Today’s Passage: John 3:22-36
Today’s passage is strange. It tells the story of John the Baptist’s disciples getting into an argument with some random guy about ceremonial washing – probably about baptism. And somehow, they leave the argument upset at Jesus! They arrive at John the Baptist complaining that the one that he had identified as the Messiah was taking all of their baptising business away from them!
They were angry.
I suspect that they felt threatened by Jesus.
I don’t know what they expected from John. He was their leader. His was an important ministry – calling Israel to repentance. His ministry was their ministry. This was what they had invested their lives into. Something had to be done so that John didn’t just quietly fade into obscurity.
Obscurity wasn’t something John the Baptist was good at. Verse 24 hints at a story that’s only told to us in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). John the Baptist dared to challenge Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. And he was eventually thrown in jail – where he would have his head chopped off. John the Baptist wasn’t afraid to do what God had called him to do: to call people to repentance; and to prepare the way for the Messiah.
But John’s disciples weren’t happy that Jesus was getting more attention than John. Yes, their master had identified Jesus as the Messiah. But did that give Him the right to baptise people?
It’s interesting that this story is put in the immediate aftermath of Nicodemus’ story. There we heard of a man who seemed to have it all together before God, but who didn’t believe in Jesus. Here we hear of John’s disciples – people who were all about repentance and turning back to God – but people who also didn’t accept that Jesus was the Messiah. Both Nicodemus and John’s disciples were men who were seeking to be right with God – and both missed the bus.
John the Baptist was glad that Jesus was increasing. Why weren’t his followers?
And what about us? Is it possible for us to be so caught up in being “right” – like Nicodemus – that we miss the simplicity of God’s call for us to trust in Jesus. Or is it possible for us to be so caught up in doing God’s work that we actually miss God at work?
John the Baptist’s work was important and God-given. But he knew something that his angry followers didn’t: God’s plan revolves around Jesus, and not us. God’s plan revolves around Jesus, and not the ways that we have always served Him. God’s plan revolves around Jesus, and not our traditions. God’s plan revolves around Jesus, and not our good works.
How sad to be caught doing good things for God, and yet not knowing Him.
So where do we fit into this story?