“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3; John 4)

Scripture reading – John 3; John 4

Some of the most beloved and familiar verses of the New Testament are found in today’s study. I suppose most readers need little guidance to grasp and appreciate the spiritual truths found in John 3 and 4.

John 3 – The New Birth

The growing popularity of Christ’s ministry drew many to inquire of Him, and among them was a powerful, influential man named Nicodemus. He is introduced as “a man of the Pharisees…a ruler of the Jews,” and was a member of the Sanhedrin (3:1). Rather than face the scrutiny, if not disdain of his peers, Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi [Teacher], we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (3:2).

Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3). Evidencing his sincerity, Nicodemus pressed Jesus, and asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (3:4). Jesus again answered, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (3:5). Though he was a spiritual leader in Israel, Nicodemus lacked understanding, and asked again, “How can these things be?” (3:9)

To that question, Jesus spoke the words that have brought multitudes to saving faith and eternal life: “14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up [Numbers 21:8]: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (3:14-16).

“What became of Nicodemus after his encounter with Jesus?” We later find him contending with members of the Sanhedrin, who desired to arrest Jesus that they might silence Him (7:50). When Christ was crucified, Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea to claim His lifeless body, and prepare it for burial (19:39). We do not know if he publicly identified with Jesus during His ministry, but he certainly made his following known upon Christ’s death.

The Ministry of John the Baptist (3:23-36)

Some who followed John the Baptist realized his ministry was eclipsed by all those who were seeking Jesus. John’s followers came and questioned him, to which he replied: “I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him” (3:28). With that admission, John made a statement that should resonate in the hearts of believers tempted to think they deserve recognition. John said of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30). With those words, we read the last words of John the Baptist recorded by John in his Gospel (3:31-36).

Closing thoughts (3:31-36) – What a loving rebuke we have in John’s example. He realized and accepted his ministry was not to build his own following, but to point sinners to Christ. In fact, that is the ministry of every preacher, teacher, and believer!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

John 4 – The Samaritan Woman: A Thirsty Soul

In John 4 we find Jesus making His journey from Judaea to Galilee (4:3). John recorded Jesus was compelled to take a certain route, for “He must needs go through Samaria” (4:4). The LORD came to a well outside the village called Sychar about the noon hour (4:4-6). Waiting at the well as His disciples went to buy food, there came a woman to the well to draw water (4:7). Time and space prevent a thorough study of this passage, and a few brief observations must suffice.

We understand the woman was coming to a public well in the heat of the day, no doubt to avoid other village women. We learn in the narrative that her life was scandalous, for Jesus revealed, she had been married and divorced five times, and was living with a man not her husband (4:16-18). Looking past her sins, and knowing the spiritual thirst of her soul (4:13-14), Jesus introduced Himself as the Christ (4:21-26).

When the disciples returned from the village, they were surprised to find Jesus conversing with this woman from Samaria. Yet, they dared not ask, “Why talkest thou with her?” (4:27) The woman left her water pots at the well, went into the village, “and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (4:28-29)

The testimony of the Samaritan woman, and her faith that Jesus was the Christ, moved many in the village to believe (4:39). The Samaritans begged the LORD to stay with them, and during the two days that passed, “many more believed” when they heard Jesus teach (4:40-41). They confessed to the woman, “we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (4:42).

Closing thoughts – What a difference the Gospel makes, if we will look past the sins of men and see the thirst of their lost souls.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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