After this, Jesus went into the territory of Judea with his disciples. He stayed there with them and baptized. John was also baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, where water was plentiful; people came to him and were baptized. This happened before John was put in prison.
Now John’s disciples had been questioned by a Jew about spiritual cleansing, so they came to John and said, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, and about whom you spoke favorably, is now baptizing, and all are going to him.”
John answered, “No one can receive anything, except what has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ Only the bridegroom has the bride; but the friend of the bridegroom stands by and listens, and rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice. My joy is now full. It is necessary that he increase, but that I decrease.
Celebrating important milestones requires long and short-term preparation. We do a lot of cleaning and sprucing up of the venue, following up invited guests, making sure there are enough provisions, and all other activities needed for the big event. We want the occasion to be happy and memorable. Yet, we can become anxious and concerned in making sure that there are no snags in our preparations. This was not the kind of preparation John the Baptist was referring to. He wanted people to do more than mere sprucing up and fine-tuning the outside of things. He wanted them to polish-up the inside of themselves, something that he himself had lived out throughout his lifetime while awaiting the arrival of the longed-for Messiah. He is pointing out to us that the inner atmosphere of the heart has to be cleared to enable us to see God’s presence in our midst. Such inner preparation can lead us to greater openness, humility and single mindedness in recognizing the One sent by God. His testimony bears it all when he puts himself in the place of the friend of the bridegroom who shares in the bridegroom’s joy, making his celebration complete.
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