Day 31: Why We Should Listen to Jesus

John 3:31-36 : “He who comes from above is above all. He who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What he has seen and heard, of that he testifies; and no one receives his witness. He who has received his witness has set his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for God gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won’t see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Here we read more of John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus. This is still in response to those who were saying that Jesus was getting more disciples than John. John says that whatever Jesus says is more important than anything anyone else would say. He explains that this is because Jesus is the only one who came from Heaven and can talk about heavenly things based on his first-hand experience.

John was a major prophet. Here John is saying that no one other than Jesus can come close to His importance. This is important to consider because some people try to compare Jesus to men. Once again, Christianity spoken of here as an exclusive religion. It doesn’t allow anyone to be on the same level as Jesus. He is God’s only Son.

John also mentioned that no one was accepting His message. He explained that God gave Jesus a limitless supply of the Holy Spirit and that He had put “all things” in His hands. This is an extreme situation. Jesus deserves to be treated as the most important person ever to come to earth, but men are not even listening to Him at all. Perhaps it will comfort you that Jesus went through this and felt what it was like to not be treated as He really deserved.

Then John repeats Jesus’ message that anyone who believes on Jesus has everlasting life but anyone who doesn’t will not only not get life, he will get God’s wrath instead. These wonderful and fearful words are repeated in John in the following references: John 3:16; 3:18; 5:24. There is life to those who believe and wrath for those who don’t. It is easy to see why this message was repeated. Hell is no place for anyone but that is exactly where the Bible says we will be going if we don’t believe in Jesus. It is important that everyone hears these words and understands that it is Jesus who says them and He was like no other person who ever came to this world.

Day 30: Joy of a Friend

John 3:22-30 : After these things, Jesus came with his disciples into the land of Judea. He stayed there with them, and baptized. John also was baptizing in Enon near Salim, because there was much water there. They came, and were baptized. For John was not yet thrown into prison. There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John’s disciples with some Jews about purification. They came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same baptizes, and everyone is coming to him.” John answered, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves testify 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. This, my joy, therefore is made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Here we find Jesus and His disciples baptizing in Judea and John the Baptist baptizing in Enon. Notice that this is another place to check Biblical geography. I can see by looking at the map that John the Baptist was baptizing up north of Samaria closer to Galilee where Jesus grew up. Evidently, Jesus and His disciples had traveled south to Judea and were baptizing there.

This part also mentions that John was to be thrown in prison. As I indicated in an earlier post, this story is provided detail in other historic accounts in the Bible. At this time, John was still free and baptizing. It is also mentioned that the Jewish leaders were still questioning John’s people about “purification”. I am not exactly sure what they were talking about in particular, but the issue of baptisms must have come up again because of what they ended up talking to John about. It became a concern among John’s disciples that Jesus was getting more publicity.

Again, as we have heard before, John explains that he is not the main attraction. He reasons with them about the fact that Jesus must become more popular because He is more important. He says that a man only gets what God gives him. John was only sent to announce Jesus. Then John uses wedding metaphor that becomes even more common later in the New Testament.

John describes Jesus as a bridegroom who has the bride. He describes himself as his friend who is happy enough just to hear his friend’s voice. Who is this bride? The Bible also says:

Ephesians 5:23 : For the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ also is the head of the assembly, being himself the savior of the body.

This verse indicates that the assembly or church (those who were to be saved) are his bride. That means you. John is saying that he is happy that we (Jesus and the church) are getting together. John was eager to submit himself to the one who was greater. Why did John not tell his disciples to go away? I think that it is because there were to be other friends of the bridegroom other than just John and they needed to realize what was given to them from God and be happy too. (see: Matthew 25:1-13)

Day 18: A True Minister

John 1:35-39 :Again, the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour.

In this part, we have John seeing Jesus on another day. He had already pointed Jesus out the crowd once. You could say that, technically, he had already done his duty before God the last time, but when John saw Jesus again, he again told people to look.

