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Sunday, September 28, 2014

John the Baptist's Last Testimony of Jesus – New Witness -- John 3:22-30

Both Jesus and John the Baptist were baptizing in different areas. It seems that their ministries overlapped until John's imprisonment and death. This overlapping is to show us the supremacy of Jesus. God will use John the Baptist to reveal Jesus to His people.  John the Baptist who was a rabbi represents the Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets (Older Testament) pointed to Christ just as John the Baptist did.  The Law also overlapped the ministry of Jesus until Jesus died and was resurrected. Jesus obeyed all of the requirements of the Law in order to fulfill it for all of us. The “old” must die to make way for the “new.” Jesus became the Law for us and is the Supreme Prophet of God as the Living Word of God.  Jesus is God's Divine Word to man.  Jesus also wants to put our “old” fleshly ways to death so His “new” spiritual ways can come alive in us.

“An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.” v25 There were still people following John the Baptist. There was a “certain” Jew indicating that he was probably in a high position of power and authority in Jewish society. It is possible that it was Nicodemus to whom Jesus had just revealed Himself. Jews kept themselves ceremonially clean to please God. There was a lot of external cleansing. A Jewish home had earthen vessels full of water so those in the house could wash often. This argument between John's disciples and the certain Jew began on a doctrinal issue but soon the real reason will be revealed. They came to John and said, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the One you testified about – well, He is baptizing and everyone is going to Him.” v26 Competition, jealousy and fear of loss were the underlying spirits. These disciples of John the Baptist were feeling threatened by the expansion of Jesus' ministry. Many were following Jesus including some of John's disciples.

John the Baptist in a spirit of humility responded, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” v27 John is saying that no one can receive more than God gives him. God has a plan and purpose for every believer. Jesus isn't doing this on His own. God has given Him all authority, power and wisdom. He is greater than John the Baptist and has the highest place in the Kingdom of God. John also knew the limit of his calling. John the Baptist was the forerunner who pointed to Christ. God had ordained this before John the Baptist was born. He had no higher place than this, and he knew it. John the Baptist's disciples were concerned but he was not. It is important for individual Christians to know their purpose and calling, and not be jealous or envious of a fellow Christian's role. Spiritual gifts and blessings come from God. To God, all work for His Kingdom is important whether great or small. It is important that each individual Christian stick to his or her calling and do it without jealousy of the calling of someone else. As John the Baptist did, we are to live out God's plan and purpose for our life......nothing more; nothing less.

I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of Him.”

John's job was to point “Israel” to Christ. Israel means “one who strives with God.” In other words, "Israel" is not just an earthly land and people, it is a heavenly land and people. Earthly Israel could not ascend to the Father in the Heavenly Israel (God's spiritual Promised Land) until Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected and ascended. They had to follow Jesus just like Christians do!   John the Baptist was to point all – whether Jew or Gentile – to Christ so they could have eternal spiritual life and become the “spiritual Israel” made up of Jews and Gentiles, males and females, bondservants and free who love and follow God's Anointed One – the Messiah-- Jesus the Christ. Earthly Israel failed to live up to God's high and holy standards, and so does the Body of Christ. Only Jesus who is God and who created man with the Father and the Spirit can live up to God's holiness. And because He did, the “new” spiritual Israel will not fail because we are the righteousness of God in Christ -- the One who strives with God.  What the earthly Israel couldn't do, the Heavenly Israel (Jesus ) did. When I say "Heavenly Israel" in referring to Jesus, it is because Jesus is what the word Israel means -- Prince with God and One who strives with God."   Jesus imputes His righteousness onto us. How great is this love for all mankind? It cannot be measured! The love of God for those He created in His image and likeness is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Everything that Jesus did while on the earth was in fullness, not in part. He had the fullness of the Father's love, the fullness of Truth and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He was “full of grace and truth.”

John the Baptist assures his disciples that he is just a witness to the Greater One than him. John was earthly, but Jesus came from heaven and has the same authority as God. He has the highest authority over all the universe. Jesus perfectly knows and understands the Father and Truth. When we listen to Him, we hear the very voice of God and we see God as He truly is – in His fullness! Why? Because Jesus is the express image of the Father. (see Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 4:4)

Believers in Christ can talk about heaven and speculate about what it is like, but Jesus came from there. He knows firsthand! Heavenly authority is given to Jesus from the Father's love. God attested in Matthew 3:17 that Jesus is His Beloved Son. “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do.” John 5:19 (see also John 8:28; 14:10) Jesus is the center of the Father's love and because we love Him, we too are in the center of the Father's love.  We are "in Him" as one being with the Father, as He and the Father are One.

