Jerusalem was located in Judea - so "coming into the Judaean land - should probably be understood as coming from the city into the country side.
Only in this Gospel we hear that Jesus baptised - although John 4:2 clarifies that he did not do it personally but through the hands of his disciples. That activity and being done at that time should be viewed as something similar to John’s baptism. It could not be yet the beginning of the promised baptism with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; cf. 7:37–39). But, it somehow prepares us for the Church’s baptism - performed by Christ’s disciples and done in the name of the Triune God (Mt 28:19; Acts 10:48).
John moved away from Bethany beyond Jordan to “Aenon near Salim”, perhaps today known as Tel Shalem. “Aenon” means ‘springs’, which would provide much water. The place is located further north in Samaria. Some connect it with Gen 33:18. Perhaps, this location prepares us for chapter 4 - a dialogue about the living water. People are coming to John for baptism, but later from that region all will come to Jesus and confess him the Savior of the world (John 4:42).
The author does not speak about the Baptist’s imprisonment (cf. Mk 6:17–29). Now, the comment tells us that everything that was so far narrated in John’s Gospel took place before the events narrated in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic account Jesus’ Galilean preaching of the kingdom of God began ‘after John was arrested’ (Mk 1:14).
In John 5:33–35, there is a reference to John in the past. Was he already by that time imprisoned or beheaded? We do not know. But it seems that by that time his mission was completed.
The dispute probably concerned the relation of the baptismal ministry of John (and of Jesus) to the Jews’ purification practice (cf. John 2:6).
Did John’s disciples view Jesus’ baptismal ministry as a competition to the ministry of their own teacher? Perhaps, it was that certain Jew who told them about Jesus’ own ministry of baptism (3:22; 4:2).
In John 3:23 we read that people were still coming to John for baptism. Here, we read that “all are coming to” Jesus.
There is also a possibility that through the statement of John’s disciples we are being prepared for the words of John the Baptist. If “all are going to” Jesus then John’s witness came to an end.
In chapter 1:19–23, John declared who he was not and who he was. Now, he will again make it clear who he truly was in relation to Jesus.
John was appointed by God to be a herald and witness of the Messiah. It was a gift from God and he is happy that he was able to fulfil it.
John’s statement is applicable to human beings in general and to him in particular. Each of us has his allotted gift or ministry from God. Our responsibility is to fulfil it.
The man sent from God (1:6) has completed his ministry.
If the disciples of John seemed to be worried about the news of “all people going to” Jesus, John is not. In John 1:20, he made it clear that he is not the Messiah but came to baptise so that the Messiah would come - he was preparing the way.
John knew himself - his true identity and the mission entrusted to him by God. His disciples, however, still needed to learn about their own true identity and the mission they were called by God. At that moment, they saw themselves as the disciples of John. They need to move from John to Jesus - because only in Jesus we discover who we truly were meant to be.
At a wedding the best man does not complain because he is not the bridegroom. He is there to assist the bridegroom and to see that all goes well. Apparently, in Israel that “friend - best man” was a highly honoured position who had numerous functions at the wedding: contributing financially, providing general oversight and arrangement for the ceremony, and having a prominent place in the festivities. He was also to make sure that the bride was appropriately dressed and adorned, and publicly escorted her from her father’s house to her new home.
That was the rule John the Baptist ‘played’ for Jesus and for the people of God. He was satisfied and happy that he has introduced Jesus to the faithful in Israel - prepared the way for Jesus and prepared the people for their Bridegroom.
In OT days, the king was regarded as married to his people or land. This is even more so in the case of Israel’s divine King - the Lord (cf. Hosea 2:16–23; Is 62:4–5). Thus, John’s words can imply that Jesus is the true King of Israel (cf. 1:49).
We can also connect this statement to John 2:1–11, where Jesus was actually the true Bridegroom - see also Mk 2:19–20; Mt 25:1–13; and Rev 21:9ff).
These are the last words of John recorded in the Gospel. John does not show any sense of envy or rivalry.
