The Superiority of Jesus to John the Baptist
Written for the remaining followers of John in the first century.
According to John 4:2 Jesus did not do the baptizing but his disciples did.
a) John the Baptist had said Jesus would baptize with the Spirit (Jn. 1:33)
b) The “disciples” here may have included some or all of the 12 but they are not commissioned until John is imprisoned in Mark 1:14.
c) This baptism was most likely an extension of John’s ministry, the baptism of repentance and not Christian baptism.
Jesus first preached “Repent” just like John in Matt. 3:2 and 4:17
The location in not known.
While Jesus is baptizing in the Judean country side, John
the Baptist is further North near Salim at a place called Aenon.
This would be 15 miles south of the Sea of Galilee and with in a few miles of the
“people were constantly coming to be baptized”
a) the verb means “to come on the scene, to appear, to come”
b) the Imperfect tense indicates “they kept on coming”
The other gospels begin Jesus’ ministry in
John’s imprisonment is not detailed here because:
1) Jesus superiority to John is the issue
2) John’s imprisonment is well known to people from the synoptic gospels (Matt., Mark, Luke)
Ceremonial washings would have been used by the Jews
(especially those that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls who where from the
This dispute arose from one of John’s disciples who was a Jew. (Linguistic Key, quote from Barrett.)
A Jew (or a group of Jews) where apparently challenging John’s (and Jesus”) ceremonial purification right of baptism. It may have been:
1) John’s and Jesus lack of credentials
2) The method was not acceptable
3) The location may have violated the established tradition
4) John was operating outside the temple ritual and structure
5) John’s baptism may not have made the people “pure” in the eyes of the religious system yet the people wanted to use it as a means to obtain ceremonial purification.
6) Or, it may have been an issue not with the temple leaders not recognizing John’s baptism, but with some of John’s people not wanting to recognize Jesus’ baptism or ceremonial washing.
The complaint came to one of John’s disciples and involved purification, but by the time the issue got to John the issue of Jesus and his growing number of followers has become the topic of the issue.
“You” (John the Baptist) is in the emphatic position and stresses John’s importance, John’s work and John’s contribution to Jesus.
“You” stands in contrast to “he” (Jesus)
“Everyone” then would be an emotional exaggeration to help fire John up to do something about Jesus ungrateful and independent actions.
They probably feel Jesus should have followed John and worked with John’s program.
Some of John’s followers missed John’s message and where concerned that so many people where going over to Jesus to be baptized and where not coming to John.
Notice the dispute began with one of John’s disciples and not with John
A leader not only has to be concerned about there critics they also need to be concerned about their “faithful” who become overly zealous for the leader instead of the cause:
a) Moses – Numbers 11:26-30
b) John the Baptists – John 26-30
c) Jesus – Luke 9:46-50
d) Paul – 1 Corinthians 1:11-17
“Given” is in the prefect tense and indicates permanence.
1 Cor. 3:1-9 – What is Apollos or Paul? Only servants. . . “the Lord has assigned to each his task.”
1 Cor. 4:1-7 – “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ. . .Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.”
1 Cor. 12:2-31 – parts of the body
“You yourselves” is emphatic here. John is telling them “I don’t need to respond to that because you already know the answer and my position.”
John recalls his words “I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.”
So, John was saying Jesus is the Christ and John is the forerunner.
The idea that John the Baptist was the one to follow continued through out the first century:
Followers of John’s in
3) It even appears to be a theme through out John’s gospel so far that John is not the one to follow. This would mean there was still an audience in 85 AD that needed to be reached with the right attitude toward John the Baptist.
“I” shows John was clear who he was and what he was to do:
a) I am not the Messiah
b) I have been sent ahead
John is not sad or disappointed. In fact he uses an example of celebration to make a comparison.
John is no more disappointed about Jesus success than a friend of a groom would be that disappointed that his friend was getting married. The friend would join in the celebration.
The bridegrooms friend or assistant would help the bridegroom get ready and make the preliminary arrangements for the coming wedding. He would:
1) Be responsible for the details
2) At the right time, bring the bride to the groom.
John the Baptist did just that. John made the preliminary arrangements with
the people of
The bride here is most likely
In Isaiah 54 Israel is described as a desolate woman being restored to her faithful husband after the work of Isaiah 53 or the work of the Messiah.
John is preparing
Also see verses: Isaiah 62:4-5; Jer. 2:2; 3:20; Ezek. 16:8; Hosea 2:16-20
John would have been one of the OT prophets and would not have known about the church. The church was not revealed to the OT prophets according to 1 Peter 1:10, 11.
John’s last words in this gospel are the greatest words he ever spoke.
For God’s will to continue and be successful this must happen.
This may again be John the apostles summary and not a quote that continues from the previous verses.
Four points are made in these verses concerning Jesus in light of a comparison with John the Baptist:
1) Jesus came from heaven and so had a higher authority than one who came from the earth. (3:31)
2) Jesus has seen, heard and experienced a dimension that men at best can only speculate about and come up with untested, unobserved theories. (3:33)
3) Jesus speaks the word (rhema – spoken word, utterance) of God. (3:34)
4) Jesus has the fullness of God’s Spirit or the fullness of the God head (3:34) (this is also seen in Colossians 2:9)
5) Jesus has received full authority from God the Father (3:35)
6) Jesus is not a mere messenger, He is the object of people’s faith. He is what the message is about. (3:36)
“accepted” is aorist and means a decisive act where a person decides to accept Jesus and his testimony.
“word” is rhema which means “spoken word, or utterance”
John again makes it clear that eternal life is due to faith in the Son who is life.
In John 3:18 we were told that to not believe leaves a person in a state of condemnation before God.
Here we are told that God’s wrath remains on him.
Note: A person does not receive God’s wrath for not believing in the Son but God’s wrath “remains” on him