25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
During the concurrent ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus, some of John’s disciples expressed concern that his ministry was losing popularity to Jesus.
John gave his final witness about Jesus being the Messiah in verses 25-30.
there arose a dispute [argument] between some of John’s disciples and the Jews [a Jew] about purification.
A dispute arose between John’s disciples and some Jews or a Jew about John’s water baptism and Jewish ritual purity (Le 14:8-9). It was common in the culture at this time to argue over the finer points of ceremonial baptisms. We do not know what the particular issue was. Some believe that the word “Jews” should be “Jew,” indicating that this was a dispute with one Jew who had a particular view of ceremonial baptism.
The Greek word for “dispute” refers to a forceful difference of opinion without seeking a resolution. It conveys empty speculation.
After the full-fledged argument with a Jew or Jews about the ritual of baptism, John’s disciples came to him about another problem—Jesus was gaining more disciples than the Baptizer.
they came to John and said to him,
John’s disciples came to him to express their concern that Jesus was gaining more disciples than the Baptist. They were jealous of Jesus’ popularity.
John’s disciples addressed him as teacher.
He who was with you beyond the Jordan,
The disciples of John harked back to when Jesus was baptized by the Baptist.
to whom you have testified—
It was clear that John’s disciples knew that the prophet pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. However, this may be a veiled rebuke of John by his disciples.
“Behold” indicates that John’s disciples wanted the Baptizer to take special note of Jesus’ popularity.
He is baptizing,
John’s disciples wanted to open an argument about the popularity of the ministries of the Baptist and of Jesus.
and all are coming to Him!”
The “all” here is significant. John’s disciples deemed that an entire shift was taking place away from the prophet to Jesus. They did not want their leader to take second place or see him relegated into oblivion.
Sinful ambition can blunt effectiveness in ministry.
It is incumbent on everyone in ministry to hold their ambitions in check. There is a tendency for us to exalt ourselves beyond what we should.
In every ministry there are those who will seek to divide. This happened among believers in Corinth. Some followed Paul, others Apollos, and still others Peter (1 Co 1:12). Allegiance to leaders is not the issue in ministry. All allegiance should revolve around Christ (1 Co 1:13).
Competition in ministry is not a good thing because it puts focus on the work of men rather than the work of Christ. Jealousy, envy, and rivalry foster competition. The idea that “I have more people in my ministry that you do” is a human standard of success and dishonors the Lord. Popularity is never a measure of spiritual success in the Bible.