bridegroom’s voice. (John 3:29).  The focus of John’s words and John’s ministry was always on Jesus, the coming Messiah.  After Jesus began His public ministry, John encouraged all of his own disciples to follow Jesus.  At that point in time, John the Baptist was the best human witness to the deity of Christ.  He may not have looked like the best witness, considering the clothes he wore and the food he ate.  However, a good witness should not be determined by the clothes he wears or the food he eats, but by what he has seen and heard first-hand, what he knows, and by his integrity and willingness to provide the information he possesses.  You might say that the Lord Jesus chose John the Baptist to be one of His personal references on His resume, and He continues to give us more reasons for doing so in verse 35.

In verse 34, Jesus qualifies His words by saying, “But the witness I receive is not from man”.  His point is that He doesn’t require man’s testimony as proof of His Messiahship.  However, He includes John’s testimony “that you may be saved.”  John the Baptist’s words were true, and he was sent by God to prepare people’s hearts for the Savior.

Now Jesus gives us another description of John the Baptist, who, at that point in time, may be in prison or might already have been killed.  I say that because of the description Jesus gives in verse 35.  Jesus uses the past tense when he says, “He was a lamp that was burning and shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”  In the original Greek text, there is a definite article before the word “lamp”.  John the Baptist was God-appointed as a lamp to the nation of Israel.  The Greek word, luchnos, translated “lamp”, refers to a portable lamp (a candle or an oil lamp).  It was placed on a candlestick or a lampstand to provide light to those nearby and to be seen from a distance.   A different word was used to describe Jesus.  He was a “light”, and the Greek word, phos, means “to make manifest, to shine (especially by rays).  It is the word that is used to describe the sun.  Our words “photo” and “photography” are derived from that word.  John was a lamp that pointed the way to salvation in Jesus Christ.  He is described by Jesus as a lamp that was “burning and shining”.  A lamp must be lit in order to burn and shine.  God “ignited” John the Baptist, and he “burned” with a zeal for God; and he also “shone”, giving off the light of truth in the darkness.  F.B. Meyer makes this comment:  “A lamp must burn if it is to shine.”  In burning, the oil is eventually consumed.  In burning, the candle burns itself out when the wax and the wick are gone.  William Barclay said, “A true witness burns himself out for God.”  It’s a life-long passion and commitment.  So when Jesus used the words “was burning and shining”, it makes me wonder whether John’s life and witness had already “burned out” (come to an end). 

In verse 35, the Lord Jesus says three words that add a note of sadness to the ministry of John the Baptist.  Those words are:  “for a while”.  At the beginning of his ministry, large crowds of people came out to see him.  Matthew 3:5-6 says, “Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan.”  That’s a lot of people!   Some of them were travelling quite a distance to listen to him and be baptized by him!  But he made some enemies among the Pharisees and Sadducees when he called them a “brood of vipers“, and urged them to demonstrate genuine repentance for their sins, warning them of what would happen if they didn’t do so.  John’s popularity didn’t last long, but John wasn’t trying to win a “popularity contest”.  He accomplished the purpose for which God sent him by preparing the way for the Messiah, and he was an outspoken witness to the deity of Jesus Christ.  As the “friend of the Bridegroom”, his responsibility was to make all the preparations for the wedding, and when he heard the Bridegroom’s voice, calling for His bride (all who repent of their sins and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their King and Lord), it was time for him to step back, join the wedding guests, and rejoice in the wedding.

CONCLUSION:

Does the Lord Jesus Christ have you as a personal reference?  If not, He wants you as His personal reference.  My understanding of Scripture is that everyone’s name is written down in the Lamb’s book of life as a potential reference.  It’s written in blood: His own blood shed on the cross for you.  Your name is only blotted out of His book of life if you refuse to repent and acknowledge Him as the Lord of heaven and earth, Who paid the price your sins deserve, or if you keep putting it off until it’s too late.  He’s waiting and hoping, but the choice is up to you.  Your reference is there, but it hasn’t been activated yet.  Once it’s activated, it’s there forever.  What are you waiting for?  Now is the time to think it over and respond.  Now is the time to admit your need for Him, and to turn your life over to Him.  Please don’t choose to ignore, or refuse His desire and His offer to you.

