22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
John 2:13 – 3:21 happened during or near the time of the Passover in the spring of CE (AD) 28. Jesus had as disciples, John, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael and perhaps James the brother of John the beloved. As Christ instructed his disciples to do after his resurrection, he put into practice before his resurrection by starting His earthly ministry in Jerusalem and Judea. You shall be a witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Strangely, (John 3:22-36 speaks of the Judean ministry) yet little is known of this phase of His earthly ministry. How many miracles took place, what was his message to the people, the record is strangely quiet. But it is significant that John the Baptizer and his disciples resurface again in the book of John.
You see, John was sent to bear witness of Christ’s coming. But he was also sent to give testimony to the fact that Christ did minister to others, even early in his ministry.
So why did Jesus concentrate his early work in Jerusalem and Judea? He wanted to give the religious leaders the opportunity to witness the evidence of His divine mission and to accept Him as the Messiah. As He had talked with Nicodemus, Christ endeavored to speak with all the religious leaders. He wanted them to see who He really was, and that He was the messiah. It was His desire to lead the nation forward to the accomplishment of its divinely appointed task of spreading the good news of Christ coming to the nations around them.
But despite seeming success the early Judean ministry was largely unsuccessful. In fact, more true conversions occurred on the day of Pentecost than throughout the entirety of Christ earthly ministry.
Instead of creating interest it created jealousy between the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of John. They were Jealous for their master John. They failed to fully grasp the true nature of John’s ministry of pointing others to Christ.
25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him.”
John by talking to his disciples bore witness to the fact that Jesus was the messiah and that the Messiah’s influence should increase while his own influence should decrease. As was stated in the first chapter of John, John the Baptizer came calling the people to repentance and to prepare the way for the coming messiah.
Yet I can understand the jealousy for those that continued to be disciples of John. They truly didn’t understand the nature of Jesus mission on earth and even John did not fully comprehend it. They wanted John to be a great leader among the people, but John said no, that is not my position. My position is to point others to the messiah, and that messiah is none other than the Lamb of God, whom I baptized with water. But, He will not only baptize with water, but will baptize with the Holy Spirit as He Himself was baptized with water and the Holy Spirit on the day that I baptized Him.
As John said in verse 28, “I am not Christ, But I have been sent before Him.”
This should be the attitude of all Christian leaders and true followers of Christ. It is not about self and our own ministries, it is about pointing others to the coming Messiah. John pointed to Christ who was to be our sacrifice for our sins. Today as Christians we should be pointing others to repentance and the soon coming of our Lord and Saviour in the clouds of Glory.