The Twelth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
It is a remarkable thing when someone willingly places the purposes of God above self-interest. Such an act is truly noteworthy and is one of the supreme examples of Christian maturity and sanctification. When John the Baptist tells his over-zealous followers that Jesus must increase, while John must decrease, John is telling us that a new age in redemptive history has arrived because the Messiah has come. We see also one reason why Jesus can speak of John the Baptist as the greatest of Old Testament saints. That Jesus has indeed come just as John the Baptist had expected and revealed that he will give the new birth, enable us to see the kingdom of God, understand heavenly things, believe on him, and then receive eternal life, becomes the great climax of John chapter 3, when John concludes that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
As we continue our series on John’s Gospel, we have made our way as far as John 3:21, and John’s account of Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus, a well-known and learned Jewish Rabbi. We now take up the final section of John 3, verses 22-36, in which John returns to the closing days of the ministry of John the Baptist before offering some observations about the ministry of Jesus thus far. This is the fourth consecutive section in John’s Gospel which makes the point of detailing how Jesus’ messianic mission fulfills significant Old Testament prophecies. No doubt, John does this to illustrate to his readers that with the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry, the old order of things is now passing away. The old covenant era must give way to the new.
There are four ways in which this shift from old to new is apparent. First, in John 2:1-11, John recounts how Jesus miraculously turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana (the first of his miraculous signs) demonstrating that the messianic age was now at hand. The messianic age had been characterized by a number of Israel’s prophets as an age of salvation which would dawn with feasting and celebration (rich foods and fine wine). When Jesus turns 150 gallons of water into wine the messianic symbolism should have been obvious to John’s reader–the messianic age has dawned because Jesus has come.
Second, in John 2:12-25, we read that Jesus went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and there he performed his second miraculous sign–cleansing the temple. When Jesus saw that the outer court of the temple (the court of the Gentiles) was filled with merchants and money changers, Jesus drove them out in righteous anger, even daring to call the Jerusalem temple his father’s house. In doing so, Jesus demonstrated that he is the true temple, superceding the Jerusalem temple which had become a stumbling block to Israel. The grandeur of the temple building had become a source of national pride, obscuring the temple’s role as that place where God was present with his chosen people, and where the repeated sacrifices and Israel’s priesthood pointed ahead to the coming Messiah.
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