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Read John 3:22-36

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptised. 23 Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptised. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – look, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him.’

27 To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.” 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.’

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.


The old border between Israel in the north, and Judah in the south, had long gone. The old name ‘Israel’ had been dropped and the area of land that began some distance to the north of Jerusalem up towards Galilee was referred to as ‘Samaria’ – the land of the Samaritans. Judea had become the name of the Roman province encompassing Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, ‘The Hill country of Judea’ still described the geographical area stretching south from Bethel, and the ‘Judean countryside’ probably described the lowlands between the Ridge Route to the north of Jerusalem, and the River Jordan.


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Let’s look at verses 22-24

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptised. 23 Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptised. 24 (This was before John was put in prison).


The early part of Jesus’ ministry overlapped with John the Baptist’s. It is possible that Jesus was on the opposite bank to where John the Baptist now was, but no-one can be certain. John could have been on the same side, but further north; in which case those travelling to see John, may have had to pass Jesus.


Jesus spent some time with his disciples: they had a lot to learn. All the teaching they had received from childhood concentrated on God’s Law. The Jewish nation had suffered much during the Exile, and since, under foreign rulers; and they understood that it was a punishment from God for breaking his commandments (Leviticus 26:14-39). They believed that the more they kept God’s laws, the happier he would be.


They had missed the point.

Why had the Laws been given in the first place?
The Laws had been given to lead people into Holiness – not legalism (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:8, 20:26). Actually the word Holy appears in Leviticus 74 times, let alone the other ‘Books of the Law’.


What else had they missed regarding the true nature of God?

God is love (1 John 4:8).


Spending time with the Son of God would demonstrate the difference. We don’t know how many disciples went with Jesus, but the open-air teaching obviously attracted more, and together they learnt the need for repentance. Copying John the Baptist, those who wanted to start a new life, were baptised.


25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.


What an odd verse – what’s it all about? I guess that the ‘certain Jew’ was John (the Apostle). It’s possible that the group had gone to John to ask why he had left them and John had in effect ‘given his testimony’. Explaining what he had learnt at the Wedding in Cana. But John the Baptist’s disciples were in no mood to accept this new teaching and the result was an argument.


26 They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – look, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him.’


Why were they unhappy?

Once you had committed yourself to a Rabbi you didn’t then leave him if you found someone you liked more. Yet it seemed that more and more of John the Baptist’s disciples were defecting.


27 To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.


What does this mean?


John the Baptist had been given a very specific role: to be ‘the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’ (John 1:23). That was his commission and nothing else.


28 You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.”


See John 1:19-23


29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.’


Who is the bridegroom?  Jesus

Who is the bride?  The people

Who is the friend?  John the Baptist


Notice the ‘musts’ in verse 30 ‘He must become greater; I must become less


From here to the end of the chapter we have a section which could have been spoken by either John!


31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 


Who is the one from above, from Heaven? Jesus

Who is the one from the earth? Everyone else!


32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.


Look again at  verses 11 and 12 – worldly people cannot understand heavenly things. First we need faith ‘and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8)


33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 


Who is the man who ‘has accepted it’?

John (the Apostle) – and he was convinced that what he had heard was the truth – truth from God.


34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 

John’s testimony was that Jesus actually spoke the WORD of God.


What does ‘God gives the Spirit without limit’ mean?

Why is it here?

Old Testament prophets were given the Holy Spirit, but only for a time. Jesus had the Spirit ‘without limit’. John was eager to explain the difference between Jesus and all the other prophets, teachers, or Rabbis. In fact Jesus was ‘above all’ (v31), totally different to those who ‘belong to the earth’.


35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 


John clarifies who Jesus really is – the Son of God himself, and as such has all power and authority (remember John 2:18). But here again John points out that this power and authority is not given in the way that a powerful king would empower one of his generals. Rather Almighty God poured out his love to his son without limit – and ‘placed everything in his hands’, knowing he would carry out his wishes exactly.


36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.


Here is the basis of faith in all its simplicity: ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life’, but here also is a solemn warning to those who reject the offer of salvation. They are rejecting God’s son, and therefore rejecting God himself. Note the last phrase: ‘God’s wrath remains on them’. Sinful man has already incurred the wrath of God and is already heading for Hell; if he chooses to reject God’s offer of salvation, he is actually choosing to remain under God’s wrath.





John 3aJohn 4a








John 3:22-36      John looses disciples.
                    Bride / Bridegroom / Friend  

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