Monday, November 2, 2015

John States His Position

John 3:22-4:4

“After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.  And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.  For John was not yet cast into prison.” (John 3:22-24)

After that first cleansing of the Temple, Jesus left Jerusalem, going out into the country and baptizing those who believed.  At the time, john the Baptist was baptizing people at Aenon near Salim, on the Jordan River about half way between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.  He was there because there was plenty of water for the purpose.  A few months later John would be arrested and later executed. 
“Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.  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.” (John 3:25-26)

After the Greeks conquered Israel in 324 BC, various schools of interpretation of the Law developed, resulting in disputes between various factions.  About 11 BC, Hillel had developed the system most common in Jesus’ day.  Some of the leaders from Judah were questioning John’s teaching about purification because it conflicted whit Hillel’s teachings.  While they were meeting with john, they brought up Jesus and the fact that so many were turning to him, in an effort to gain John’s support against him. 

“John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.  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.  He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30)

John reminded them that a person can only do what God allows or enables him to do, and that he had told them he was not the Messiah, but only the one who went before to announce his coming.  Like the best man at the wedding, john could rejoice in what was happening to Christ, but he was not the one who mattered, that was Jesus’ place and like in the wedding, the focus must shift from the best man to the groom.  The best man simply back and the bride and groom step forward. 

“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.  And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.  He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.  For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.  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.” (John 3:31-36)

John told them that a natural man can only speak of the natural things he knows about.  The man who comes from heaven, Jesus, is greater than the man of the earth, and can tell about what he has seen there, even if people don’t believe him.  People who believe him demonstrate they believe God’s prophecies because Jesus was telling them the same thing God had prophesied.  He told them the same thing Jesus had told Nicodemus, that anyone who believed I Jesus would receive everlasting life and anyone who did not would be condemned to hell. 

“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.  And he must needs go through Samaria.” (John 4:1-4)

The Pharisees were trying to stir up conflict between John’s followers and Jesus’ by comparing how many each group baptized. Jesus himself did not baptize people, but his disciples did.  Learning that the Pharisees were trying to stir up competition and conflict, Jesus started back north to Galilee.  Rather than going out along the Mediterranean coast or hugging the Jordan River, Jesus chose to go through the region originally belonging to the Northern Kingdom of Israel also known as Samaria. 

When the Assyrians Conquered Israel, they had relocated most of the Jewish people and replaced them with immigrants from other countries, as described in II Kings 17:23-24.  “… the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.   And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.”  

The king of Assyria had an Israelite priest teach these people about God’s law, and they practices a mixture of the Law and their traditional religions, as II Kings 17:32-34 describes.  “So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.  They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.  Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 

The Jews of Jesus’ day hated them because they were not full blooded Jews, nor did they follow the Jewish religion completely although they claimed to worship God.   The present day Palestinians appear to be descendants of this group.    

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