I’ll never forget when our friends surprised Michelle and me on our 40th birthdays. Our birthdays are only a month and a half apart, and we were both turning 40 that year, so I friends threw us a surprise dance party. Even as we were walking around the corner and into the front door of the venue, our one friend was selling us on the story he concocted to get us there, that we were his guests for a company event. We walked through the door, expecting to have a good meal and meet people. Instead we were shocked to discover we had entered a dance party…for us!
Have you been surprised? Some people don’t like surprises. It definitely can feel awkward, uncomfortable, and disconcerting. But I suspect that once the initial confusion wears off, many (most?) people come to enjoy the surprise. As we continue studying John 3, we are going to see that Jesus has quite a surprising gift he’d like to give to as many people as possible. It’s a very good surprise. We’ve arrived at verse 31, and we’re not sure if it is John the Baptist still talking, or if it is John the Gospel writer. My opinion is that verses 31-36 sound like John the Gospel writer. He comments on what John the Baptist just said.
In verse 31, we see the difference between Jesus who is from above and John who is from the earth. Clearly both served a God-given role, and in that sense John the Baptist is also from God, but we know the actual difference. Jesus is God, as we learned in chapter 1. Jesus is from above. John, however, is a human. John is from the earth. That means Jesus is above all. This is right in line with John saying “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease.” That’s why we strive for the same in our lives too. Jesus is king, Jesus is Lord, Jesus is the truth. We honor and glorify him.
Verse 32 sounds a bit cryptic to me. “He testifies.” Who testifies? Who is he? Look back at the previous verse, and it is talking about the one from heaven, Jesus. So Jesus testifies what he has seen and heard, meaning that Jesus has a vantage point like no other, because he is God. But the problem is that no one accepts his testimony. No one? We’ve already learned that some people accepted his testimony. The disciples did. John the Baptist did. Nicodemus seems to have accepted Jesus testimony, from earlier in this chapter. So that phrase “no one” in verse 32 is better understood in the way we might say at a movie, “Wow, this theater is empty!” when in actuality there are some people there, but hardly any. In fact verse 33 clarifies that some will accept Jesus’ testimony, and those who do accept it affirm that God is truthful.
John is saying that Jesus speaks the words of God, so the implication is that we should listen to him. Again John is placing Jesus superior to all other people, including John the Baptist. He is making a case for why Jesus needs to increase in our lives. Jesus is from God, Jesus is the truth-speaker, speaking the words of God, and, John says, he gives the Spirit without limit.
That is fascinating. A little blip of a comment about the Spirit, given to us without limit. Some think this means Jesus had the Spirit in his life in an unlimited way. Some think this means that God, through Jesus, gives the Spirit to all who believe in him. Both seem to me to be true. Jesus was certainly Spirit-filled, and the amazing gift of God is that you and I can also be filled with the Holy Spirit.