Jesus and the Disciples of John

Jesus and the Disciples of John

John Baptist’s last testimony to Jesus.

(The Gospel History, Section 23)

And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For John was not yet cast into prison. There arose therefore a questioning on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purifying. And they came unto John, and said to him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou hast borne witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but, that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Jesus and the Disciples of John

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I Book III Poem XII)

Out of the city, into the country parts
Of Judah, came the Lord with His disciples,
To rest awhile after that arduous week
In Jerusalem; but all men followed Him;
Multitudes came to Him to be baptized
With that new baptism, of mystic grace,
First shown to Nicodemus. Were the five
Sleeping in common chamber with their Lord?
Did they, too, hear of sign, thing signified?
To the disciples always speaks He first;
The people, overhearing, get what comes.
How else, seeing He trained these, that, the world,
They should go a-teaching?

What spake He here

To the disciples and the multitude who came
(They, too, would tarry on their homeward way
From the Feast), to this green place by Jordan?
“Line upon line,” His way: the very words—
Of the new birth, the baptism with water
And the Spirit, the lifting-up should save,—
He spake to Nicodemus, these same words,
Again, we may believe, He spake to the crowd,
And chiefly to the five; for such His wont:
Few words and pregnant, utter’d o’er and o’er,—
Lo, here, that Model the Great Teacher set!

To Ænon, where was much water, still there came
The multitudes, to John to be baptized;—
As those three thousand hearers at Pentecost,
Or those ten thousand souls at Travancore
Baptized of Francis Xavier. A Jew was there,
Had been with Christ, mayhap, and heard Him teach
Of that mysterious baptism of the Spirit
And water, should give a man life. “Lo, here,”
Thought he, this curious Jew, “two sects!” And he
Disputed with John’s following, while he baptized.
Sore for their master’s honour, they came to him
With their tale: “Rabbi, He that was with thee
Beyond Jordan, (disciple thought we Him),
To whom thou hast borne witness, (sure, the less
Of the greater receiveth witness), whom thou baptizedst,
(Is not the less baptizéd of the greater)?
This man (say, Rabbi, hath He done thee wrong)?
Baptizeth, and all men come out to Him!”
Like fuming schoolboys, crying, “It’s a shame!”
His disciples cried on John to answer them.
From that reserve of wisdom in his soul,
Upgathered in those years of hermit life,
Dropping in speech, epigrammatic, terse,
Whereby a word of John’s stands out distinct
From speech of other men, and bears his stamp,
To be known in crowd of all men’s utterances
As his, were we not told,—John spake and said:—

“A man can receive but that which hath been given.”

Lo, here was peace for these uneasy souls.
All men seek this new teaching? ’Tis of God:
And we—when power departs and friends desert,
How easy acquiescence once we see
Our God is dealing with us! One more fit
Summons He for our work, or bids us go
Up higher in His service—all is one.

“Yourselves have heard me say, I am not Christ;
To prepare, before Messias, am I sent.”
(Had they, too, taken him for the Coming One?)
“He is the bridegroom for whom is the bride;
The bridegroom’s friend stands by, and hears his voice,
And great his exultation, that he hears:
In this is all my joy fulfilled—I hear.
He must increase, but I must still decrease;
I hear the Bridegroom’s voice; it is enough.”

What vision was John graced with! He it was
Discerned the Lamb of God, that taketh away
The sins of all the world, in that poor Man
Who came to him for baptism! Now, he sees
The Church (all faithful souls) emerge as Bride
From that rough sea of the world, to the cherishing
Of Him who is the Bridegroom! Hears the voice
Of the Bridegroom in the multitude who came
To Him to be baptized, (in lower Pool).
In a large room the feet of John were set;
In vision was his peace! What else but joy
Fulfilled, exultant, could the prophet know,
When rumour reached him, of his word established,
Of His Friend, the Bridegroom, drawing to Him His Bride!
Then is John further graced to speak that law
Of the Christian’s life, his utmost compensation
In every deprivation, loss, and shame;
Sans youth, sans health, sans beauty, power and praise,
Still is this law fulfilled—“He must increase,
And I must evermore grow less and less
Till He be all my hope and all my joy!”—

St. John iii. 23–30.