If you are a born-again Christian, is Jesus Christ your personal reference?  Is His name listed first on your resume (your life)?  If so, shouldn’t it be obvious to others around you where you work, where you go to school, and in your community?  If you are a genuine, committed Christian, the Lord is not going to be an “add-on” reference in your personal portfolio.  His Name and a description of Him is going to fill the whole front page in large print and bold letters!  He will also be the “headliner” at the top of every other page!  People won’t be able to miss it, and that would be your intent!

Frances Ridley Havergal wrote a hymn based upon David’s call to commitment given to his army in I Chronicles 12, and His army’s response to him.  Verse 13 says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said:  “We are yours, O David, and with you, O son of Jesse.”  The title of her hymn is:  WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?  Below I’ve written the first stanza to that hymn, and I hope that you will find a hymnal and read the other three stanzas as well.

Who is on the Lord’s side?  Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world’s side?  Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord’s side?  Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side, Savior, we are Thine.

With our enlistment papers already signed, may we be clothed in His armor and standing together at the battle line.  May it be obvious to everyone we know and everyone we meet, that we are on the Lord’s side, and we will not retreat!

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

Thank you for visiting this recently-completed sermon on John 5:30-35.  I hope that you will take it to heart.  It’s time to move the equipment and tools to the construction site next door:  John 5:36-39.  It may take a couple of days to clear the land and set a foundation.  Until then, you’re welcome to visit the finished projects.  I believe there are 120 sermons on this blog site.   May you rely on the power of Christ and enjoy the presence of Christ at your side throughout this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL (Background and Opening Greetings) – John 4:1-9

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INTRODUCTION:

Do you find it easy and natural to open a conversation with a total stranger?  Are there certain people you would not go out of your way to begin a conversation with?  Are there certain people, or kinds of people, that you would try to avoid having a conversation with?   Are there people with whom you would feel hesitant or awkward about opening a conversation?  If you were honestly able to say “yes” or “no” to the first question,  and “no” to all the other questions, you are a very unusual and remarkable person!  The Lord Jesus Christ was an unusual and remarkable person when it came to initiating a conversation with a stranger.  There is much that we can learn from Him.

In John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus’ last one-to-one conversation with a “stranger” was His conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and Ruler of the Jews, and a devout and upright man.  They talked about “being born-again”, or “born from above”.  The next conversation is going to be as different as night and day because of the differences between the two people who talked to Jesus.  Let’s take a look at what led up to this meeting, and examine the opening remarks.

I.  THE DEPARTURE TO GALILEE (verses 1-3)

Chapter 4 begins with the words:  “When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were)”.  How quickly news spreads and gets distorted in the process!  What was a private conversation between John’s followers and John the Baptist has been turned into a “bone of contention” by the Pharisees.  Apparently they only heard, or wanted to hear, one side of the conversation.  What about John’s answer to them?  After sharing the relationship between the bride and groom and the friend of the bridegroom, John says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  The Pharisees weren’t interested in that part of the conversation.  They were looking for an excuse to start a major confrontation between the Jews and Jesus.

Verse 3 gives us Jesus’ response.  He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.”  Jesus wasn’t running away out of fear.  He was obeying the will of the Father.  His time of confrontation, leading to His death, had not yet come.  He was avoiding that confrontation for the time being because He was on the Father’s timetable, not theirs.  It was time to go back to the headquarters of His ministry, which was in Galilee.  There was much to be done there, as we shall see.