John had told his disciples earlier that Jesus was the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He had told them that Jesus far surpassed him and that Jesus was the only One who was with the Father in heaven and came from there. (see John 1) John will repeat this, “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. He testifies in what He has seen and heard, but no one accepts His testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. John 3:31-34   John is telling his disciples that he is of the earth and speaks as one from the earth. But not Jesus! Because Jesus existed with God and the Holy Spirit as the Eternal Word of God before the creation of the universe, He testifies of what He has seen and heard. He is not a Secondary Source. Jesus knows the character of God and the Truth firsthand. He can reveal God to mankind. We can believe Jesus because of this. He had the fullness of the Holy Spirit also. No human being including the prophets of the Older Testament had the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of Truth as Jesus did. We have the Holy Spirit and the Truth in part because we are of the earth and have sin in our lives that prevents the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon His followers so we could have the Truth revealed to us, and help us recognize Truth when we hear it. Jesus didn't leave us powerless and ignorant. He gave us the very power that He had to help us. The more sin we allow the Holy Spirit to remove from us, the greater the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be in and through us. John said, “He must increase; I must decrease.” John the Baptist's mission was to see Jesus increase. There was no rivalry between John the Baptist and Jesus. He understood that he must step aside so Christ can increase. He also knew that Jesus had to increase within him, as his own self-will and nature decreased.

Jesus' ministry was causing John the Baptist's ministry to decrease so John's disciples were getting nervous. The Jewish religious leaders felt the same way as John's disciples. They knew that their power and honor was decreasing because of Jesus. (see John 11:45-48) The fear and jealousy of Jesus and His power was so great that the Pharisees and the other religious leaders were plotting to kill him. Human nature doesn't like power and esteem to be threatened!
Bride and the Bridegroom – John 3:29
“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.” John 3:29

John the Baptist will use a picture that the Jews will recognize to explain his role and that of Jesus (the friend of the bridegroom, the bride and the bridegroom). Throughout the Older Testament, God referred to Israel as His wife. Time and time again, Israel was unfaithful to their Husband God. Eventually, God sent One who is Faithful and True – His Son Jesus. What Israel could not do, God will do for them. This is the love that God has for Israel. God's love didn't stop with the Israelites, however, He extended it to all people through His precious and chosen Son. Jesus lived up to God's high and holy standard and obeyed the Law and the Prophets fully for all. The Law was given to Israel, not the Gentiles. Gentiles could be converted to Judaism and put themselves under the Law willingly. Because God gave the Law to Israel, it would have to be an Israelite who obeyed it perfectly to release them from it. This is why Jesus who is God had to come through a Jewish woman and through the tribe of Judah. Once God has spoken something, He cannot go back on His Word. God could not destroy the Law because He gave it, BUT He could fulfill it to release His people from it. The Law didn't die; it lives on eternally fulfilled in Christ. We are now to look to Jesus not the Law.  Jesus became the Law for all Israel. Jesus Himself said, “I didn't come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.” To fulfill means to “meet the requirements of.” Jesus met all of the requirements of the Law for all. Jesus established a “new” law – the royal law of love. We no longer obey out of demand, but out of love in our hearts for both God and man.  

In the New Testament, there is a “new” Bride – the Bride of Christ – made up of both Jews and Gentiles, males and females, bondservants and free. God didn't discard Israel or replace her. God included Israel in this new eternal Bride, but also expanded His love to all believers in His Son. God included the Jews with all others, just as God included willing gentiles who joined Israel in the Older Testament. God is no respecter of persons. He wants that none should perish. God who is love must by His very nature and character include all who believe in Him – the True God. Jesus is the Bridegroom and His Body is the Bride. There is a “new” betrothal – all who believe in Jesus whether Jew or Gentile – who await the day of the wedding when we will be with Jesus face to face. At the appointed time of the Father, Jesus will come and gather His Bride and take her to His Heavenly home. (Revelation 19:6-9; 21:9) In this heavenly home there will be no distinction between Jew or Gentile, male or female. We will all be one body (equal) in the sight of the Lord – one body made up of many members who are equally loved by the Father and the Son. It won't matter what earthly nation, tribe or tongue we are from. We will all be precious in His sight!  

