CHAPTER III (CONTINUE)
THE EARLY JUDEAN MINISTRY (CONTINUE)
3. John’s Testimony to Jesus at Aenon
Reference: John 3:22-36
By way of review it will be remembered that Jesus went from Nazareth to the Jordan River, possibly near Bethabara to be baptized by John, then spent forty days in the wilderness of Judea in His temptation by the Devil. After that He returned to Galilee and called several disciples from the area of Bethsaida and then went to Cana where He attended the wedding and performed His first miracle. From Cana He went to Capernaum and then went to Jerusalem at the feast of Passover. There He cleansed the temple and had the discourse with Nicodemus. Then He left Jerusalem and went a little to the north in Judea with His disciples and was engaged in baptizing disciples. John the Baptist was also in this vicinity baptizing at Aenon near Salim. The first part of this section deals with the question of baptism and the latter with John’s testimony about Jesus.
A. The Question About Baptism. We read first of all that John was baptizing at Aenon because there was much water there. Those who claim that baptism means a complete submergence of the body often quote this text as proof of their teachings. However, the “much water” does not mean a lake or other large body of water. Aenon means “springs!” There were many springs there. Jewish washing ceremonies required either a large body of water, or living, running water, in order that the water would not become polluted. (Cf. Lev. 11:36. Also see Lev. 14:5,6,50,51,52; 15:13). The fact that John baptized where there were many springs in no way proves any particular mode of baptism.
We read that a question arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. We are not told what the question was, but it was probably brought about by the fact that both John and Jesus were baptizing and Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John; in fact it is stated that “all were coming to Jesus.” The question may have been about why both John and Jesus were baptizing, or whether one baptism was more efficacious than the other, or perhaps even why John was continuing to baptize after Jesus began His public ministry. All we are told is that the question was about purification. This establishes the fact that baptism was understood to effect a cleansing, or washing, or purification. This is a very important point to remember when studying the subject of water baptism. There are those who contend that baptism represents death, burial and resurrection. They get this idea from a misreading of Rom. 6:3,4. The baptism there is not a ceremony but the work of the Spirit of God in identifying the believer with Christ, so that the believer shares in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
B. John’s Testimony About Jesus. We have commented earlier on John’s witness: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John made it very plain that he never claimed to be the Messiah, but that he had been sent before the Messiah to prepare the way for Him. He then illustrated his relation to Christ as that of the best man (friend of the bridegroom) to the bridegroom, an illustration which is just as meaningful today as it was then. The best man is usually the best friend of the groom. It is not his business to glorify himself, but to do everything possible to help the groom and give him his rightful place of honor. His joy is fulfilled in seeing the happiness of the groom. The bride and groom relationship is used in the O.T., in the Gospels, in Paul’s epistles with the Church, and in the future Kingdom with Israel (cf. Isa. 62:4,5; Rom. 7:4; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:31,32; Rev. 21:9; 19:7-10).
Vincent remarks that the change in style between vs. 30 and 31 indicates that John the Baptist’s words end with vs. 31, and the Evangelist John’s words begin in vs. 32. The contrast between the heavenly and the earthly in vs. 31 is similar to that in 1 Cor. 15:45-49.
The expression in vs. 33: “hath set to his seal” is old English legal terminology. It means that he has solemnly attested and confirmed the statement that God is true, or that he has affixed his seal to the document.
It will be noticed in vs. 34 “unto him” is in italics, which means it is not in the Greek text. The question arises, does God give the Spirit without measure to Christ, or does Christ give the Spirit to His disciples? We know of course that the Spirit was not given to the disciples until Christ ascended, but we believe these words were written by John many years after Pentecost. It seems evident that the Spirit was given in His fulness to Christ at His baptism, but here it is stated in vs. 35 that the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand. Giving things into His hand means not only possession, but authority or disposal (cf. Heb. 10:31 ). Therefore it would seem that John means that Jesus gives the Spirit to His disciples without measure.
