Letters to the Prison - Week 35

Hello, all.  
We’re grateful for this opportunity to encourage you even from a “social distance.”  If you’re enjoying these letters, be sure to thank the people who make them available.  And thank them for us, too!
We’ve spent the last month (literally) looking at the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter 3.  There is so much there, and we barely scratched the surface in 5 weeks or so.  Before we move on, there are two key things we need to remember from the conversation:
1)We must be born again.  This is the work God does “from above.”
2)We must believe in Jesus… that he is who he says he is.
This is what it means to be saved… to be a Christian.  We must believe and we must be born again, and we need God’s help to do both.  Nicodemus has a hard time comprehending this.  We won’t hear much more from Nicodemus.  But we will see him again later in the study.
The rest of John chapter 3 covers a really important statement by John the Baptist about Jesus.  We see in John 3:22-24 that, after his talk with Nicodemus, Jesus goes out of Jerusalem into the Judean countryside and is baptizing in the same area as John the Baptist.  It quickly becomes apparent to John the Baptist and his disciples that Jesus is attracting more followers than John is.  John the Baptist is not concerned about this at all.  Look what John says:
•28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”-John 3:28-30
Before we go too much further, we need to look at something remarkable about John the Baptist.  John the Baptist says a lot about who Jesus is by telling people who he –John the Baptist himself— is not.  This is a very humble position for John to take since he was extremely well-known and widely recognized as a prophet of God.  Yet his mission was to be a prophet for the coming Lord –Jesus the Christ.  John’s job was to point to Jesus, not draw attention to himself.  So, John the Baptist spent a lot of time explaining who he is not.  
Check out the chart on the next page for some examples:



 
What John the Baptist says about HimselfWhat it means about Jesus
“I am not the Christ” -John 1:20Jesus is the Christ –The Messiah predicted by the Old Testament
John is not “The Prophet” predicted by Moses -John 1:21              Jesus is the Prophet predicted by Moses          See Deuteronomy 18:15
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” -John 1:23  See also Isaiah 40:3Jesus is the Lord –for whom John is “making the way straight.”
John is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal         -John 1:27If John is the “greatest born of women” (Matthew 11:11) and is this humble before Jesus, how humble should we be?
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but I have been sent before him’” -John 3:28Jesus is the Christ whom John was sent to proclaim
“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” -John 3:29Jesus is the “bridegroom.”  John is the “best man.”  
Guess who the bride is…  US!!                   See Revelation 19
“He must increase, but I must decrease”          -John 3:30Jesus’ ministry, influence, and glory will increase while John’s will diminish.  John the Baptist will shortly be arrested and then eventually beheaded.   See Matthew 14

Going back to the end of John 3, and having seen what John the Baptist says about himself in verses 28-30, we then see some profound things that John the Baptist says about Jesus:
•31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. -John 3:31
This is so important that John says it twice in one verse:  Jesus is “from above” –from heaven—and is “above all.”  John once again humbles himself before Jesus when he refers to himself as the one who “belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way.”  John’s words and ministry are nothing compared to the surpassing worth and wisdom of what Jesus is saying and doing.
John the Baptist has so much more to say about Jesus in the next few verses.  We’ll cover them in more detail next week.
We love you!

Dean A.

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