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Where To Go For Cleansing

John 3:22-26
After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptised. Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptised. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about - well, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him." (NIV)

The ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus overlapped. John continued at the Jordan, north of the Red Sea; and Jesus, with His new disciples (some who were previously with John) were west of the Red Sea. Both were preaching and both were baptising (although Jesus did not personally baptise, only His disciples (John 4:1-2)). In addition, the Pharisees had a rite of ceremonial washing, as did the Essenes. So which of these cleansing ceremonies were true and effective? It became a point of debate which involved John’s disciples. Perhaps they were confused, disappointed or even jealous that Jesus was now attracting some people who followed John. As we shall see in the next section, John the Baptist was glad that all the attention was going to Jesus (John 3:27-30).

Religious legalists love this kind of argument; and yet those who trust in their religious formulae are always disturbed when Jesus moves their goalposts. The reality, for John’s disciples, was that their job had been done. They had encouraged people to get ready to meet God. Now that He had arrived in the person of Jesus Christ, it was right that “everybody went after Him”. John’s task, as the last of the Old Testament prophets, was to tell people that they had broken God’s covenant and that they needed to repent: it was the work of the evangelist. The task of Jesus was to redeem those who had repented: it was the work of God.

With so many religions and different ways that Christians express their worship, it can be very confusing for those who want to know God. Who should they believe? Which baptism is effective? The answer is that the focus must not be on the church, the mode of baptism or the style of preaching, but on Jesus. Only He can redeem. Repentance without redemption becomes a cruel spiral of remorse which can never be satisfied or bring peace with God. Yet although many try to get right with God, they fail because they do not come through Jesus the Redeemer. So in your conversations with friends and colleagues do not major on your wonderful church, your personal wonderful experiences or the wonderful person who led you to Christ: instead, lead them towards the wonderful Jesus who alone has the power to redeem them from an empty way of life, hollow promises, and cruel despair (1 Peter 1:18).

Redeeming Lord. Thank You that I do not have to hope that some ceremonial washing will put me right with You. I know that only the blood of Jesus Christ can take away my sin and redeem me from my empty way of life. I am sorry when I have become immersed in religious detail or even been in competition with others who speak in Your Name, failing to see that our purpose is only fulfilled as we point people to Jesus. Please help me to trust Him and recommend Him to others as the only One who can redeem our lives from destruction. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams