After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him." John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."
John and Jesus, both dipping people. That must have been quite a sight. I wonder how people chose who to go to? Was it simply a case of whichever one they got to first? Did it depend on who was actually doing the dipping – “I’d rather have John than Peter; but rather Peter than one of John’s disciples…”
And then there was the awkward squad – the religious ones who wanted to check out that this baptism business was happening properly. Is it sufficiently purifying? What’s on offer here? And with two prophets baptizing which one offers the greater purification?
John wasn’t distracted by these kind of personality preferences and religious debates. He was very clear: “Jesus is far greater than I am.” What is noteworthy about John’s attitude is that he was not begrudging in any way about Jesus getting in on the baptizing business. John had been enjoying a monopoly in this area – he was the wild prophet the crowds poured into the countryside to hear. He was the one attracting disciples. But now the crowds are going elsewhere, and his remaining disciples are concerned for business.
This is not John’s concern.
His eyes are fixed on Jesus too, but not out of envy or resentment. John is looking at Jesus with joy. John knows his mission is complete. He must decrease, so that Jesus may increase.
• Do you have envy or resentment issues?
• Why was John so sanguine about Jesus taking prominence?
• Where do you find your joy?
• Praise Jesus that he is the one who purifies us.
• Praise God for his faithful servants – men and women who serve Jesus and his Church, humbly and joyfully.
• Praise Jesus that he is purifying his bride, ready for marriage.