John the Baptist’s Continuing Witness Concerning Jesus (John 3:22-36)
Here in this passage we get John the Baptist’s witness to who Jesus was. Jesus’ disciples were starting to baptize more than John and this worried some. However, John continues to witness to the fact that Jesus is the messiah and that he has just come to prepare the way for him.
It is important to note that what is at stake here is the comparison of Jesus and John the Baptist, not in the nature of baptism itself. Therefore, taking any theological stands on Baptism from this verse would be unwise. The point is to compare the two ministries and again here John says that Jesus is the one greater than him that he has been proclaiming.
However, there are a lot of similarities between John the Baptist and Jesus, both had miraculous births, both parents were visited by angels, and both deaths are to only two significant deaths mentioned in the Gospels. However, the differences outweigh the similarities and even in the similarities, the differences are significantly greater because although John the Baptist is the greatest prophet ever to live, Jesus is God.
We see in verse 25 that a debate between John’s disciples and a Jew had broken out and in verse 26, we see that the debate with the Jew raised further reflections amongst some of John’s disciples over the durability of their master’s ministry, especially in light of the rising popularity of Jesus.
In verse 28, we see that John the Baptist, unlike some of his followers, is not worried by news of Jesus’ rising popularity. He had always made clear to his followers that he was not the Christ, but that he was sent to prepare the way for the messiah. And this should be our response today as well. Our job as Christians’ is not to call attention to our own teaching or ministry, but to be pointing everyone to the one greater than us that deserves all the glory.
In verse 29, we now get a parable that explains John the Baptist’s understanding of his own role. The friend who attends the bridegroom , then ancient equivalent of a best man who organized the details and presided over a Judean wedding, found his greatest joy in watching the ceremony proceed without a problem, and in knowing that the groom and his bride were without a problem, and in knowing that the groom and his bride were being united with great rejoicing. This parable is not an accident. Jesus makes a comparison between himself and the church being the bride in Ephesians 5.
What John means by this parable is to say, that he has the final and ultimate satisfaction of knowing that his God-given ministry has been successful. The rising importance of Jesus, as upsetting as it may have been to some of John’s disciples, floods John himself with surpassing joy, because that was exactly what he himself had worked for. Therefore, let us all live lives that say, I must decrease and He must increase. Let us be putting off our fleshly desires, and looking towards ways that we can live a life that glorifies Christ.
In verses 31-36, we get a summary of this last statement, “I must decrease and He must increase.” These verses also serves as a summary of the chapter closing up the themes that have been discussed. John starts by explaining why Jesus must become greater. It is because Jesus alone is from above and is therefore above all. By contrast, all others are from the earth. John the Baptist although the greatest prophet ever to live is from earth and must become less.
In verses 33-34, we see that to believe Jesus is to believe God. Conversely, not to believe Jesus is to call God a liar. And in verse 36 we get the final summary statement of this chapter. This verse lays out only two alternatives, genuine faith or defiant disobedience, this verse once more brings to the forefront the threat of looming judgment. And that is what Jesus is calling for us to do today. Believe on Him for eternal life, or call God a liar and experience His wrath. (Carson, 1991)