After this Jesus came with his disciples into the land of the Judaioi, and he spent time with them, and he was baptising. And John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and they were coming to him and being baptised.( John had not yet been thrown into prison.)
Now there began a dispute between the disciples of John and those of Jesus about cleansing. And they came to John and said to him, ” Rabbi. the one who was with you in Transjordan, to whom you testified, open your eyes, he is baptising and everyone is going to him!”
John answered, “No human being can receive anything unless it is given to him from heaven. You heard my evidence, that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent before him’. The One who has the Bride is the Bridegroom, but the Bridegroom’s friend, who stands waiting to hear him, is truly delighted to hear the Bridegroom’s voice.So my delight is now made full. He must grow but I must be diminished.
The one who comes from above is over everything. The one who who is from the earth is of the earth and speaks from an earthly perspective, but the one who comes from heaven, he gives testimony to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever accepts his testimony certifies this: that God is true. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God and gives the Spirit without measure. The father loves the son and has given everything into his hand. If you put your trust in the son you will have the Life of the New World; but if you do not trust the son you will not see Life; and God’s anger rests upon you.
There are two textual matters here. The first concerns the phrase about a dispute between John’s disciples and those of Jesus. The manuscripts are corrupt here, and say “one of the Judaioi”; my best guess at the original is what I have put above. The other is that the manuscripts repeat the phrase “the one who comes from above is over everything,” in the next sentence. This is a scribal error and I’ve left it out.
This passage extends the material the author gives about the relationship between “the religion of the Judaioi” and the new life brought by Jesus. John’s baptism is again associated with water, Jesus’ baptism with the unlimited gift of the Spirit. Again, as in the story of ethe wedding at Cana, Jesus is seen as The Bridegroom of Israel. There is considerable discussion of the Jewish marriage customs that lie behind the words of this passage. My view is that the reference is to the task of the best man to wait outside the marriage chamber for the groom to emerge and declare the marriage consummated. John the Baptist is declaring himself as the witness of the consummated marriage of the Messiah and his people. His delight is in the success of the marriage. This is a very robust image for the relationship of Jesus and his people, reminding biblical readers of the prophets’ image of God as the lover or husband of Israel. It is a very earthy word from heaven and challenges the church to revise its rather pallid view of salvation.There is an old tradition in Christainity, which like this passage derives from the Song of Songs in the Bible, and pictures Jesus as the Lover of the Soul. It suffers a little from being the preoccupation of celibate clergymen and women, but there are elements of it which encourage a passionate relationship with Jesus that many churches have lost.
I have heard preachers use the Baptist’s words, “He must grow but I must diminish,” as an attitude appropriate for all believers. This is completely wrong. John is of the old age which is passing away with the arrival of the bridegroom. Believers, according to this Gospel, will do even greater things than Jesus.
The last paragraph of this passage resumes the issue about testimony and evidence which is continued throughout the Gospel. Jesus only can give testimony about God for only he has “seen” the One who is above. Similarly, only God can give witness to his son, until the son has fully revealed himself in being “raised up.” Here it is emphasised that the relationship of father and son is unqualified love.Out of this love, the son can decalare God’s truth and pour out God’s spirit without measure.
Jesus, the son, is not merely an ambassador from God, as if there might be some truth of God to which he is not privy and cannot reveal. No, Jesus shows all of God because the father has “put everything into his hand.” This cuts off a lot of useless speculation about God, but it does nor remove his/her mystery which is the mystery of love. We are to rewrite all that was intended by the doctrine of the one creator God with reference to all we know of Jesus. This is of course the classic task of Christian theology but I do not believe it has been adequately done. In any case it requires to be done over and over again in the changing languages of the worlds in which we live. Just think what a change there will be in our langauge about God when we first make contact with sentient beings from elsewhere in our universe.
IMAGES OF JESUS AS GOD BY HILDEGARD OF BINGEN 12th CENTURY