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Accept The Son and be Open to Him day by day

Reading

John 3 22-36

I recognise it’s a great privilege, but also an awesome responsibility to speak in church – and it’s not easy – especially when I’m given a Bible reading I didn’t choose, and have never spoken on before! But it’s good because it causes me to really try to understand, and apply it – getting the study books out and also praying hard!

The incident that’s mentioned in our reading appears in John’s Gospel (written by a different ‘John’) after the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus who had visited him at night. Jesus has now moved into the countryside with his disciples and it says in verse 22 that He spent some time with them, and there were baptisms going on. (It infers that Jesus Himself personally baptised people – but later in John’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 1 it explains that his disciples baptised people on His behalf.) Anyway it seems that Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist was also around in the same area, baptising at the same time and his (John’s) disciples got envious and jealous: Jesus was more popular!

Just for interest – and something I hadn’t realised before, was that this appears to be the only occasion where Jesus and John were ministering at the same time. John’s Gospel mentions that this was before Herod put John the Baptist in prison – and sadly he never came back out. Jesus’ main ministry recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke seems to have taken place after John the Baptist was off the scene.

To get back to the text, John’s disciples in their cross and upset state, started arguing with someone about ceremonial washing, and it seems to have been this that brought to the surface that Jesus and those following Him were more popular and they came to John the Baptist complaining. They were perhaps, expecting John to rubbish Jesus, but he reminds them that he had already said that he was sent ahead of Jesus - a messenger preparing the way, perhaps a bit like a Best Man at a wedding who makes sure the Bridegroom is ready, and that all goes well. Clearly an important role in itself – but it’s the Bridegroom’s Day! In verse 27 John the Baptist says “A man can only receive only what is given him from heaven.” Both Jesus and John had what God had given them: there was no place for jealousy or envy. John was joyful and pleased to hear of Jesus’ success, and said the familiar words “He must become greater, I must become less.”

From verse 31 onwards there seems to be a debate among theologians about whether these verses are John the Baptist talking, or St. John writing his Gospel, and whether it goes (chronologically) here, or earlier in the narrative; commenting on the Nicodemus episode. Anyhow it’s good stuff: The Message version reads:

The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthbound is earthbound and speaks earth languages: the heavenbound is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth. The One who God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away — a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.

So what you may say to me – what of us?

  • Jesus spent time with His disciples – just being with Him and each other. Should we be making somehow more time to do that?
  • The argument about ceremonial washing – it’s easy for me to get worked up about things that in themselves are unimportant. This week I had an email from my cousin who’s doing mission work in Spain, answering a query I had about their method of appointing elders and deacons. I’ve always been part of a Church of England church (this one!) and couldn’t grasp exactly what role they held and thought how much better the way we do things was - how stupid can I be!
  • John’s Disciples got envious and jealous – It’s so easy for us sometimes to wish we had the gifts abilities and opportunities of others who seem to shine. I need to remember that the Holy Spirit gifts people differently – and be content with who I am.
  • Finally verse 36 in the Message says
    That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.
    blockquote> Let’s make sure we have truly accepted the Lord Jesus - and not only once, but what He may be asking of us day by day by day!

Amen