A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

John 3:22-4:6

 

Jordan river

Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

Introduction

We are making our way through John's record of the things he saw and heard while Jesus was with him and the other disciples. It is an eye-witness account. The emphasis is on the teaching Jesus gave, so it could not be more important.

The first 21 verses of chapter three tell us clearly God's way of salvation. A religious man, Nicodemus, was taught that entering the kingdom of God meant having the transforming experience of being born again spiritually. Verse 16 is perhaps the best known verse in the Bible. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son....."

The teaching of Jesus makes plain that there is light and darkness, being saved and being lost. We take up the message in verse 22.

Verses 22-24 After this, Jesus and His disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them, and baptised. Now John also was baptising at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptised. (This was before John was put in prison.)

Jesus and His disciples went to the Jordan River. The ritual of baptism had the meaning that the baptised person was turning from an old way of life, to one of willing obedience to God. Being baptised meant being dipped under the water. John, spoken of here, is John the Baptist, not the writer of this Gospel. He had been calling people to repent and obey God. Later, we will learn that King Herod had him imprisoned because he opposed him.

Verses 25 & 26 An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan- the one about whom you testified- well, He is baptising, and everyone is going to Him.

It seems that a couple of misunderstandings had arisen. Someone was bringing up a regulation from the Jew's religion causing argument. Others were telling John the Baptist that Jesus was having many people go to Him for baptism. They were objecting to it, thinking that they should be going to John.

Verses 27-30 To this John replied, "A man can only receive what is given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of Him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less important.

John answers these people by centring the focus on Jesus. He is pointing out that Jesus has been sent from God and that he himself is simply a servant going ahead to prepare people for Christ's ministry. He likens himself to the friend of a bridegroom and tells how he is fulfilled in being it. He sees himself as fading from the public view as Jesus becomes more prominent and better known. This is as it should be.

Verses 31-33 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what He has seen and heard, but no-one accepts His testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.

It seems that this is now John, the writer of the Gospel speaking, and making plain how the ministry of Jesus is unique. Jesus is the one who came from above. He is above all and is able to speak of what He is familiar with in heaven. Those only earth-born cannot do that. They only know of life on earth. John refers to the fact that largely, Jesus' testimony about himself is rejected by the masses. This seems to be an often repeated point in John. Unbelief came to the fore over and over again until Jesus' death and beyond. By believing the Word of Christ, a man is declaring that God is to be trusted.

Verses 34-36 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God; to him God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands. Whoever puts his faith in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see that life, for God's wrath remains on him.

This is the central emphasis of the Gospel of John. He wants readers to see that Jesus is pre-eminent, that He is sent from the Father who loves Him. That He has been sent for our sake. Men and women have a choice-to trust in Jesus as their Saviour or to reject Him. The consequences are enormous. Either eternal life or eternal death.

Chapter 4
Verses 1-3 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptising more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus that baptised but His disciples. When the Lord heard of this, He left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Perhaps Jesus did not want to stir strife at this point. The Pharisees were strict Jews who felt that they had the truth and should have everyone's respect and loyalty. They would not be happy about crowds joining with John or Jesus. So going north to the Galilee area was likely to slacken any tensions. This is where Jesus; ministry began and was home ground to most of the disciples.

Verses 4-6 Now He had to go through Samaria. So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there. And Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Travelling north meant going through Samaria, a part of Israel not fully Jewish. The Samaritans were not highly regarded by Jews who felt that they were somehow inferior. We note that Jesus became tired by the journey, showing His humanness. The reference to Jacob takes us well back in history from Jesus' time. Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel and Joseph was his son. Even to this present day the well exists. It was morning when Jesus sat on the edge of the well.

The story goes on telling us of a woman who came for water and her encounter with Jesus. It is notable because the custom was for men not to speak in public with women they didn't know. Also, Jews didn't speak with Samaritans if they could help it. But Jesus breaks these rules as we will see in our next study.

Conclusion

John's purpose in writing this Gospel is "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life through His name" (John 20:31). So he is recording the events and conversations he heard that all point to who Jesus is and what He can do for us. The conversation He has with the Samaritan woman is different from His time with Nicodemus in chapter three. But the end in view is the same.

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