Short Meditations in John 3: 22. Water Baptism
Jn 3:23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized.
Perhaps the train of thought has been the subject of baptism. Jesus had baptised his own disciples and that takes John the writer to think again of John the Baptist. Note in passing the place where John was baptising was a place where “there was plenty of water.” The conclusion is inescapable that baptism for them was clearly immersion in the river where it was deep enough for a person to be immersed.
We would mention that baptism in the New Testament was clearly an expression of repentance (Acts 2:38,41), a symbol of the washing of rebirth (Titus 3:5), a symbolic picture of us dying to the old life, being buried with Christ and being raised to new life (Rom 6:4). For this latter to be meaningful, it must indeed be baptism by immersion, baptism of repenting adults.
Now John had mentioned John the Baptist early on in chapter 1 and even there had made the point (probably for those at the time of John’s writing who were a cult following John the Baptist rather than Jesus) that he was NOT the light: “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (Jn 1:6-8) John was there to point TO the light. John had denied he was the Christ (1:20) but testified that Jesus was the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29), the Son of God (1:34).
Now all this needs saying because of what follows, a division or even sense of competition in John’s disciples and in our verse above we see that “people were constantly coming to be baptized” and we might add – by John. It is early days for Jesus and John is still continuing his ministry so that people are still going to him to be baptized. Something drastic is going to happen that will terminate John’s ministry, and one cannot help wondering if the Lord allowed that because John didn’t know when to stop.
It is a challenge to consider. God gives us something to do but it may only be part of His plan, it may only be a preparation for something that is to follow on, or it may only be for a limited time. But here we are in successful ministry and people continue to be blessed. At that point it is difficult to stop and bury the ministry. Ministry isn’t ministry for the sake of it; it must always be seen in the light of God’s overall strategy. John knew this as we will see: “He must become greater; I must become less.” (Jn 3:30) May that also be our dictum.