II.  THE ROUTE TAKEN (verses 4)

Verse 4 says, “And He had to pass through Samaria”.  Geographically speaking, Jesus did not “have to” pass through Samaria.  There were two other routes.  There was the direct route through Samaria, but most Jews, and all the Pharisees and  teachers of the Law, refused to take that route.  They would either take the coastal route or they would cross the Jordan River, travel north through Perea, and then cross the Jordan River again north of Samaria.  Using these two routes would double their travel time from three days to six days.  Jesus, however, had to go through Samaria because it was the Father’s will for Him to do so.  The Lord Jesus had an appointment to keep with a particular Samaritan, and no advance-notice was given to that person.

Why this unwillingness, on the part of the Jews, to go through Samaria?  Well, to say that the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along with each other would be putting it mildly!  Historical events from several hundred years earlier caused this hatred for one another to develop, and more recent events only served to fan the flames of that hatred.  Later on in Jesus’ ministry, the Jews, in an attempt to give Jesus the worst possible insult, said, “Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48).  Notice which description came first.  They are either saying that being a Samaritan is worse than being demon possessed or that all Samaritans are demon possessed.  Such was their hatred for the Samaritan people.

It all began 700 years earlier when the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom (Samaria) and took most of the Jews into captivity.  Those Jews who were left behind intermarried with the people from other nations that the Assyrians had conquered and placed in the northern kingdom of Israel.  They became despised by the Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah because they were no longer pure Jews.  The rest of the Jews who were taken into exile never came back but were assimilated into the gentile nation.  They were called “the lost 10 tribes of Israel”.  More information will be revealed in the upcoming conversation.

III.  THE REST-STOP ALONG THE WAY (verses 5-6)

In verse 5, the apostle John, since he was along with Jesus and the other disciples on this journey, gives us some geographical and historical information along the way.  He says, “So He (Jesus) came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there.”   Jacob’s well had a special place in Jewish history and historians say that Jacob’s well is “one of the best attested sites in Palestine, at least since New Testament times.”  Yet it’s possible that none of His disciples had ever seen the well before this occasion.  They may never have taken this route before, but they don’t question the Lord’s decision to go through Samaria.

Verse 6 gives us a brief description of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.  It was about the sixth hour.”  He got tired like we all do after physical exertion.  He needed time to sit down, get some rest, and quench His thirst.  Though the apostle John’s major focus is on the deity of Christ, he doesn’t pass up any opportunities to show that Jesus was also truly a man.  The Lord Jesus was now alone.  Verse 8 explains that “His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.”  The scene was ready in preparation for another private conversation.

“It was the sixth hour”.  They didn’t have clocks or watches in those days, and time was measured beginning at approximately 6:00 in the morning.  So it was about 12:00 noon, the hottest part of the day in that region.

IV.  A CONVERSATION BEGINS:  OPENING REMARKS (verses 7 and 9)

As Jesus sits there resting in the heat of the day, he beholds a Samaritan woman coming His way.  She has her water jar on her head or shoulder, and her leather bucket and rope in her hand in order to lower the bucket into the well and bring up the water to fill her jar.  This was not the usual time of the day for drawing water from this well.  Women usually came in the early morning or the late afternoon when it was cooler.  She came at noon, possibly because she had a bad reputation among the women in her village.  So she preferred to come to Jacob’s well for water at a time when no one else would be there.

As she begins to draw water to fill her jar, Jesus does the unthinkable.  He breaks tradition but He obeys God’s Word which says, “You shall love  your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). He asks this woman to do Him a favor.  In verse 4 the Lord Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink”.  He is not giving her a command but making a request of her.  Translated into our culture, Jesus is saying “May I please have a drink” or “Would you do me the favor of giving me a drink of your water.”  We don’t know His tone of voice but we know the kind of Person that Jesus was and is.  He obviously said those words with kindness and love in His voice because of her response.  I can imagine that her eyes must have widened and her jaw dropped.  She probably looked Him square in the eyes to see if He was being honest and sincere.  She must have seen much more than that in His eyes and facial expression because she does something that a Samaritan woman would never do to a Jewish man – she answers Him!   She broke her traditions by breaking her silence and responding to Him.