The “friend of the Bridegroom” is like the best man in today's wedding.  John the Baptist says that he is the friend to the Bridegroom. In ancient times, the friend of the bridegroom would be the liaison between the bride-to-be and the bridegroom. The friend would bring the bride and the bridegroom together. He would also preside over the wedding feast and guard the bridal chamber to make sure no false lover tries to enter. The friend of the bridegroom would know the Bridegroom's voice and would open the door so the Bridegroom and the Bride could enter the bridal chamber to unite as one. The friend of the groom would then rejoice because the bride and bridegroom have united as one flesh. John the Baptist who understood his role of bringing the bride (spiritual Israel) to Christ said that his joy was complete. Why? John the Baptist did what the Lord called him to do! He completed the work, just as Jesus completed the work that God sent Him to do on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus said, "It is finished."  He had finished what God had sent Him to earth to do.  Now Jesus works through His followers.  Jesus will come again to restore the heavens and the earth back to its original condition -- holy and without sin. 

All who love and follow Christ are to be like John the Baptist and point people to Christ. We are to also do what the Lord has called us to do, and understand that we all take a back seat to Christ. He alone is to get glory. Like John the Baptist, we are secondary to Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are His Bride.  The earthly bride and bridegroom unite as one flesh, but the Heavenly Bridegroom and His Bride unite as one Spirit for all eternity.

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.” 3:35-36  By God placing everything in the hands of Jesus, there is only one way to the Father and eternal life – through Jesus. There is no neutrality. We must choose one or the other because God gave us the freedom to choose. Because God is love, He knows that love cannot be demanded. It must come from the heart. Therefore, God gives us the right to choose -- everlasting life with Jesus or God's wrath and everlasting death without Him. We choose one or the other. It is heart-wrenching to me that there will be those who choose wrongly. If it is heart-wrenching to me, how much more must it be so with the Lord who loved all of humanity enough to let His own beloved Son suffer an agonizing death to save us and restore us to the Father's everlasting arms. To reject that kind of love is unfathomable to me. To those who choose life in Jesus, God in His eternal, undying love will hold nothing back from them. 

This choice between life and death is not new in scripture. God's ways don't change. Just before the Israelites were about to enter the earthly Promised Land of God, Moses warned them about the blessing that would come through obedience to the Lord's Word or the cursing that would come through disobedience. Moses also assured them that when they disobeyed but returned to the Lord in humility and repentance that God would restore them and make them prosperous once again. This is God's grace, love and forgiveness for sin. 

Moses told the Israelites that what he was saying to them is not too difficult or beyond their reach. “The Word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” Dt. 30:14 Then Moses said that he has set before them life and prosperity or death and destruction. If they love the Lord God, walk in His ways and keep His commands, God will bless them in the land they are about to possess. Notice that Moses didn't offer them eternal life because it wasn't his to give. God saved this for Jesus, the Greater One than Moses. Moses also warned the Israelites that if they turned their hearts away from God that they would be destroyed nor would they live long in the land that they are about to enter and possess. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursings. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:15-30 God through Abraham promised the Israelites an earthly land and blessing, but Jesus promises us an eternal, spiritual, holy land and blessings beyond comprehension.

As Joshua (Yeshua in Hebrew) led the Israelites across the Jordan into the earthly Promised Land of God, Jesus (Yeshua) leads us into the Heavenly, spiritual Promised Land of God.  

The heart of Jesus for the Jews was evidenced when He wept over Jerusalem because He knew that the majority of the Jews would reject Him, and the earthly city and temple would be destroyed. This is the heart of the Father. He doesn't rejoice over those who reject Him; He weeps because He loves humanity and wants humanity to love Him by choice not through demand. Love demanded is not love. The New Jerusalem that the Godhead builds through Jesus will never be destroyed. He is the Eternal Temple of God and those who love and follow Him are also His temple on earth.
Heavenly Father, I pray that all who see this teaching will know and understand your heart toward them and that they will choose life through your precious and chosen Son – Jesus Christ. In Christ's name, I pray. Amen and Amen.


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