29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
JOHN 3: 29-30 ESV
29 ὁ ἔχων τὴν νύμφην νυμφίος ἐστίν· ὁ δὲ φίλος τοῦ νυμφίου ὁ ἑστηκὼς καὶ ἀκούων αὐτοῦ, χαρᾷ χαίρει διὰ τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ νυμφίου. αὕτη οὖν ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ πεπλήρωται. 30 ἐκεῖνον δεῖ αὐξάνειν, ἐμὲ δὲ ἐλαττοῦσθαι.
JOHN 3: 29-30 SBLGNT
John knew that he should point people to Christ and not to himself. He used a marriage analogy to express this: The bride belongs to the bridegroom. In the OT, the metaphor of the bride/bridegroom is used in the relationship between Israel and God: as in Isa. 62:5; 5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. John would certainly have been aware of the use of the metaphor in the OT and saw his ministry as pointing Israel to the one to whom she belonged.
This wedding scene builds on Old Testament imagery of Jehovah as the husband of Israel as in Jer. 2:2 -2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” Ezek. 16:8- 8 “When I passed by you again and saw you behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.” and Hos. 2:19 – 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.
Now in the new covenant, the Messiah becomes the bridegroom of the church. This important theme radiates through the New Testament as in 2 Cor. 11:2 – 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ; and Eph. 5:31-32 – 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” culminating in Revelation 19:7–8 – 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—.
In the words of Calvin, “Those who win the Church over to themselves rather than to Christ faithlessly violate the marriage which they ought to honour.” To explain his own relationship to Christ, John extended his use of the marriage analogy: The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. The background to this is found in Jewish marriage customs, according to which the friend of the bridegroom/best man was responsible for leading the bridegroom to his bride and waiting outside the bridal chamber while the marriage was consummated. The reference to the bridegroom’s voice refers to the shout of exultation by the bridegroom when he discovers he has married a virgin. The bridegroom’s friend’s work is complete, and he takes pleasure in the bridegroom’s joy. Far from feeling jealous, then, as he witnessed the increasing success of Jesus’ ministry and the waning of his own, John was able to rejoice that ‘everyone is going to him‘ in verse 26. It is a sign of true godliness and Christian maturity when we can rejoice in the achievements of others.
The exceptional nature of John’s character and understanding of his role is revealed in the fact that he could say, That joy is mine, and it is now complete. As he saw the growing popularity of Jesus, his joy, like the joy of a bridegroom’s true friend, was now complete. John had fulfilled his purpose in life: to bear witness to Christ and point people towards him. He summed up the whole matter in the famous words He must become greater; I must become less. He saw it as a divine necessity (expressed by the word ‘must’) that Jesus should take precedence over him.
My Brothers and Sister, John the Baptist, knew his role in his ministry and never sought to allow anything to influence him otherwise. The world outside today is influenced by temptations that, on the surface, are seemingly innocent and non-threatening. The devil is cunning and far wiser than us; if he desires your soul, he will seek your most intimate desires to draw you away from God. He will not announce his intentions by a direct challenge to your moral values but will seek means and ways to slowly divert your objective focus from God. The Gospel warns us of our vigilance against these attractions of your flesh. Many sects of religious thoughts inundated the period the Baptist lived as we today are influenced by the world’s many dubious and false teachings that seek to subjugate your objective views towards a lifestyle aimed at the power and glory of individuals. Beware of your fate and place your faith in Christ, who has revealed the life towards our salvation.