Rejoice when people follow Jesus


“22 After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized. 23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison. 25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. 32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. 33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:22-36

While there is much to be learned from this text, I draw your attention especially to two points. The first relates to our place as ministers of the Gospel, and the second to the importance of placing our faith and hope in Christ Jesus and His ministry of Word and Sacrament.

It is often our inclination, because of our sinful flesh, to focus on ourselves and our work. Pastors come out of the seminary with hopes and dreams of great success in their ministries (often measured with human standards — greater numbers and followers), and we even become somewhat jealous of the successes of others in the ministry. We might even count ourselves more diligent and wonder why people are not flocking to hear the words of our sermons or coming to us to be baptized.

I think we see this in the opening verses of our text. Disciples of John the Baptist voiced concern that Jesus and His disciples were also baptizing, and more people were going to Jesus for baptism than those coming to John.

John’s answer provides a true lesson for us: “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (v. 27).

Not only are our ministries given and entrusted to us from heaven, but the fruits of our ministries — our successes — are God’s working and His blessing upon our humble labors as ministers of the Gospel.

Instead of being upset or even jealous because of his decreasing ministry and the fact that the people were following Jesus and going to Him to hear His Word and to be baptized for the remission of their sins, John rejoiced and said these astounding words: “He must increase, but I must decrease (v. 30).”

Is that how we conduct our ministries? Do we rejoice when our hearers no longer follow us because of who we are and what we do and say but follow Jesus and cling to His Word because of who He is and what He teaches and reveals to us?

Jesus is from above. He is the very Son of God who came into this world to save us. He bears witness to the truth and speaks the very words of God because He came from God, and the Spirit was given to Him without limit or restriction.

Certainly, we want our hearers to follow Jesus, not because of us and who we are but because of Jesus, who He is, and what He has done for us.

And this brings me to the second point — a point I so appreciate — the simplicity of the Gospel.

“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (v. 35-36).

You can’t get much more straightforward and clear than that! Jesus is the Christ. He is our Messiah and Savior. God the Father committed our salvation into His hand, and He went to the cross and paid the price — He made full atonement for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2; John 1:29). In Him is “plenteous redemption” (Ps. 130:7).

The one who believes in the Son — who looks to Jesus the Messiah and His cross in faith — has eternal life. The one who doesn’t look to the Son in faith “shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (v. 36).

This, of course, echos the words of our Lord Jesus earlier in John 3, when Jesus, while speaking to Nicodemus, said: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (v. 16-18).

Both John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus called upon all to repent of their sinful ways and look to Jesus in faith. They both clearly taught that we are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ and that, apart from such faith, we are not justified but remain under the wrath of God and stand condemned.

It is as the apostle John writes in His first Epistle, chapter 5: “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (v. 11-12). Or, as we read in the ending of Mark’s Gospel (16:16): “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

That is certainly reason to point our hearers not to ourselves but to Jesus and His life-giving Word. Only in Him is life!

O dearest Jesus, grant that we place our faith and hope in You alone and follow after You and hear Your life-giving words. And grant that we rejoice that others, too, hear the truth of Your Word and come to You for forgiveness and life! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

Categories ,