JESUS’ DISCIPLES BAPTIZE
JOHN THE BAPTIST IS IMPRISONED
After celebrating the Passover in the spring of 30 C.E., Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem. However, they do not directly return to their homes in Galilee. They go into the country of Judea, where they baptize many. John the Baptist has been doing a similar work for about a year, and some of his disciples are still with him, perhaps in the Jordan River valley.
Jesus himself does not baptize anyone—his disciples do so under his direction. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, both Jesus and John are teaching Jews who are repentant over their sins against God’s Law covenant.—Acts 19:4.
But John’s disciples are jealous, complaining to him about Jesus: “The man [Jesus] who was with you . . . is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3:26) Yet, John is not jealous. He rejoices in Jesus’ success and wants his disciples to rejoice too. John reminds them: “You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent ahead of that one.’” He illustrates this point in a way that all can understand: “Whoever has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. So my joy has been made complete.”—John 3:28, 29.
John, like the friend of the bridegroom, rejoiced months earlier upon introducing his disciples to Jesus. Some of them followed Jesus and would in time be anointed with holy spirit. John also wants his present disciples to follow Jesus. In fact, John’s purpose is to prepare the way for Christ’s ministry. John explains: “That one must keep on increasing, but I must keep on decreasing.”—John 3:30.
A different John, who had earlier begun to follow Jesus, later writes concerning Jesus’ origin and key role in human salvation: “The one who comes from above is over all others. . . . The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. The one who exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” (John 3:31, 35, 36) What an important truth for people to know!
Not long after John the Baptist discusses that his role and work must decrease, he is arrested by King Herod. Herod has taken Herodias, the wife of his half brother Philip, and married her. When John publicly exposes his adulterous deed, Herod has him put in prison. Upon hearing about John’s being arrested, Jesus leaves Judea with his disciples and ‘withdraws into Galilee.’—Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14.