This week, John will finish Chapter 3 by telling us what happened next after Jesus had his chat with Nicodemus.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
23 And John [the Baptist] also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus took place in Jerusalem, but Verse 22 says After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea. This probably just means the land of Judea outside the capital. I suppose it is possible they left Judea altogether and came back again. Jesus was always on the move.
24 For John was not yet cast into prison.
25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
This same thing happened to Moses. His disciples were jealous for him, and Moses responded the same way. (Num 11:26-29)
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.
33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Verse 30 is our key verse this week. Speaking in the Spirit, John the Baptist gives us one of the keys to the Christian life. Jesus must increase; we must decrease.
Jesus said there will be people who are not saved, who in the day of judgment will protest and say ‘Lord, Lord, wait! Look what we did!’ (Matt 7:22) Christians don’t say look what we did. They say look what He did. This means dying to self. Paul wrote I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20) In other words, the means we have been given to deal with our flesh is crucifixion. Paul also wrote, And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Gal 5:24) This death to self is not asceticism. It is not legalism either. It is allowing the Spirit to lead rather than the flesh. Dying to self means no longer seeking my own recognition but giving the glory to God. It means no longer seeking our own wealth but the prosperity of others. (1 Cor 10:24) After we are born again, we still retain our carnal nature, or what Paul calls our old man. We therefore must reckon the old man dead, so that our new man (new nature) can have his way. Jesus said Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. This is one of the main themes of the book of Romans. Someone said that it is like I have two dogs fighting inside of me. The one who wins is the one I feed the most. Christians are to be meek. Meek does not mean weak, but rather to be humble and teachable. Moses was a strong man but he was meek. (Num 12:3) The same is true of Jesus. (Matt 11:29) Jesus is by far the meekest and most humble person there has ever been or ever will be. He never bragged. He humbly submitted to the will of his Father in all things. To accept a weakness from God would be meekness, but being weak is not necessarily part of being meek. Meekness means one is willing to esteem others more highly than himself. It means that one is willing to trust God, rather than puff out his chest and demand his own way. When one does these things, he finds there is a tremendous amount of power in choosing the way of the cross. That is why Jesus told the apostle Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Father, help us to forget about ourselves. Help us to decrease, that your Son may increase in our hearts and minds, that we may be conformed into his image, that the world may see Him living in us, for your glory. If persecution should come in our day, help us to remember that this life is but a vapor, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Give us the grace to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us, and persecute us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PS: I highly recommend this movie which shows the power of meekness in the life of Richard Wurmbrand, who faithfully obeyed God’s command to Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. (Rom 12:14) You may even want to have a movie night to watch it with your Christian friends. (Matt 18:20)