Rev. Haak is pastor of Bethel Protestant Reformed Church in Elk Grove, Illinios.
In these verses we have the final and beautiful testimony of John the Baptist to the excellency of Christ as the Son of God and true Messiah. It is marked by self-effacing humility, faithful clarity, and great weightiness. John declares that Jesus is the Son of God sent down from heaven and that to believe in Him is to have everlasting life.
The first thing called to our attention is the setting in which John’s tribute to Christ was given. In general, we are informed that after the Passover and discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus remained in the land of Judea for an extended period of time. (“He tarried with them…,” v. 22). Both Jesus and John the Baptist, with their respective disciples, are engaged in baptizing, although at different locations. Specifically, John’s beautiful testimony of Jesus was given over against the jealousy his disciples showed towards Jesus. It began over a question (argument) between the Jews and the disciples of John over “purifying,” that is, whether the baptism of Jesus or the baptism of John had the superior cleansing power. Along with that comparison between the two baptisms was the fact that the crowds were dwindling before John and growing before Jesus. John’s disciples see Jesus and John as rivals, and they come to John alarmed over the situation.
John gives a wonderful, self-effacing answer in which he performs the task given to him to magnify the Son of God and point to Him as the Christ. He begins by reminding his disciples that heaven assigns to each one his place and honor. We must not presume to find fault when others have more acceptance than we do. John is clear concerning his place. He is not the Christ, but the forerunner, who must decrease when the Lord has come. He compares himself to being the best man at a wedding, whose joy it is to see the bride go to the groom. More, the excellency of Christ is that He is from above, and, as the One whom the Father loves, bears testimony of the things that He has seen. The ones who are given to receive His testimony will also affirm that the witness that God has given of His Son is true. It is Christ who speaks the words of God, for the Spirit has been fully given to Him.
The climax of John’s magnification of Christ is in verse 36. To believe in the Son is to have everlasting life, and to reject the Son is to fall under the wrath of God.
Perhaps for the last time (publicly) in his life John proclaims Christ as the One worthy of all honor and praise. Nowhere are more honorable things written concerning Jesus than these words spoken by John. Let us follow in the path of John and magnify the Son of God by speaking of His praises and honor.
1. The setting for John’s final testimony to the excellency of Christ (vv. 22-26).
a. The notice that both Jesus and John are baptizing in the regions in and near Judea (vv. 22-24).
b. The jealousy of John’s disciples towards Jesus provoked by a question about purifying and the crowds turning from John to Jesus (vv. 25, 26).
2. John’s beautiful testimony of the greatness of Jesus (vv. 27-36).
a. One’s honor and place comes from heaven (v. 27).
b. John’s place is to go before the Christ and direct the bride to her Bridegroom (vv. 28-30).
c. Christ’s greatness is found in the fact that He comes down from heaven and testifies of what He has seen and heard (vv. 31-33).
d. The Father has entrusted all things to the Son and has given Him the fullness of the Spirit (vv. 34, 35).
e. To believe in the Son is everlasting life, and not to believe Him is to fall under the wrath of God (v. 36).
1. Compare verses 22 and 26 with chapter 42. We would get the impression from this chapter that Jesus Himself baptized, although He did not. What can we say concerning the work and authority of Christ’s servants in the light of this?
2. Why are we informed in verse 23 that there was much water where John was baptizing? Is this an argument in favor of immersion?
3. Compare verse 24 with Matthew 4:13, 14 and explain the significance of this verse in the understanding of the chronology of John the Baptist’s life.
4. What was the question debated between the Jews and John’s disciples?
a. Who were these “Jews”?
b. Show that jealousy was at the bottom of John’s disciples coming to their master as they do in verse 26.
5. What practical truth does John teach in verse 27 concerning jealousy in the church?
6. Discuss the meaning of John’s example of the bridegroom, bride, and friend of the bridegroom, which John gives to explain the relationship between himself and Christ, between Christ and His people, and between John and God’s people.
7. What is the difference between Jesus as the One from above and John as one of the earth?
8. Explain the meaning of verse 33.
9. Discuss the meaning of verse 34. What can we say about the relationship of the Holy Spirit and Christ?
10. Show how John magnifies Christ in the way he refers to Him throughout the passage.
11. What does verse 36 teach us about the blessing of faith? What is faith according to this verse?
12. What place must the magnification of Christ have in our lives?