“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink, since I am a Samaritan woman?” (verse 9).  How did she know that Jesus was a Jew?  Was there a difference in physical appearance, clothing, or speech between Jews and Samaritans?  Probably all three, since they were a people of mixed race with different customs.

l don’t think this woman was being rude or sarcastic when she said those words to Jesus.  I think she was amazed by His words, the kindness in His voice and the sincerity and love in His eyes.  I also think that she said those words to Jesus after she gave Him the cup of water to drink.  The words “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” are in parentheses.  John may be adding those words to explain the reason for her reply.  They don’t appear to be words that were actually said by the woman.

I’ve learned a couple of lessons from the introductory remarks to this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  First, people are more important than traditions, laws, customs and prejudices.  When the Lord Jesus began and continued a conversation with this woman, He overcame just about every major prejudice you can think of:  racial, moral, religious, social, cultural, geographical, historical, and sexual.  She was more important to Him than her “dossier” (her public and personal background and reputation).  What about you and I?  What thoughts, attitudes and responses do we have toward different kinds of people, especially people who are vastly different from us, people who may treat us with distain or silence when we are around them?  The kind of love that Jesus demonstrated by His words and actions is impossible for us to imitate unless we are “born-again”, having become a child of God through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we become a new person, the transformation into the likeness of Christ can begin as we yield to the control of the Spirit of God within us.  Then the barriers between us and others can begin to break down and new relationships can be formed.

Secondly, The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us a lesson about receiving from others. There was an article in Psychology Today entitled “5 Reasons Why Receiving Is Harder Than Giving.”  Author John Amodeo gives these five possible reasons. 1.  Defense against intimacy  (keeping people distant).  2,  Letting go of control.  3.  Fear of strings attached.  4.  Belief that it is selfish to receive.  5.  A self-imposed pressure to reciprocate.

I had been giving to the support of two missionaries while in the military and in college, A few years after graduating from college I decided to go to Bible school in order to become a missionary myself.  When a mission board accepted me, I struggled with the idea of raising support for several of the reasons given above.  I talked to my spiritual mentor about my struggle to receive support from others.  He was one of the missionaries I supported.  I still remember his words.  He said, “Tom, it brought you a great amount of joy to give to the support of me and my family and the ministry God has called me to, didn’t it.  Well, your generosity to us brought us a great amount of joy also, and I’ve shared that with you many times.  Now you are in a ministry that involves raising support so that you can give full-time service in your focus of ministry for the Lord.  Don’t deprive others of the joy they would receive if they chose to support you, and continue to send your newsletter to everyone on your list whether they support you monetarily or not.”  He also encouraged me to add a personal note to  my prayer letters to make them personal.

We find many times in the Old Testament and the New Testament where God’s priests, prophets, disciples, as well as Jesus himself received gifts from others.  Like them, may we also be humble enough to receive and thankful enough to express our gratitude.

As I continue this study of John 4, I’ve found several enactments of this conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well on YouTube.  I’ve chosen to link to the following site because it shows two different enactments one after the other, and it follows the Scripture passage closely.  The second video is even more detailed and inclusive than the first.  Watching these two videos, as well as others, has given me a fresh perspective of John 4:1-42.  Here is the site.  Clicking it should take you there:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sma4o3mCPwA

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you will visit other sermons on this site as well.  May your conversations be seasoned with love and genuine concern for others.  May you also experience great joy in both giving and receiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE WORDS OF A HUMBLE MAN – John 3:22-30

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An article in the Discipleship Journal in the mid-1990’s said that we live in an age of self-love.  There is even a popular magazine on the market entitled “Self”.  Words like “narcissism” (the love of self), and “hedonism” (the pursuit of pleasure) are being used more-and-more often to describe our society.  I had never heard of those words when I was growing up.  Focus on the Family magazine had a short article entitled, “Remember What’s Important to a Man”.  Here are a few of the things mentioned in the article:  1)  Men fear nothing more than failure.   2).  Men are motivated by feeling significant.  3)  Men want to manage their own problems and be “Mr. Fix-It”.  The apostle Paul warns us in II Timothy 3:2 that in the last days “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant . . . “.

