At this point we only have four disciples named, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel. We don’t know if there were others, but the implication that they were baptizing people indicates that there were many more. In fact, there had to be so many that John’s disciples began to notice that fewer people were coming to him than to Jesus.
Here are some key things to remember. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, you must spend time with him. You can’t just say “Here I am” and then continue with your daily life as if nothing has changed. They went on a retreat and that indicates that it was a special time set aside for fellowship and being taught. We can have that time with Jesus on a daily basis but there should be times when we take a longer time-out from the things of the world to have intense time. I don’t do so good with that.
The Jew and John’s disciples were arguing but it didn’t get specific, only that it was about ceremonial washing. The Jews, as we understand from what Jesus said about them washing the outside of dish but not the inside, made it clear that their ceremonies for cleansing didn’t do anything for the person’s sanctification. Their hearts were still corrupt as opposed to John’s baptism for repentance which was an appeal to God for forgiveness. The Jews had so many ceremonial requirements that it was nearly impossible to live a day without having to do some kind of ceremonial washing to cleanse themselves from the outward defilement that came every day. This is quite a contrast to John’s simple requirement.
But the question for his disciples quickly degenerated into jealousy for their master. They blame John for Jesus’ success in a manner that is accusatory. “If you hadn’t said this about him, we would still be getting people baptized.”
John’s disciples may have been jealous but John wasn’t. He knew his role in life and that was to point people to Jesus. He had his head on correctly about where his ministry came from and where it was to go. This is a remarkable admonition to each of us. We can get caught up in how good of a job we are doing for Jesus that we forget that we can do it only because God gives us the ministry. Ministry is not just about preaching and baptizing. It is about whatever vocation God has called us to do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV).
We should find our joy in knowing we are serving our Lord and not in the people who are giving us accolades. We should be listening for Jesus to tell us that we are doing a good job.
John gets to the nitty gritty of who Jesus is. He is sovereign (he is above all stated twice), he is not speaking from earthly wisdom but with God’s wisdom. It is firsthand wisdom and not something he learned from someone else.
John speaks paradoxically when he says no one accepts what Jesus says but when a man does accept it, his acceptance certifies God is truthful. Who is this man that has accepted it? Is he talking about himself, or others? This is the same kind of distinction that is made when Jesus says that whoever believes has eternal life then speaks about those who are condemned and those who aren’t. The man who accepts can only refer to the elect.
Now he is talking about Jesus as the one whom God has sent. What John says about Jesus here is almost the same as what Jesus says about himself later. It is almost a summary of what we will see about Jesus as we continue through the Gospel of John. He speaks for God, He gives the Spirit. There is a love relationship between the Father and the Son, The Father has given everything into Jesus’ hands.
Our salvation or condemnation is made evident when we either believe in Jesus or reject him. Belief, certifying the God is truthful brings eternal life. Not accepting what we hear about Jesus confirms that God’s eternal wrath remains on the unbeliever. This too certifies that God is truthful. Pretty scary!