John actually convinced people to leave him and follow Jesus. This is the way of a true minister. A true minister does not attract attention to themselves. The whole point of Christian ministry is to point people to God. Once again, this shows the humility of John the Baptist. When the disciples left him and went to Jesus, he didn’t try to stop them. He urged them to go after Jesus. Sometimes, we see the opposite type of behavior in leadership today. The world teaches their leaders to take credit and get more people for themselves. A true minister is like John according to the Bible. You can read more on this topic in 1 Corinthians 3.

It is fascinating to me that Jesus asked these two followers what they were looking for. We know that Jesus is God and that He knew everything already. Why would he ask? In many instances, Jesus said things like this. When it seemed like the reasons were obvious, He still required people to say them out loud.

I see that this has a correlation with prayer. God already knows what you want before you ask, but, He wants you to ask. I notice that when we are forced to ask, we have to admit that we are taking something from someone; something that we don’t have. Jesus on many other occasions called for His disciples to have faith. Faith is believing that God will work things out. When we ask God to do something we admit out loud that we are not getting it from somewhere else and that we want Him to work it out.

When these two disciples answered Jesus, they called him: “Rabbi” which is a Jewish teacher. I am learning that there was quite a culture surrounding the duties of a Rabbi. It was not an unusual occupation as it would seem to be in our culture. There are still those who are called “Rabbi” today. I can see why the King James version of the Bible translated it to be “Master”. My understanding is that a teacher in that culture was more like a Master Craftsman in our American culture only it was in regard to God rather than learning a trade. You were supposed to be with them and learn their ways. You would do what they tell you and you would receive special education.

These two disciples were then invited to come over to where Jesus was staying. The time detail at the end has been difficult to determine. John calls it the 10th hour, I am not sure what clock that John was referring to. We believe that John was writing from Ephesus in 90 AD or so, so he might have been referring to 10:00 of Rome. Many believe he was referring to 14:00 using the clock other gospel writers used. I don’t have enough information to determine that yet, perhaps on a later post I will be able to find more evidence.

Day 15: John the Unworthy

John 1:24-28 : The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don’t know. He is the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to loosen.” These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Last time John was being questioned by some religious leaders about who he was and why he was doing what he was doing. He had already told them that he was fulfilling a prophesy but they didn’t seem to respond. They were only interested in why he baptized people if he wasn’t the Prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah. I am not familiar with the Pharisees views on baptism, but for some reason, it is mentioned here that the Pharisees (a Jewish religious group) sent them. From other parts of the Bible we know that the Pharisees are the ones who would be trying to put Jesus to death. They appeared to have a problem with John performing baptisms.

One of the great things about John is he stayed on task and simply told them that he was baptizing in an inferior way to the one who is about to show up. He tells them that the one who is coming is so much more important that it would be too high of a job to undo His sandals.

I have been told that it was a servant’s job to take care of feet in those days. Travel was often done by foot and I understand that people’s feet got pretty dirty. John seems to be saying that he would have been honored to do the lowest job for Jesus. It shows that he had a good understanding of who Jesus was.

John is an interesting study in humility. He was definitely not one you would call weak. He wore camel hair, lived in the wilderness and ate wild honey and locus (Matthew 3:4). He was probably one of the most courageous men of the Bible. He faced the Roman government directly and told their leaders that they violated God’s law. This ended up causing him to be put in jail and eventually to be executed. (Matthew 14:3-12)

He shows us that being humble doesn’t mean that you lose your will to fight for the truth. It means that you see yourself appropriately in your relationship to Jesus. Jesus ended up calling John the greatest man that was ever born up to that time. (Matthew 11:11)

Now for a geography lesson: This was taking place in a town on the Jordan called Bethany. There was actually another Bethany, that was mentioned that is near Jerusalem according to my Bible’s footnotes. We know that this one had to be on the Jordan because this is where John was baptizing. Evidently, the Jewish leaders had to travel quite a ways to pay John a visit.

Day 14: John The Baptist’s Credentials

John 1:19-23: This is John’s testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He declared, and didn’t deny, but he declared, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” They said therefore to him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

In today’s section of John, we have the record of John the Baptist’s description of himself when he was questioned by Jewish leadership. These men who came to visit John came from the city of Jerusalem, the city of the Jewish temple. The priests were those who served God in the temple and the Levites were one of the families of Israel that God specifically gave temple duties to. In a sense, this was a traveling inquisition. It appears that they were attempting to find out what authority that John had to be preaching to the people in the name of God.