In vs. 36 the A.V. fails to distinguish between two verbs: “The one believing on the Son has eternal life; the one not believing (not trusting or obeying) the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” The second verb is peitho, which is variously translated: obey, trust, persuade, yield, have confidence. The usual word for believe, pisteuo, which occurs in the first part of the verse is derived from peitho. Actually the second verb has the alpha privative, which gives it a negative meaning, disobey, untrusting, unbelieving. This is the only time the word is used in John. The word shows that faith is more than mental assent to a fact. It involved committal, trust, obedience, or a lack of these qualities in the negative. John 3:36 is one of the favorite texts on assurance of salvation.
4. The Two Day Ministry in Samaria
Reference: John 4:1-42
A. The Reason Jesus Left Judea, 1-3. The reason given is that Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that He made and baptized more disciples than John. But why would this be a reason for Him to leave? Probably because of the hatred which had been generated by His action in cleansing the temple. The Pharisees could not tolerate another religious group which threatened their power in Israel. John was a big enough cause of trouble for the Pharisees, but if Jesus was becoming more popular than John, then they would have to do something drastic to get rid of Jesus. Jesus was not fleeing from trouble because of fear, but He had to finish His ministry in other regions and it would be soon enough when He would come back to Jerusalem to endure the wrath of the Pharisees. He had taught His disciples, “when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matt. 10:23).
A very interesting sidelight is given us here that when we read about Jesus baptizing disciples, it does not mean that Jesus Himself performed the actual baptizing, but that His disciples did this work. There may have been several reasons for this. In contrast to John or others who were baptizing with water, Jesus was to be set apart as the One who baptized with the Holy Spirit. Possibly if the same trouble developed as did at Corinth over baptism (cf. 1 Cor. 1:11-17), those who had been baptized by Jesus personally, if Jesus had done it Himself, would have thought themselves far superior to those who had been baptized by mere disciples. It would seem also from this usage that when Paul said he had baptized so few at Corinth it did not mean that he personally had baptized so few, leaving that work to his fellow-workers, but that under his preaching of the gospel he and his fellow-workers as a group baptized very few of the converted, simply because Christ had not sent him to baptize, as He had the Twelve, but to preach the Gospel.
Notice that John refers to Jesus in vs. 1 as “the Lord.” John recognized Jesus as Jehovah, the name most often translated LORD in the O.T. There is no doubt about the Deity of Christ in John’s Gospel.
B. He Must Needs Go Through Samaria, vs. 4. The most obvious reason He had to go through Samaria was that Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee, although Jews could go to the east of Jordan through Perea to avoid Samaria. However, there was another reason: to have this unusual ministry with the Samaritans. His action here may seem strange, since He forbad His disciples to minister to any city of the Samaritans or to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5). Samaria was a splitoff from the nation of Israel, when the northern ten tribes rebelled and established their idolatrous nation under Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 12, 13). In the days of Christ it had a mixture of nationalities, since the king of Assyria had carried away many captives and had transplanted foreigners in their place.
It seems that God in His sovereignty often makes exceptions to His rules. Jesus not only ministered to these Samaritans but also to a Syrophenician woman and to a Roman centurion, but all of these were unusual circumstances. In accordance with prophecy, Israel had to be established and blessed before any blessing could go to the Gentiles. For that reason Jesus limited His earthly ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In time Samaria was to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom as well as the Gentiles (Acts. 1:8).
The Samaritans had their own copy of the five books of Moses, but apparently did not recognize any of the prophetic books. There still exists today a small community of Samaritans at Nablus and they still have their Samaritan Pentateuch.
C. The Woman At the Well, vs. 5-26. Jesus and His disciples stopped at noon at Jacob’s well, just outside the town of Sychar, where He rested while the disciples went into town to buy food. Sychar is mentioned only this once in the Bible. It is identified by some as the same as Shechem. Joseph’s tomb was in the area, and near by were the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, from which were pronounced the blessings and the cursings of the Law (Deut. 11:29; 27:12,13; Josh. 8: 33).
In a sense Jesus did not go to the Samaritans. He had to pass through Samaria and this woman actually came to Him. She was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water, for she said the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. We get an example of the regard the Jews had for the Samaritans in John 8:48, when the Jews expressed their utter disrespect for Jesus by saying: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?”
