I am honored to lead the Resources Division at LifeWay and serve with a team of leaders who are passionate to serve the Church in Her mission of making disciples. Each Wednesday, I share the heart behind one of the resources our team has developed and give an opportunity for you to register to win a free copy of the resource. This week’s resource is Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in John. Below is an excerpt from the book by Matt Carter and Josh Wredberg.
When I was in the early stages of planting a church, we needed to find a building to meet for our services. One of the places we looked into was a new YMCA. We walked in to talk with the person in charge about the possibility of renting the YMCA out on Sunday mornings for a church service. He told us, “I don’t think we’re able to do anything with churches or religious organizations.” Here’s how I wanted to respond: “So you’re telling me the Young Men’s Christian Association can’t be associated with Christians?” This organization founded to minister to young men in the name of Christ had forgotten why it started.
In John 3 we’re deposited into the middle of a brewing conflict (vv. 22-26). Two charismatic leaders have emerged, and people are flocking to hear both of them. The disciples of one of them start to grow a little frustrated. “Why’s Jesus getting all of the attention? Why are people following him?” So they bring these questions to their leader. John’s answer is a bit surprising. Here he has a captive audience devoted to following him. He has the perfect opportunity to declare why he’s the man. But he doesn’t. When John the Baptist is asked about the popularity of Jesus, he tells his followers that his ministry is all about pointing other people to Jesus.
We’re supposed to read this statement not as a question about baptism but about authority. John the Baptist’s disciples are wondering who has the authority. Who should men be following?
They’ve already made up their minds. To them it’s clear that men are to be following John, and Jesus is an imposter. You can hear the resentment toward Jesus in their statement: “The one you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan” (v. 26). They remembered the encounter between Jesus and John. John publicly testified Jesus was the Messiah. Despite hearing what John said, they missed the significance. John’s role was to bear witness about Jesus. Once he did that, it was natural for people to then follow Jesus based on John’s testimony.
However, in their minds John is still the superior leader. Jesus owes everything to John, and yet he’s stealing John’s followers. Their concern for John drips from this statement: “Everyone is going to him” (v. 26). That’s not true. In verse 23 we read that people are still coming to John to be baptized. But to John’s followers the shift in attention feels like a great tragedy. John is losing his popularity and momentum to someone else.
This is one of the typical attacks of Satan that is especially effective. He convinces us to criticize others who are faithfully doing God’s work. We see the crowds going elsewhere, and we get jealous. Envy and division were a massive problem for the Corinthian church. The apostle Paul wrote to them,
Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by members of Chloe’s people, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: One of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? (1 Cor. 1:10-13 CSB)
The remedy for the ills of the Corinthian church was to focus back on Jesus Christ. Jesus should be the focus, not earthly leaders.
John the Baptist answers the implied question from his disciples similarly. They want to know who should be followed. In essence he says to his disciples, “Don’t follow me instead of Jesus. Follow Jesus.” Ministry is about pointing other people to Jesus. If we miss that, we miss it all. If we surrender that, we’ve lost.
Enter here or in the form below by 11:59pm tonight, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, for your chance to win 1 of 10 copies of Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in John.