John 3:22-36 – John the Baptist’s Testimony

This is an unusual and unexpected section of John’s Gospel. After one of the most important passages in the entire Gospel of John, the writer uses the words of John the Baptist as a summary of chapter 3.

John the BaptistBut there may be a theological motivation to the inclusion of yet another testimony from John the Baptist at this point in the Gospel. The writer has already made it clear the Baptist was not the messiah. But after Jesus has revealed himself with two signs, there are apparently some disciples of John who have not joined Jesus. They remain loyal to John and they continue to preach the coming of the messiah and offer a baptism of repentance to prepare for the coming Kingdom of God. Jesus is now attracting disciples and followers, and he his gathering more followers than John is. His disciples naturally wonder about this and are jealous of Jesus’s success. They more or less complain to John that the “other guy” is baptizing people too. Maybe they think Jesus is working on “our turf.” John the Baptist must therefore clarify his role once again now that Jesus has begun his ministry.

It may have appeared that Jesus was in competition with John, prompting someone to ask about purification (vs 25). The issue may have been “which baptism is superior, Jesus’s or John’s?” It is disciples of John who had not started to follow Jesus who ask this question. There were at least some disciples who remained with John until he was executed and there was a group of believers who accepted only the teaching of John and not Jesus’s teaching.

In Acts 18, Apollos only knew the Baptism of John and in Acts 19 Paul encounters a group of disciples of John the Baptist who had never heard there was a Holy Spirit. They could have heard John’s preaching after Jesus was baptized and for some reason never heard the teaching of Jesus or the preaching of the Apostles after Pentecost. They returned to Ephesus without hearing the preaching of the apostles.  As remarkable as it is, they were faithful to the teaching of John the Baptist some 25 years later!

It is possible this community still existed in Ephesus when John wrote his Gospel, even though another 25 years have passed. This seems possible to me. The writer of the Gospel of John could be in dialogue with both traditional Jews in the synagogue and the remnants of the Baptist’s movement.

By the end of John 3, the writer introduced Nicodemus as a well-meaning Jewish teacher who did not fully believe the message of Jesus. Hie may have thought becoming a disciple of Jesus entailed an admission he was a sinner in need of salvation. One must be “born again” to be a disciple of Jesus and Nicodemus may not have realized at this point that he was in need of repentance and regeneration.

In a very similar way, this final section of John 3 concerns the skepticism of the disciples of John the Baptist. They wonder if Jesus is superior to their own teacher. Why follow Jesus when it is possible John’s preaching and baptism are actually superior? The Baptist himself says Jesus is superior because he has come from God and is a direct witness to the will of the Father.

Both groups may have been represented in John’s community in the late first century in Ephesus. It is likely there were still Jews who appreciated some of Jesus’s teaching but could not accept his call to repent and surrender to Jesus as the ultimate representative of God.

Jesus is not asking for kind appreciation nor is he in competition with anyone’s “ministry,” still is still looking for disciples to surrender to him and follow him.

5 thoughts on “John 3:22-36 – John the Baptist’s Testimony

  1. I believe that John’s testimony is important in this section of John’s gospel because as mentioned, John the Baptist must clarify his role once again to his disciples now that Jesus has begun his ministry. John’s disciples thought that it was a competition between John and Jesus of who was the better teacher. John’s disciples were so caught up in the fact that Jesus was ‘on their turf’ teaching and baptizing people, that they could not recognize that they were essentially on the same ‘team’ or side. John the Baptist has to share his testimony again because it was not a competition. John reminds his loyal disciples “I am not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of Him.” (John 3:28, HCSB) John is reminding his disciples of what has already been shared in John 1:7-8. John the Baptist is not the light nor is he superior to the light. John the Baptist is the witness to the light. John began his ministry before Jesus and has essentially ‘paved’ the way for Jesus’ ministry. His disciples do not recognize this and pretty much complain to John saying ‘Hey! He’s copying us and he’s stealing our potential followers!!’ John’s most loyal disciple believe that John’s teachings are superior to those of Jesus, but John denies this and states that Jesus is superior because he comes from God and is a direct witness of the will of the Father.

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  2. Clarification in this specific part in John is necessary because of the confusion among the people. John is once more telling his disciples that the Messiahs’ (Jesus) ministry has started and that they must follow Him. But, they did not listen and continued to think that Jesus was just trying to rip away what they had build up. Each of the disciples that were so caught up in Jesus “stealing” their way of things or “on their turf” they could not comprehend that Jesus was actually preaching the same message but just saying He was the Messiah. Like said above he had to share his testimony to remind them they were not against each other but for each other and the Kingdom. John tells them that he is not the Messiah but he is there to shed light on Him, so that people may know Him and what he does for them and the Kingdom. He continues to tell them he was sent to essentially make a way for Jesus’ works so that when he comes they will recognize Him as the Messiah. Some believed John and strived to follow Jesus, but the loyal disciples to John and his word believed that Johns teachings were in fact greater than Christ’s teachings. The disciples, as Long said above, stayed with John and continued to preach what he had said before the Messiah showed up until the very end of his life. I personally feel as though something like this needs clarification because if it did not most people who don’t really understand the Gospel or Christ at all would be genuinely confused.

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    • Ana, I enjoyed reading your post as you really hit on how the people were confused and that they need this clarification to better understand Jesus’ ministry here on earth. I like how you talked about the disciples and how and why they followed Jesus and his mission on earth. very well done and was able to clear up confusion people may have.

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  3. John’s testimony is confusing as I read and took away from this article. It seems like Jesus and John were in constant competition against each other as they were trying to teach and get followers. With that it confused the disciples as they were confused with Jesus’ teachings. They constantly needed the reminder that Jesus is working for them and not working against them trying to beat them on their own turf as the article states. The article then goes on to talk about how Jesus and john were in constant competition as the article states “Who’s baptism was better Jesus’ or John’s?” I think this is a big deal in Christianity today as we are constantly comparing and trying to “Be better” than someone else showing how strong each other’s faith is. As going forward it looked to be that Nicodemus was confused with each other and had his views on each person such as thinking Jesus “He may have thought becoming a disciple of Jesus entailed an admission he was a sinner in need of salvation.” Which is true but this was him comparing Jesus to John which shouldn’t be the case in Christianity. We should read the stories and notice that Jesus is our salvation and the Messiah that came to earth to save us and that no one else is better than anyone else. We are all sinners saved through Christ.

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  4. In this section of John, the first thing that popped out to me was in verse 34, when John writes, “for God gives the Spirit without limit.” That is amazing! God’s Spirit will never run dry of words or stop leading us, but rather we have full access to Holy Spirit whenever we need Him or need help. Another verse that I love in the following one that says, “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.” The Father deeply loves the Son and the Son was so precious to the Father. Just like how we are pleasing to the Father and how the Father loves us also so deeply.
    In verse 27 it says, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.” When we receive gifts from the Father such as a family, prophesy, fruits of the spirit, painting ability, to be able to sing and/or dance, a home and so on, we have to remember that they are gifts from God from heaven and we receive on what is good from Him. We do not get these gifts through our own strength, but because He loves us and desires to bless others through us. Lastly, in verse 30 it says, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Here John is talking about Jesus becoming greater than himself. He is trying to communicate in this passage that he is to become less, so that Jesus- the one whom the world has been waiting for, has come and is to be glorified!

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