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John9 – who can cleanse?

With these things Jesus and his disciples came into Jewish territory and there he spent time with them and was baptizing. In fact John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, in that much water was there, and they were arriving and were being baptized. (Because John was not yet put into the prison.) Then a dispute came to be on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew concerning cleansing. 

“With these things”? In his first century eye witness biography of Jesus John has just described how, in the dark, a religious leader had been trying to find the truth. The biographer now links that with a Jewish dispute about “cleansing” – washing from evil and harm. Who can do that?

And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, about whom you testified—look and see, this one is baptizing, and all are coming to him!” 

These disputers ask John (the Baptist – not the biographer) which of two they should follow – both are “baptising”. After all, Jesus is more popular than you!

John answered and said, “A man is not able to receive one thing unless it is given to him from the heaven! You yourselves testify about me that I said, ‘I myself am not the Christ, but I am sent out in front of that one.’ The one having the bride is a bridegroom. In fact the friend of the bridegroom, standing and hearing him, rejoices in joy through the bridegroom’s voice. So that joy of mine is fulfilled.” 

John the Baptist makes it abundantly clear that he is only a receiver “from the heaven”. He has complete “joy” in "the bridegroom’s voice”

“That one it is imperative to increase, in fact for me to decrease.” 
‘If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If he is not true man how could he help us?’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor, 1906-1945)
The crux of the matter of “cleansing” for John the Baptist is that he himself, who was a prophet within Judaism, “must decrease” and that “that one” “must increase”. Those convictions motivated him. They motivate others today.

“The one coming from above is beyond all things. The one being from the earth is from the earth and speaks from the earth; the one who comes from the heaven is beyond all things. What he has discerned and heard, this he is testifying, and no one receives his testimony.” 

John the Baptist now explains why he has great “joy” in hearing Jesus’ "voice". It’s because he is not “from the earth” but “from the heaven”. He is “beyond all things” (said twice). “What he has discerned and heard, this he is testifying.” Jesus was “testifying” - speaking and living on earth - what he had “discerned and heard” in the heaven above. 

Was anyone else “receiving” “his [Jesus’] testimony”? “No one.”

“The one who receives his testimony has set his seal that God is true. Because the one whom God sent out speaks the messages of God and because he does not give the Spirit out of a measure. The Father loves-in-action the Son and gave all things into his hand.” 

The Baptist was listening with great “joy” and, in addition, as one who “received his (Jesus’) testimony”, he, in that way, “set his seal that God is true”. The Baptist openly confirmed that Jesus was the one sent out of God. In the ancient scriptures of Israel, God had promised his Messiah, his Christ, would come. “God is true” to his word.

John the Baptist settled this “dispute” which had arisen about “cleansing”. He did so with a plain statement about Jesus – “The Father loves-in-action the Son and has given all things into his hand.” There was therefore no competition between John and Jesus in the “cleansing” arena. It was “the Son” alone.

‘Who can deny that Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Son of the Most High God, is the eternal glory of the Jewish race?’ (Benjamin Disraeli, Twice UK Prime Minister, 1804-1881)
“The one believing into the Son has eternal life, in fact the one refusing the Son will not discern life—but the wrath of God stays upon him.” 

The Baptist, back there around AD 30 and in typical forthright fashion, decided in one remaining sentence to speak the faithful truth to those who were participating in the “dispute”. “The one believing into the Son has eternal life, but the one refusing the Son will not discern life—but the wrath of God stays on him.” No "cleansing" for the latter.

Sinner Syvret

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