22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
JOHN 3:22-24 ESV
22 Μετὰ ταῦτα ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν γῆν, καὶ ἐκεῖ διέτριβεν μετʼ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐβάπτιζεν. 23 ἦν δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰωάννης βαπτίζων ἐν Αἰνὼν ἐγγὺς τοῦ Σαλείμ, ὅτι ὕδατα πολλὰ ἦν ἐκεῖ, καὶ παρεγίνοντο καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο· 24 οὔπω γὰρ ἦν βεβλημένος εἰς τὴν φυλακὴν ὁ Ἰωάννης.
JOHN 3:22-24 SBLGNT
The historical remarks John inserts in v. 22–24 serve only to present the situation in which the dispute arose that furnished the occasion for the Baptist’s final testimony regarding Jesus. This testimony is John’s real subject; all else is incidental. After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. The plural pronoun in the phrase μετὰ ταῦτα, “with them,” includes all that Jesus had done in Jerusalem (2:12–3:21), although John has given only a slight hint in 2:23 as to what this included. Jesus now moves from the capital “into the Judean country.” No specific locality is named as this is done in v. 23 in the case of the Baptist, probably because, while the latter had a fixed place where he worked, Jesus moved about from one place to another. The verb in the singular followed by “Jesus” as the subject, adding the disciples with “and,” is like 2:2 and makes Jesus the important person. Why Jesus made this move John in no way indicates. The guess that he was discouraged by what is called his failure in the capital, the addition that he tried less radical measures than the cleansing of the Temple and thus descended to the level of the Baptist’s work, is a good example of judging Jesus according to the standards of ordinary men. He had made no mistake in Jerusalem. He did exactly what best furthered his great purpose there and here in the country district. The imperfect tenses which state that in the country he “tarried” or spent some time in company with his disciples (μετʼ αὑτῶν) and “baptized” are the usual duratives to indicate continued action. The fact of his baptizing would indicate that the locality was the neighbourhood of the Jordan. Jesus did not baptize in person but did it through his disciples, 4:2.
The other evangelists say nothing about Jesus’ baptizing. John’s remark amplifies their account. However, lest someone should combine John’s statement with those of the others in an incorrect manner and think that Jesus did not take up this baptizing until the Baptist’s labours were ended, John adds the remark: Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim because much water was there, and people were coming and being baptized. The greek word de, δέ makes the statement parenthetical. The evangelist helps us determine only two points about the location of Aenon (springs). How the Baptist’s disciples refer to the former testimony of their master as having been made “beyond Jordan,” v. 26, shows that now they were on its hither or western side. Immediately after the evangelist tells us that Jesus went “into the Judean country”, he names Ænon as the place where the Baptist laboured, and by adding no name of a country, he leaves our thoughts in Judea. On the disputes about the actual site, consult the Bible Dictionaries. The place was so named because of its springs, for which reason it was also suitable for the Baptist’s work. The plural greek, much water, πολλὰ ὕδατα denotes either the springs themselves or the rivulets that flowed from them and not a large body of water. In the long search for the site of Aenon, only such places have been considered which show such springs, and neither ancient nor modern records speak of a place that had water enough to immerse numbers of people. Nor is the consideration here only water to baptize but also very vitally, where multitudes camped for some time, water for drinking. The imperfect tense of the verbs, the coming and the being baptized on the part of the people, as in the previous verse, means to state that the Baptist was here carrying on his work for some time.
For John had not yet been put into the prison, elucidates the previous statement. Readers of Mark 1:14 and Matt. 4:12–17 might question our evangelist’s account that the Baptist and Jesus were thus baptized simultaneously. So John states that this occurred prior to the Baptist’s imprisonment. Therefore, this is the reason for the statement and not the self-evident fact that the Baptist’s work ceased when he was cast into prison. That also is why John has the article: had been cast “into the prison,” referring his readers to this famous prison and the Baptist’s confinement there, which they knew of the other evangelists.
These verses provide a chronological timeline of the movements of Jesus together with John the Baptist, which allows us to see the following unfolding story.
R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961)