Gospel of John Sunday School | Week 11

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Notes on John 3:22-36

One of the most significant parts of this passage is the discussion revolving around baptism. Along with John the Baptist’s specific ministry, John 3 includes one of the few mentions of Jesus’ disciples baptizing people prior to His ascension.

Since the baptism believers participate in today is symbolic of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, this baptism must be something different. The fact that it is compared to John’s baptism (23) and spoken of as a matter of purification (25) indicates that Jesus was engaging in a “symbolic cleansing.” His message focused on preparing for the kingdom of God, so it makes perfect sense that He ministered to Jews in a very tangible manner of preparation. Their whole religious life involved purification and cleansing (see Leviticus!), so they would have understood His baptism in this light.

Part of the discussion also hints at the potential for discord between the two baptizing factions. But that was not the case at all: John knew that he was not the man. From the beginning of his recorded ministry, he knew that his role was to “make straight the way of the Lord” (1:23). And, in true kingdom fashion, this humility makes him a character worthy of emulation! His “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30) is the epitome of the Christian experience. God may very well use us in some remarkable manner, but at the end of the day we are simply His vessels unworthy of the glory only due to Him (Isaiah 29:16).

The conclusion of this section and chapter is intriguing, in that there are striking parallels between the explanation of Jesus’ interactions with Nicodemus and John Baptist’s words. Themes of authority, judgment, and the ability to grant life all point to the divinity of Jesus. For the first century Jew, these prerogatives were reserved for the Lord. John (the author) demonstrates that Jesus is God by writing about the divinity of Christ and His relationship with the Father. Additionally, the gospel is presented in terms that focus on the work of God, not man. His glory is the focus of the Gospel of John, the Bible, and history.

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