Jesus Must Increase: Learning from John's Joyful Ministry

Brian Mahon - 11/14/2021


Call to worship: Isaiah 61:10-62:5

Text: John 3:22-36


Jesus and His disciples are baptizing. So are John the Baptist's. Spurned on by a discussion about purification, John's disciples alert John that all the people are going to Jesus to be baptized. They are, we might say, losing their share in the baptism business. John ensures them that this is what is supposed to happen. He teaches them that their ministry is a gift of God. It's all from Him. And it's about Christ. But John's not Christ. Jesus is. This is what John taught. Heaven forbid he steal the Bride away from the Groom! The friend of the Groom rejoices in His Voice. Hearing Jesus, John's joy is now complete. His ministry is fulfilled and vanishing---and he's glad about it. 'He must increase, but I must decrease.' It's his task to make way for more of Jesus. John the evangelist then gives an extended meditation on the glory of Jesus Christ, further clarifying the key to a joyful and fruitful ministry from above: a steadfast focus on the preeminence of Jesus. He unpacks this preeminence as Jesus being the Heaven-down Expositor of God, supremely manifest in His role as the Beloved and Sovereign Savior of sinners.

Sermon Outline:

  1. Taking from John the Baptist?: Jesus increasing, 3:22-26.
  2. Learning from John the Baptist: Jesus must increase, 3:27-30.
  3. Building on John the Baptist: Jesus cannot increase enough, 3:31-36.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Read John 3:22-36. These verses close the great chapter that is John 3. Their overall emphasis is meant to inform the rest. What is that emphasis?
  2. In 3:22-26, what's the situation that John describes, and how do John's disciples respond to it? What's implicit in their response? Is there any of their divisive and rivalrous spirit in you, in us? Do we perceive ourselves as more important than or equal to Christ? Do we serve for our sake or His? See it is possible to be engaged in the ministry of God and entirely miss the point and focus of it.
  3. In 3:27-30, how does John, their teacher, respond? I would argue it's one of the most important few verses in the Bible as it relates to a God-honoring servant and ministry. It is what we ought all to aim to emulate and, especially, pray for those set aside as overseers in the church. How has John kept himself grounded? What does he believe? How does he illustrate his relationship to Jesus? Does joy come from being made much of or making much of Jesus? What is John's vital conclusion? Is Jesus increasing in you, your family, our church-family, our ministry, our ministers?
  4. In 3:31-36, John the beloved gives his own reflection affirming John the Baptist's philosophy of ministry. It probably also serves as a bookend to the whole chapter. How does the reflection affirm 'He must increase, but I must decrease'? What are the specific things said about Jesus? What is the main thing? How ought this to be evident in our lives and ministry?
  5. In 3:36, John closes as is most fitting. What's the focus? What does he intend to urgently press upon the reader? The believer? The unbeliever? As they are cast in parallel, what is the relationship between believing and obeying ('not obey') Christ? Are we grateful for God's grace in our lives? Are we urgent in our preaching of the Gospel? Is there, on the whole, an upward trajectory of Christ's preeminence in our lives? Are we increasingly about ourselves or, more and more, is Christ our all in all?
Downloads & Resources