A virtue that is fading among men and women in our society, and in our churches today, is humility.  Evangelist Billy Graham made this comment:  “Most of us suffer from spiritual near-sightedness.  Our interests, our loves, and our energies are too often focused upon ourselves.”  A man by the name of John Seldon made this  observation:  “Humility is a virtue that all men preach, but very few practice.”  In the passage of Scripture we are now studying, John 3:22-30, a man is being described by the apostle John, who not only preached humility, but also demonstrated it by his life and by his attitude.  That man is John the Baptist.

I.  THE SETTING (verses 22-24)

Verse 22 says, “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.”  Actually, according to John 4:2, Jesus wasn’t doing the baptizing Himself, but His disciples were baptizing under His authority and direction.  In that sense Jesus was involved in the baptism proceedings.  It appears that they were baptizing in the wilderness areas rather than near the city, and may have been moving around the area where they had begun to baptize.

Verse 23 says, “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and they were coming and were being baptized.”  For a short time, until John the Baptist was put in prison (verse 24), the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist overlapped.  From the description given of their locations, they probably weren’t very far from each other.  Since they weren’t far from each other, and were doing identical ministries at the time, it’s a natural tendency to make comparisons and “keep score”, as if they were competing with one another.

John the Baptist had a great deal of popularity because of his preaching and his message.  Luke tells us that “multitudes went out to hear John.”  Matthew tells us that people came to him from Jerusalem, and all of Judea, and all the region beyond the Jordan River.  Some of these people were journeying for several days just to hear John the Baptist preach.

II.  THE PROBLEM (verses 25-26)

The problem was that the crowds around Jesus were growing, and John’s disciples were becoming worried about it.  They didn’t want to see their teacher and leader take second place to anyone else.  Verse 25 reads:  “There arose therefore a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification.”  At first I wondered what this verse had to do with the verses that follow, but I think it’s beginning to make sense.  The Greek word, katharismou, refers to cleansing or removal of dirt.  To the Jew, baptism was considered a form of cleansing.  They may have been discussing with this Jew about which baptism made you cleaner.  Which baptism had the greater cleansing effect:  the baptism of John or the baptism of Jesus performed by His disciples?  The comparison about their baptisms would lead to comparisons about the two people, John the Baptist and Jesus.  You know how one thing leads to another when you start making comparisons!

Well, it’s time to pass the bad news on to John the Baptist and help him come up with a new marketing strategy.  Off they go.  It says in verse 26. “And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have born witness, behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him’.”  They don’t even mention Jesus by name.  I don’t think they are being derogatory.  I think they still don’t know who Jesus is.  To them He is “the new Preacher on the block” who is taking away their teacher’s business.  They have forgotten, or overlooked the fact that John the Baptist had already encouraged at least two of his disciples to follow Jesus, and they did so (John 1:35-39).

III.  JOHN’S RESPONSE (verses 27-30)

A.  A Perspective (verse 27)

Instead of feeling sorry for himself and seeking their help, John the Baptist rejoiced at the popularity of Jesus, and is going to give them reasons to rejoice along with him.  He begins by looking at earthly abilities and earthly success from a heavenly perspective.  “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.”  John is saying that all success ultimately comes from the same Source.  If God is the Giver, then we should rejoice, not only over what He gives to us, but also over what He gives to others.  If Jesus and His disciples are being successful, that should bring us joy because God is being glorified through them.

B.  A Reminder (verse 28)

Now John the Baptist reminds them of something he said to them earlier.  “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ’, but ‘I have been sent before Him’.”  Those words were recorded earlier in chapter 1, verses 20 and 23. 

Leonard Bernstein, the great music composer, arranger, and conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for many years, was once asked which instrument was the most difficult to play.  He thought for a moment and then replied, “The second fiddle.  I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem.  And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.” 

