Sorry for being away for a few days – I attended an amazing conference by the Sopris Foundation dealing with all sorts of sustainability issues (energy, agriculture, housing, etc.). It was extremely helpful to see how the leading minds are thinking about these issues in the Rocky Mountain West. It was also challenging in many ways as I think about God’s call to love this place simply because it is part of his creation and worth loving. Now on to the end of John 3!

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness- look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

We’ve got another interesting story here as John the Baptism interacts with his disciples (who want to compare him to Jesus). It’s easy for me to relate to John’s disciples in this story. Essentially they are wondering why they are still with John – who is more legitimate, Jesus or John? If he’s the real deal, why are you both doing the same things (baptizing)?

John uses an interesting metaphor in verse 29-30 when he uses this marriage imagery. He refers to Jesus as the bride and himself as the best man. What’s the job of the best man? In our culture it is to hold the ring, but the main job is to just be there for the groom and take joy in the fact that his friend is getting married! This is how John the Baptist understands his own ministry and he rejoices that the Groom has come and he is willing to become less so that Jesus might increase.

At verse 31-36 we begin to catch a glimpse of the gospel and the reason why John (the author) included this in the book. John declares the truth about Jesus – he has ultimate authority because he is from Heaven. He is the one whom the Father loves and the Father shows his love by giving him all things. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life and whoever doesn’t believe receives God’s wrath.

So where’s the Gospel in that? Jesus had ultimate authority, but laid down that authority (for a time – he will come back as judge) in order to be despised by his own people. He humbled himself and submitted to the authority of others – to Pilate, to Caesar, to the priests who put him to death. Ultimately, though and more poignantly, he submitted to everyone throughout the ages who would believe in him by laying down his life to pay the price for our sin.

See the gospel is that Christ laid down his life so that we might take up life. He laid down his authority so that we might share in it. He laid down his right to the Father’s love so that the Father’s love might shine on us. This is the Son that John encourages us to believe in because he is the Son who truly provides life.