Although we see the true humanity of Jesus in the fact that His body was weary from the long journey and he was thirsty, yet we see also His Deity both in His claims of being able to give living water resulting in everlasting life, and in His knowledge about this woman, so that she had to say to the people of the city: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
There is a parallel between this woman and Nicodemus. Both show the inability of the natural mind to understand spiritual truth. Nicodemus asked, “How can a man enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born again?” The woman asked: “Give me this living water so I won’t have to come in the heat of the day to draw water out of this deep well and carry it back to the village.”
When a person gets under conviction it is natural for him to change the subject. After Jesus had revealed her true character by telling her about her many husbands and her adultery, she changes the subject to where is the right place to worship God. Jesus did not exactly answer her question, but pointed out that true worship of God was not so much a matter of place but of heart. God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth. Jerusalem at the time was God’s appointed place: salvation is of the Jews. The Samaritans had departed so far from true worship that they didn’t really know what they were worshipping. Jesus said, “We know what we worship.”
The woman did possess a vital bit of knowledge. She said she knew that when Messiah comes, who is called the Christ, He will tell us all things. Whereupon Jesus confessed: “I that speak unto thee am he.” She must have believed at this point, for she left her waterpots and rushed back into town to tell everyone the good news.
D. The Reaction of the Disciples, vs. 27-38. The disciples were amazed to find Jesus talking to a woman, and a Samaritan at that, but they were afraid to ask Him why He was talking to her. So they set out the food they had bought and said, “Let’s eat.” But Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” Again we see the insensibility on the part of the disciples to spiritual truth. Their minds were always on the level of the material. “Did someone bring Him food while we were gone to buy food?” Jesus then explained that His meat was to do the will of the Father and to finish the work He had given Him to do.
Jesus, as so often He did, pointed to something in nature at hand to illustrate His point. Looking over the green fields of grain, He said, “You will say, in four months it will be harvest time.” (This statement dates the season at which this event occurred.) And no doubt just about this time there could be seen streaming down the road the crowd of Samaritans coming to see this Man who had told the woman everything she ever did, who she said was the Christ. Jesus told the disciples to lift up their eyes and behold the fields which were already ripe for the harvest. But fields are not ripe for harvest unless the seed has been sown. Vs. 37 is a truth every servant of the Lord should remember:
“One soweth and another reapeth.” When souls are won to Christ it is because someone first sowed the seed. We may take credit for winning so many to Christ, but our efforts would have been in vain had not someone witnessed before. God often sends us to reap that whereon we bestowed no labor: others labored and we entered into their labors. These principles of seed sowing are inter-dispensational in nature. Whether it is the Gospel of the Kingdom or the Gospel of the Grace of God: one sows and another reaps (1 Cor. 3:6-8).
E. The Samaritans Come to Jesus, vs. 39-42. The Samaritan woman was probably the first woman preacher, and an unordained one at that. She got the whole city to turn out to hear Jesus. Many believed in Jesus because of her testimony and others said, “Now we believe, not because of your testimony; for we have heard him ourselves, and know this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” This story should be compared with Acts 8:5-25, where Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached. This, of course, was after the death and resurrection of Christ, while the Kingdom Gospel was still being preached. The unusual thing about this experience is that many of the Samaritans believed and were baptized but did not receive the Spirit until Apostles came down from Jerusalem and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. At this point we need to turn back to Ezek. 37:15-28, to the sign of the two sticks. Samaria, or Ephraim as it was called in the O.T., had seceded from Judah and the true religion at Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam and from that time to the then present the nation was divided into two parts, represented by the two sticks. God had the prophet bind the two sticks together to make one stick, showing that God would some day bring the twelve tribes back into one nation. Doubtless, if Israel had been obedient and acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah and King, this union would have taken place. In Acts 8 Samaria is reached with the Kingdom Gospel, but it required the presence and authority of the Apostles to seal this ministry, and make the reception of the Samaritans official.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)