Up until this time, John the Baptist was “first fiddle”.  Everyone was coming to listen to him.  But he is reminding his followers that he was called and gifted to be the “forerunner”, the one sent on ahead to get people ready for the “Master Violinist”.  John is saying that it is now his privilege to “change seats” and play alongside Him in harmony and with enthusiasm.  In so doing, the sounds of the Master will be all the more attractive and pleasing to the ears of their listeners as the two of them follow the direction of their Conductor, God the Father in heaven.

C.  An Illustration (verse 29)

John the Baptist now uses the context of marriage to give a very clear and beautiful illustration of his relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The following are his words in verse 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.”  John the Baptist calls himself the “friend of the bridegroom”.  It is not his wedding.  His function was to serve the bridegroom.  The closest similarity in my culture would be the “best man”.  I’m going to compare the two roles so that you can see the differences and gain a better understanding of what John the Baptist has said.

Have you ever been the “best man” at a wedding?  If you are married, did you have a “best man” at your wedding?  Being a “best man” is quite an honor, isn’t it?   It is questionable these days just what the responsibilities of the “best man” are.  A classmate of mine was asked to be the “best man” at his friend’s wedding and he had no idea of what he was supposed to do.  So he borrowed a book on etiquette from the library.  He looked up the responsibilities of the “best man” and it said, “help seat the family and friends of the bride and groom, give the ring to the groom during the ceremony, protect the groom’s car”, and when he read the last responsibility he started laughing.  It read, “help the groom dress himself”.  Well, the glorious day of the wedding arrived, and as he and the groom were in the dressing room getting ready, he quickly found out why that responsibility was written in the book.  The groom was so nervous and his hands were shaking so much that my classmate had to button all the buttons on his friend’s tuxedo for him!

In the Jewish culture during the time of Christ, the “best man”  was called “the friend of the bridegroom” (the “shoshben“), and he was in charge of everything:  the preparations for the wedding ceremony, the ceremony itself, and the reception afterward.  With the exception of the bride and groom, everyone else in the wedding, as well as everyone making preparations for the wedding, answered to him and took orders from him.  The friend of the bridegroom was the most-trusted friend of the bride and groom, and had the responsibility of protecting them and acting as a liaison between them, delivering messages to them from each other.  He also sent out the wedding invitations or personally delivered them himself.  His objective, as he made preparations, was to make this wedding celebration a memorable time of great joy and rejoicing for the bride and groom, their families, and all who were invited.

The friend of the bridegroom’s last and most important responsibility was to protect the bridal chamber.  After the wedding the friend of the bridegroom would open the door to the bridal chamber for the bride to enter and make herself ready for her husband.  He would then station himself at the door to keep any false lovers from entering.  When it became night he would wait and listen for the sound of the bridegroom’s voice, and when he heard it and recognized it, he would let the bridegroom into the chamber and go on his way rejoicing.  The lovers were now together.  His responsibilities as the friend of the bridegroom were now finished.  He could now go to the wedding banquet and enjoy the feast,

D.  An Explanation (the Old Testament Prophets)

Now that we have a basic understanding of a first-century Jewish wedding, let’s see how it applies to John the Baptist.  If he is the friend of the bridegroom, then who are the bride and groom, and when is the wedding?  John the Baptist doesn’t give any details in answer to those two questions because there is no need to do so.  The prophets have already given those details, and because they are Messianic prophecies, his listeners know them very well.  Let’s take a look at them and you will see what I mean.

John the Baptist had already told his disciples that he was the forerunner, in fulfillment of Malachi’s prophesy at the very end of his book.  Now He is telling them that the Messiah is no longer coming – He’s already here and He is the One they are complaining about!  I can just see their eyes widen in amazement as he gives them the news!  Now that marriage-illustration he just used is bringing many prophesies to their minds because the long-awaited Messiah is here.  In several places God refers to Israel, or alludes to Israel, as His bride.  For example, in Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts”.  Isaiah 62:4,5 says, “But you will be called ‘My delight is in her,’ and your land, ‘married’. . . And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.”  In Hosea, God tells the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot as a visual depiction of what Israel has done to Him.  In Hosea 2:19, God tells the people of Israel, “And I will betroth you to Me forever.  Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice.”

