John Decreases, Jesus Increases
FOLLOWING the Passover in the spring of 30 C.E., Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem. However, they do not return to their homes in Galilee but go into the country of Judea, where they do baptizing. John the Baptizer has been doing the same work for about a year now, and he still has disciples associating with him.
Actually, Jesus does not do any baptizing himself, but his disciples do it under his direction. Their baptism has the same significance as that performed by John, it being a symbol of a Jew’s repentance of sins against God’s Law covenant. However, after his resurrection, Jesus instructs his disciples to do baptizing that has a different significance. Christian baptism today is a symbol of a person’s dedication to serve Jehovah God.
At this early point in Jesus’ ministry, however, both John and he, although working separately, are teaching and baptizing repentant ones. But John’s disciples become jealous and complain to him regarding Jesus: “Rabbi, . . . see, this one is baptizing and all are going to him.”
Rather than being jealous, John rejoices in Jesus’ success and also wants his disciples to rejoice. He reminds them: “You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent forth in advance of that one.” Then he uses a beautiful illustration: “He that has the bride is the bridegroom. However, the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. Therefore this joy of mine has been made full.”
John, as the friend of the Bridegroom, rejoiced some six months earlier when he introduced his disciples to Jesus. Certain ones of them became prospective members of Christ’s heavenly bride class to be made up of Christians anointed with the spirit. John wants his present disciples also to follow Jesus, since his purpose is to prepare the way for Christ’s successful ministry. As John the Baptizer explains: “That one must go on increasing, but I must go on decreasing.”
Jesus’ new disciple John, who earlier had also been a disciple of John the Baptizer, writes regarding Jesus’ origin and His important role in human salvation, saying: “He that comes from heaven is over all others. . . . The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
Not long after John the Baptizer discusses the decrease of his own activity, he is arrested by King Herod. Herod has taken Herodias, the wife of Philip his brother, as his own, and when John publicly exposes his actions as improper, Herod has him put in prison. When Jesus hears about John’s arrest, he leaves Judea with his disciples for Galilee. John 3:22–4:3; Acts 19:4; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Mark 1:14; 6:17-20.
▪ What is the significance of baptisms done under Jesus’ direction prior to his resurrection? And after his resurrection?
▪ How does John show that his disciples’ complaint is unwarranted?
▪ Why is John put in prison?