John 3:26
(26) Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan.--John's disciples, with a natural attachment to their master, and without the knowledge of what that master's work really was, are jealous of what seems to them the rival work of Jesus. He had been with John; the Baptist had borne witness to Him. Now He seems to usurp his work, and the throngs which had crowded to the Forerunner go to Him. (Comp. Notes on John 1:8; John 4:2.)

Barest witness.--Better, hast borne witness.

Verse 26. - They (the disciples of John) came to John, and said to him, Rabbi - the title of deep respect (ver. 2), which stood in Jewish reverence high above all civil and military rank, and was here yielded in courtesy to the heroic leader - he who was with thee, apparently in entire mutual understanding with thee, receiving baptism at thy hands, and thus admitting thy right to baptize the people of God - "with thee" as we are "with thee" - beyond Jordan - at Bethany (Bethabara), at a better baptizing - place than this, on a grand historic site, the very scene of the great administration, where the Sanhedrin deferred to thy claims and the multitudes attested the hold thou hadst on their affections - to whom thou hast borne testimonies - the man who received thy homage, but who admitted also thy claims, about whom thou didst utter such strong things of unspeakable import - behold, he is now thy rival in popular esteem; this man is baptizing, and - with a pardonable exaggeration, they add - all men are coming unto him. He is eclipsing thee; he seems to usurp the high and unique position which had been assumed by thyself. Serious questions these, which must lead to a complete disruption among the disciples of John. Before examining the reply of John to the query, it is well to observe that John had been walking in the blinding and bewildering light of new ideas; that the Fourth Gospel brings us into contact with John at the moment where the synoptic narrative draws its portraiture to a conclusion; and yet the Fourth Gospel, quite as firmly as the synoptists, shows that the fresh light which had dawned on John had not induced him to forego the preparatory mission on which his heart was set, and the zeal of which had consumed him. If the perplexity arises - How could John have borne such ample testimony to Jesus and not at once have followed in his train? we reply that the language of John in Matthew 3:14 is just as difficult to reconcile with the message from the prison. Thoma admits that this fact corresponds with the question, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?" In like manner, Hebraism itself within the bosom of the Church maintained a place after all its purpose had been fulfilled. The destruction of the temple and of the Jewish state was necessary to abolish the force of the Hebrew tendency to ritualism of place and symbol even in the heart of Christ's disciples. Many of the mighty powers of the world, if they had not possessed an energy and vitality which refused to succumb when their work was really done, would never have done that work at all.

3:22-36 John was fully satisfied with the place and work assigned him; but Jesus came on a more important work. He also knew that Jesus would increase in honour and influence, for of his government and peace there would be no end, while he himself would be less followed. John knew that Jesus came from heaven as the Son of God, while he was a sinful, mortal man, who could only speak about the more plain subjects of religion. The words of Jesus were the words of God; he had the Spirit, not by measure, as the prophets, but in all fulness. Everlasting life could only be had by faith in Him, and might be thus obtained; whereas all those, who believe not in the Son of God, cannot partake of salvation, but the wrath of God for ever rests upon them.And they came unto John,.... The Persic version reads, "he came unto John"; that disciple that had the controversy with the Jew about purifying, who not knowing well how to answer him, and which might be the case of more, applied to John:

and said unto him, Rabbi; or "master"; or, "our master"; as the Syriac and Persic versions read, which was a title of great respect, and reverence, and much in use in those times; See Gill on Matthew 23:7, Matthew 23:8. The Arabic version joins this word to the following clause, and applies it to Christ, rendering it thus, "the master that was with thee beyond Jordan"; which is making them to speak more honourably of Christ than they intended; for though they speak very respectfully to John, yet with much disdain and neglect of Christ; not so much as mentioning his name, or using any term of honour or respect; only saying,

he that was with thee beyond Jordan; namely, at Bethabara; who came from Galilee to Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him, and who was baptized by him; and for some little time continued with him, and attended on his ministry; and as they thought, was a disciple of John's:

to whom thou bearest witness; that he was before him, and to be preferred unto him; and that he was the Lamb of God, and even the Son of God; suggesting, that by this testimony of his, Christ had gained all the credit and reputation he had; and that therefore he had done a wrong thing in enlarging so much in the praise and commendation of him:

behold the same baptizeth; takes upon him to administer the ordinance of baptism; at least gives orders to administer it; which John's disciples thought was the proper, and peculiar business of their master; and therefore speak of this as an intrusion into his office, and an entering into his province; and an assuming that which only belonged to him: and what gave still more uneasiness, and increased the complaint, was,

and all men come to him; that is, "many", as the Syriac and Persic versions render it, even more than came to John; see John 4:1. Large multitudes from all parts flocked to hear Christ preach, and great numbers were made disciples by him, and then baptized. That he should baptize, gave them great offence; and that he was so followed, raised their envy; and his being so near to John, might add to their uneasiness. It is a rule with the Jews, that

"it is not lawful for a disciple to teach the constitutions, or sentences of the law, before his master; but must be twelve miles distant from him, as the camp of Israel.''

And they say, that

"a disciple that teaches before, or in the presence of his master, is guilty of death (r).''

(r) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 37. 3.

John 3:25
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