The Greek “δεῖ” - “it is necessary” (often translated as “must”). As “it is necessary” for one to be born anew (3:7), and for the Son of Man to be lifted up (3:14), so it is also necessary that Jesus comes first and John the Baptist second.
John completed his ministry - now he can decrease. Now is the time for Jesus to take over - to increase.
John’s words are applicable to all missionaries and Christians in general.
From here, the Evangelist adds his meditation to the words of John.
It is because the incarnate Word ‘comes from above’ and ‘is above all’ that ‘he must grow greater’ while John and everyone else ‘must grow less’.
Being from the earth suggest limitation. Even John’s witness, excellent as it was, was subject to limitation because, while he was ‘a man sent from God’ (1:6), he did not come down from heaven as the Son of Man did.
Jesus’ own witness is of supreme validity because, when he speaks of heavenly things, he bears witness to what he has seen and heard in the heavenly sphere.
Regarding Jesus’ coming “from above” into this world see (John 1:15, 27; 3:7, 13; 6:14; 11:27).
Some suggest that “is above all” should be omitted.
That “no one receives” Jesus’ witness should not be taken as absolute (cf. 1:11; 3:11). The Evangelist will qualify that statement in next verse.
Jesus is God’s perfect messenger and delivers God’s message perfectly. Those who accept Jesus’ witness attest the truthfulness of God. By believing in Jesus they certify that Jesus’ witness regarding God and heavenly realities is true.
To certify something meant to place a seal on a document. In this case the symbolic document is divine message.
Compare 3:33 with 1 John 5:10.
God sent many messengers to convey his truth to the world. Each of them received that measure of the Spirit which was necessary for him to bear true witness.
But upon the Son of God the Spirit ‘remains’ (cf. John 1:32–33), as was foretold in Is 11:2; 42:1; 61:1. He possesses the Spirit in unmeasured fulness and so he is able to baptise with the Holy Spirit (1:33).
Twice in the Gospel we read that “the Father loves the Son” (1:35; 5:20) - once it is “agapao” and once it is “phileo” - they are used as synonyms with the same meaning. But, the Father’s love for the Son is also mentioned in John 10:17; 15:9; 17:23–26.
3:35 is a counterpart to the Synoptic statement in Mt 11:27; Luke 10:22. The Son is the Father’s perfect spokesman and revealer.
Notice, the revelation of the Trinity here - The Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
Notice also, how the author expresses their inner relationship. The Father loves the Son, the Father gives the Son the Spirit. That is why the Son can give the Spirit to his disciples (John 7:37–39; Eph 4:7ff).
This affirmation that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” sums up what has been said already about the new birth by which believers in Christ become God’s children (John 1:12–13; 3:3ff).
The Son has received from the Father authority to bestow spiritual life, the life of the age to come, here and now on those who receive him in faith and accept his witness (John 5:20–21, 25–26; 17:2).
Since faith in the Son of God is the only way to eternal life, those who refuse to have faith deny themselves the enjoyment of that life.
This saving faith comprises believing and obeying. Thus, the antithesis to “believe” is “disobedience”.
To “see life”, like to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), means to participate in it, to experience and enjoy it.
To ‘see life’ is opposite ‘to see death’ (John 8:51). Since those who will not obey the Son cut themselves off from the grace of salvation, their persistent impenitence leaves them exposed to the wrath of God.
The wrath of God seems to be placed in opposition to the love of God. The love of God comes to us in and through his Son. Not to receive him, means being cut from this love and so remaining under the wrath of God.
Notice the present form of both verbs “has” eternal life and “remains” on him in reference to the wrath of God.
As long as people do not accept Jesus, the wrath of God “remains” upon them (cf. Rom 1:18; 1 Thess 1:10). That is why preaching the Gospel is so important.
The eternal life which believers receive involves their being accepted by God as righteous in Christ; apart from this divinely provided way of righteousness men remain liable to the judgement of heaven (cf. John 3:18).