Jesus’ Disciples Do Baptizing and John “Decreases” (John 3:22-36; 4:1-3)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-07-15 09:41.

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Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them, and they did baptizing, evidently at his direction or with his approval. (John 3:22; 4:1, 2) As there was abundant water in Aenon near Salim, John did baptizing there, and people continued coming to him to be immersed. (John 3:23, 24)

In the minds of the Jews who disputed with John’s disciples about purification, baptism would have been associated with cleansing, especially in view of the call to repentance. The nature of the argument is not specified in the account. In view of what his disciples later said to John, it would appear that the dispute centered on what seemed to be competing baptisms. John had ceased to be the only one doing baptizing. The disciples of John called to his attention that the one concerning whom he had testified was baptizing and that “all” were going to him. They attributed to Jesus what his disciples were doing and appear to have been disturbed by the decreasing number of people coming to John. (John 3:25, 26)

Responding to their concern, John told them that a man cannot receive anything unless it has been given him from above or by God. As he reminded them, they knew full well that he had said, “I am not the Christ,” and that he had been sent to prepare the way before him. Likening himself to the bridegroom’s friend, John continued, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The bridegroom’s friend stands and hears him, rejoicing greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore, this, my joy, has been made complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30)

The Son of God had come from above and so was above all. Although a prophet, John had not come from the realm above. He was from the earth and was limited to conveying information that related to the earthly sphere. Although God’s unique Son had come from heaven and is above all and could testify about things that no one from the earth had seen or heard, people generally did not accept his testimony. (John 3:31, 32)

The person accepting this testimony placed his seal upon it, certifying that God is true or that he had kept his word to send the one who was promised to come. With the fullness of God’s spirit operating upon him (unlike the prophets to whom the spirit had been given by measure), Jesus spoke his Father’s words. As the one whom he dearly loved, the Father had given everything into the hands of his Son—everything relating to the eternal future of the world of mankind. To have faith in the Son would result in coming into possession of eternal life or a life distinguished by an abiding relationship with the Father. Those who reject the Son will not see life or experience an abiding life as persons whom the Father approves and loves. As persons against whom a record of sin remains, they continue to be the objects of God’s wrath or disapproval. (John 3:33-36)

Whereas Jesus’ disciples and not he himself did baptizing, the news reached the Pharisees that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John. Learning about this development, Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee. (John 4:1-3) According to Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:14, Jesus’ departure coincided with John’s arrest and imprisonment for having exposed the wrongness of Herod Antipas’s incestuous relationship with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. (Mark 6:17, 18) This suggests that the apparent jealousy of the Pharisees and John’s imprisonment created an environment hostile to Jesus. As his time for laying down his life had not yet come, he may have left for Galilee, where the potential personal dangers would not have been as great.


There is a question as to whether the words of John 3:31-36 are part of John the Baptist’s testimony. The revelatory nature of the comments about God’s Son would seem to indicate that this is a summation of the gospel writer. As in the case of verses 16-21, translators vary respecting the placement of the closing quotation marks, either including verses 31 through 36 or ending the quotation with verse 30.

The location of Aenon near Salim is uncertain.