Jesus’ disciples are baptizing many people near where John the Baptist is preaching and baptizing people. This is before John is imprisoned. While this is going on, John’s followers get into a debate with the Jews about religious washing and purification. They then come to John with the complaint that more people are now following Jesus than John. John replies, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” What John means is:
Men are unable to change
John’s followers did not understand that they were to follow Jesus even though this was central to John’s teachings. John has taught that his baptism was merely water, but Jesus baptized with the Holy Ghost; however, his followers did not understand that they needed to be baptized into Jesus not by John. John taught that Jesus was the Lamb of God Who purified men from their sins, yet his followers debated with the Jews about purification. John’s followers do not get it, and they will never get it through John’s teachings. Men cannot be changed through the efforts of men, including the greatest prophet that has ever lived, John the Baptist. Men are unable to change themselves. They cannot receive the truth. Men are dead in sin and blind. Therefore they can do nothing and see nothing. Men cannot change.
God must move first
John’s disciples had not been moved upon by God; that is why they were still hung up on ceremonial washings and John’s baptism. John here emphasizes that the only way a man can receive anything is if God moves from heaven first. Man must be given eyesight before he can see. Man must be given life before he can respond. Man must be given a new heart before he can change. John’s words are completely ineffective if God does not work in his hearers’ lives so that they might receive them.
Our place is life is received from God
John is not anxious about his place in life. He has received it from the Lord. He is content to let Jesus eclipse him, and in fact, John is ecstatic about the numbers of people leaving him to follow Jesus. Jesus has received His ministry from the Lord. Our lot in life we have received from heaven. We must be content in whatever state we find ourselves.
Our hope is only found in Jesus
This whole discourse is intended to fix our eyes on Jesus. Jesus is the only One Who can change the hearts of men, women, and children. Jesus is the only One Who can change your own heart. Jesus is the One Who has established where you are in life. As such, you must look to Him for grace and plead with Him to move on your behalf and on behalf of those around you.
We must speak more to God on behalf of man than we do to man on behalf of God. We must be content where ever God has placed us. We must seek Jesus with all our might. He is the only One Who can change us or our loved ones.