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John9 – who can cleanse?

With these things Jesus and his disciples came into Judean ground and there he mingled with them and was baptizing. In fact John also was 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 from John’s disciples with a Judean 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 towards John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, about whom you testified—look! This one is baptizing, and everyone is coming towards 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 even able to lay hold of one thing if it may not have been given to him from the sky. You yourselves testify about me that I said, ‘I myself am not the Christ, but that I am having been sent out in front of that one.’ The one having the bride is bridegroom. In fact the friend of the bridegroom, the one standing and hearing him, rejoices in joy through the bridegroom’s voice. So this my own joy is filled full.” 

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”

“It is necessary that one to increase; in fact 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 transcendant over everything. The one being from the ground is from the ground and speaks from the ground; the one coming from the sky is transcendant over everything. What he has discerned and heard, this he testifies, and no one lays hold of his testimony.” 

John the Baptist now explains why he has great “joy” in hearing Jesus’ "voice". It’s because he is not “from this land” 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 laying hold of his testimony sealed that God is true: because the one God sent out speaks the messages of God; because he does not give the spirit from a measure. The Father loves-in-action the Son and has given everything 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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