It’s obvious from the illustration that John the Baptist uses in verses 28-29 that the groom refers to Jesus Christ.  There is debate, however, about whether the bride he refers to is Israel or the Church.  I’m personally convinced that the bride, in this case, is Israel because he is speaking to Jews, his ministry is to the nation of Israel, he is using the Old Testament as his backdrop, his purpose is to introduce the nation of Israel to their Messiah, and the church-age doesn’t begin until Pentecost (Acts 2).

AN APPLICATION:

Now we come to one of my favorite verses in the Bible:  John 3:30.  After I turned my life over to Jesus Christ, and was reading the whole New Testament once a week, this verse, John 3:30 was the first verse that I wrote down on the inside cover of my Bible.  To me, it described the essence of living the Christian life, and I wanted Christ to become more and more evident in my life.  John the Baptist gave that response in Aramaic, and we don’t know what Aramaic words he used.  But I believe that he said those words with a smile on his lips and his face beaming with joy!

In verse 30, John uses a particular word twice.  It’s the English word “must”.  We often think of that word as being negative and unbending.  As you were growing up, do you remember times when your parents used that term when speaking to you?  Was it used when telling you to do something you didn’t like to do or didn’t want to do?  Was the conversation something like this:  “Do I have to? . . . Yes you must!”  Was it one of those “end of conversation” conversations?  In order to keep from getting a wrong understanding of the apostle John’s reasons for using that word, we need to take a close look at the Greek word that has been translated “must”.

The Greek word that is used in verse 30 is dei.  Remember that John is writing these words to a Greek-speaking audience who are influenced by the Greek culture.  In the classical Greek writings the word dei was often associated with fate – an inner compulsion or calling that spurs a person on and brings personal fulfillment.  The word is sometimes used to describe the fulfillment of one’s destiny.  These descriptions may be closer to the meaning of John’s words.  In that case, it would not only be motivated by joy but produce greater personal joy as a result.

There is no clear Hebrew equivalent to this Greek word – no word or phrase that matches it exactly.  So what is the Christian equivalent of the Greek word dei, and the Greek concept of fate?  How do you translate it into Christian terms that we might understand?  Because the God of the Hebrews is an infinite, personal God who is sovereign over all, there was no need for such a thing as fate.  The word “dei” meant the divine plan of God in a person’s life –  “That’s my calling from God”; “That’s the fulfillment of God’s plan for my life”.  God’s plan for John the Baptist was very clear and specific.  It was written in the Old Testament scriptures and it was described to his parents before his birth.  So it was very clear to him that he had now fulfilled his God-given privileges and responsibilities, and that brought him great joy.

We don’t get much of a look at John the Baptist.  There aren’t many words written about Him, but what is written gives us a clear picture of his role in God’s plan of salvation, and his enthusiasm in fulfilling that role.  As the result of studying the person of John the Baptist, I believe that a truly humble person is not a person who tries hard to be humble.  He is not a person who makes it a point to be humble by wearing humble facial expressions, saying humble words and doing humble deeds.   A truly humble person is definitely not a person who considers himself to be humble!

I sincerely believe that a truly humble person doesn’t even think about humility.  The focus of his thoughts and attention is on God and others.  John the Baptist would never admit it, but by his words and his actions he has demonstrated that he is a remarkably humble man.  No wonder the Lord Jesus praised him so highly!

May we find rest for our souls from the One who is “meek and humble in heart” – the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we also learn from the example of the man whom the Lord Jesus praised above every other man:  John the Baptist.

Please visit other sermons on this site if this message has been of instruction and encouragement to you.  The next construction site, John 3:31-36 will be underway soon.  I hope to see you there.