05.05.06 Jn. 3:22-36 Jesus and John in Judea
JESUS AND JOHN BAPTIZE
22 After this, Jesus and His disciples went to the Judean countryside, where He spent time with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People were coming and being baptized, 24 since John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a Jew about purification. 26 So they came to John and told him, “Rabbi, the One you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing — and everyone is flocking to Him.”
27 John responded, “No one can receive a single thing unless it’s given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
31 The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth is earthly and speaks in earthly terms. The One who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony. 33 The one who has accepted His testimony has affirmed that God is true. 34 For God sent Him, and He speaks God’s words, since He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands. 36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.
“Judean countryside.” While a number of ancient extra-biblical writers refer to the Holy Land as Judaea, amazingly, John 3:22 is the only place in the New Testament where the name “Judean” appears, meaning “Judaea.”
“Aenon near Salim.” The location of these two villages was unknown until the late 19th century when, during an excavation in St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba, Jordan, a 6th century mosaic map of sacred sites was found. Known as the Madaba Map, its focal point is Jerusalem, but it also depicts Aenon as being near to Salim, just south of the Decapolis city of Scythopolis (a/k/a Beth Shean) and west of the Jordan River. Note that John was baptizing in this area, while Jesus was baptizing two or three days further south along the same river in Judea, where He Himself was baptized by John.
“Because there was plenty of water.” John the Baptist did most of his ministry in the area along the Jordan River, especially the southern region. Generally, the river had sufficient water for an immersion baptism. However, at the end of a long hot and dry summer, it is reduced to a trickle and any crocodiles can be easily spotted. So John went further north, where there was a greater quantity of water for immersion. Apparently, sprinkling was not an option. But sprinkling was introduced by the Jewish church near the end of the first century, as recorded in the Didache.
Regarding baptism. Baptize as follows: After first explaining all these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. But if you have no running water, baptize in other water; and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Before the baptism, let the baptizer and the candidate for baptism fast, as well as any others that are able. Require the candidate to fast one or two days previously.
“Rabbi, the One you testified about … everyone is flocking to Him.” The disciples of John the Baptist became so jealous of the ministry of Jesus, that they did not mention the name of Jesus. Rather, they referred to Jesus as “that man,” or in this case, as “the One.” The avoidance of a name was a deliberate insult. However, John did not respond with a rebuke but simply affirmed that “the One” was the bridegroom (v. 29) who had come from heaven (v. 31).
05.05.06.Q1 What happened to the disciples of John the Baptist who did not follow Jesus (Jn. 3:26)?
The phrase “everyone is flocking to Him” is a figure of speech indicating that many, possibly the majority, of people began to follow Jesus. It is not an exclusive statement meaning every single person, just as the term “all” is not an exclusive statement in terms of human relationships.
Eventually many disciples and followers of John the Baptist followed Jesus, especially after John was executed. However, not all made that change. Those who didn’t may have recognized that God brought forth a mighty prophet, but for one reason or another, they chose not to follow Jesus and formed their own religious sect. That group and their descendants became known as the Mendeans, or Christians of St. John, although they were never true Christians. Centuries later the Muslims called them the Sabaeans. They moved east and settled in the cities of Wasit, Basra, and Chuzistan on the eastern side of the Tigris River in a nation known today as Iraq.
“But the groom’s friend.” There were some cultural differences in wedding rituals between communities. In Galilee, there was a groomsman (Heb. shoshebhin) for the groom and brideswoman for the bride, whereas in Judea only the bridegroom had a groomsman. The bridegroom in ancient times was the most important individual at the wedding, the reverse from today’s Western custom. The bridegroom in this passage is Jesus and His friend, the groomsman is John the Baptist.
“The One who comes from above.” John again presented his commentary reflecting the divine message in no uncertain terms. He stated that Jesus:
- Came from heaven
- Spoke with divine authority
- Spoke from observation into the hearts of men, not from theology or theory
- Spoke the words of God, and
- Had complete authority from God the Father to proclaim and demonstrate his message (confirmed later by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:47).
“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life.” John brings forth his theme that whoever places his faith in Jesus for salvation has eternal life. That life is not only a future possession, but also a present possession. “Whoever believes” is not an opinion or feeling, but rather, is both a deep-seated faith and commitment to follow biblical instructions that pertain to all areas of life.
After a brief ministry in Judea and around Jerusalem, Jesus traveled north into the Galilee area. There were two primary reasons for this.
- Both Jesus and John were engaged in the same ministry. They were challenged by the increasing tension of the leading Pharisees who desired to see both men end their ministries. The corrupt police power of the Sanhedrin was intense, but limited to Jerusalem and Judea. Therefore, Jesus traveled north to Galilee.
- John’s imprisonment by Herod Antipas signaled that the message of the Baptist was rejected, as would be the message of Jesus.
Jesus was gaining immense popularity, which could have developed into political overtones. The image of the coming messiah held by the people was powerfully explosive but completely different from the life and ministry of Jesus. To avoid any problems and to be outside the legal sphere of the Sanhedrin, He ministered in the plain of Galilee, as well as the villages that surround the Sea of Galilee. Herod the Great had previously limited the arresting authority of the high court to Jerusalem and Judea.
At the same time the popularity of John also increased. Since his messages were far more inflammatory than those of Jesus, Herod Antipas feared John might start a revolt. Yet strange as it seems, the leading Pharisees and Sadducees appear not to be as concerned about John, but worried that Jesus would overthrow their religious system in the temple.
05.05.06.Q2 Did Jesus baptize anyone (Jn. 3:22)?
According to John 3:22 and 26, Jesus and His disciples baptized people. However, John 4:2 is a clarification statement that says only the disciples were performing the baptisms. There is no conflict between these three passages, but rather, the disciples were baptizing under the authority of Jesus. Therefore, it would be the same as if Jesus personally performed the baptisms.
. The mosaic Madaba Map is in the village of Madaba, located about 20 miles south of Amman, the capital of Jordan. The map measured approximately 51 feet (north to south) by 19 feet (east to west) totally about 969 square feet that contained about 1.1 million tesserae, which are the small colored mosaic tiles.
. See “Madaba Map” in Appendix 26; See also 14.02.03.D and 05.02.03.Z.
. The Didache is a book on church order that was written within a century of the life of Jesus. For more information, see 02.02.08.
. For an explanation, see 15.04.08.Q1 “Does the word “all” mean the entire Jewish community; every Jew in the land?”
. Kessler, “Mendaeans.” 4:1467.