It is a good thing to verify the message of a prophet to see if they are from God (Deuteronomy 18:22, 1 John 4:1,2). John did not avoid the question but answered. He started by making it clear that he was not the Messiah that they were waiting for. The leadership also asked him if he was Elijah. In Malachi 4:4,5 it says that God was going to send Elijah at some point in the future before the “Day of the Lord”. There did seem to be a great similarity between Elijah and John the Baptist, but John was John and this really wasn’t the “Day of the Lord” yet. The Jews were also expecting the arrival of a Prophet. I am not clear about who this is but John knew that he was not the one. It is clear that there is yet to be two prophets that will come to Jerusalem that have been written about in Revelation 11. And this does happen at the “Day of the Lord.”

So the question then was, “Who was John?” The wonderful thing is that John was also spoken of in prophesy and he quotes it to them. It is an Old Testament prophesy found in Isaiah 40:3. It is my understanding that Isaiah was already hundreds of years old by that time. Isaiah was one of the books of the Old Testament that was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls in recently. Amazingly enough, these copies dated back to about the time of John. So we know that they were aware of this prophesy and that it was already old. Evidently, this quote wasn’t enough to satisfy theses leaders as we will find out more about in the next verse next time.

Day 11: Two Testimonies

John 1:15 : John testified about him. He cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me, for he was before me.'”

I really appreciate this verse. I like to make parenthetical comments when I write (so I really appreciate this part of John). We kind of get around the use of parenthesis today on the web by using hyperlinks. Here John puts in a comment in the text to make sure that we hear it even though it is in the middle of something else.

This particular comment is about John the Baptist testimony concerning Jesus. It is interesting that he mentions it right after his own testimony about the glory of Jesus he saw. One thing to keep in mind is that according to the law of God, a testimony had to be ratified by two witnesses to be acceptable (Deuteronomy 19:15, 2 Corinthians 13:1). John who writes expressed his testimony in verse 14, and then, in verse 15, John the Baptist’s testimony is presented. There will be more about this testimony on verse 19.

If you read more in the Bible about John the Baptist, you learn that he was Jesus’ relative. It is interesting to note that John was older than Jesus in regard to his birth. (Luke 1:36-45) John states here that “He existed before me.” This is a clear statement that he knew that Jesus existed before He was actually born on earth and was not just a man. This truly is a mystery. I don’t know how a person could have existed before they were born, but here we have it. I also realize that I understand very little about how the spiritual world works. If I consider it a little more, I don’t really comprehend many common physical events that occur in our world such as why the heart starts beating or how seeds germinate.

When we really consider this, we realize that we really understand very little in this great world that God made. This is one of the things that causes me to realize that just because I don’t understand something, doesn’t mean it isn’t real or doesn’t exist. This really is a foolish way to think. I am thankful that God challenges my thinking and causes me to be humble about what I know.

As you can see, in the Bible, even the parenthetical statements are very important and that makes sense since these are the words of God.

Day 6: The Witness

John 1:6-9 : There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.

It’s good to note that the “John” in this passage is not the one who is writing. This is talking about the one known as “John the Baptist.” He was the a prophet just like the Old Testament prophets that God sent. His special purpose was to point the way to Jesus and John talks quite a bit more about it later.

The John who writes makes it clear that John the Baptist, was not “the light.” In other words, John the Baptist should not be confused with Jesus. John was not the light, he was just a man. It’s very important for all of us to remember that we are not the light either. We are just people. If we want to “shine” we need first to come to Jesus and then rely on His power as believers every day.

It’s worth noting that God likes to send people to “testify” about Jesus. As Christians we have been given a similar duty. Jesus sent all of us, much like God sent John.

We also read that the light of Jesus was meant for everyone. It really is a great thing to think about because up to this point, Judaism was only for Jews and those who were willing to become Jews. I think that many assumed that the Messiah would only be for the Jews. God had a plan for the whole world to see the light and this is truly one of the most surprising and wonderful aspects of this new light. It was certainly good news to those of us who were Gentiles.

John covers all of these things in more detail later.