He that has the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him…
I. THE PECULIAR TOUCHES IN THE BAPTIST'S PORTRAIT HERE EXHIBITED.
I. Elsewhere he appears like Elijah flashing in terrific flames of anger and rebuke in the sins of the age; another Moses with a stern countenance bearing the table of God's law. Here we find him, after he had baptized the Lord, shining with reflected rays such as streamed from the dove-like glory. It is an evangelical lustre which encircles him now. He is more apostle than prophet. His words are inspired with Christian faith.
2. In other passages he appears as an ascetic. He dwells in the desert. His disciples fast. He carries the burden of the Lord. Here he rejoices greatly, because of the Bridegroom's voice. The Man of Sorrows rejoiced in Spirit; so also did His forerunner here.
3. Elsewhere the Baptist is a popular preacher. People went in crowds, not merely to listen to, but to live with the great revivalist. In all such excitement there is a power of reaction upon the author of it. He gathers back in his own soul the influences which, torrent like, have been rushing out of him, but when the ebb comes and the congregations thin; when another and greater prophet eclipses the lesser, whose mission has been fulfilled, is not that an hour of trial? testing the purity an disinterestedness of him whose popularity is on the wane. John was paling before the brighter light, and some reminded him of the change going on. How noble was his conduct! What an example for ministers and all men!
II. THE REFERENCE OF THE TEXT TO CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN MINISTERS IN GENERAL.
1. The relation which Christ sustains to the Church. This imagery has been abused, but there is a precious truth in it which the evangelist loved to expound (Revelation 19:6-9). Christ's love to His people is pure, intense, everlasting, expressed in a covenant inviolable as the marriage bond. He gave Himself for them; all He is and has is made over to them, and the due response on their part is the consecration of their hearts and lives to Him.
2. The true minister of Christ is the friend of the Bridegroom. Christ's disciples are more than servants — servants lifted up into the sphere of friendship; and never does a preacher fulfil his office in a more beautiful way than when he feels that he is not only in service, but in fellowship — not only that he has an obligation but a privilege, "He standeth and heareth." The minister of the gospel is a listener and an echo. He catches voices from the other world, and repeats them — like Samuel "Speak Lord!" etc., like David, "Come all ye that fear God"; like the Cherubim bending over the ark to learn "things which the angels desire to look into"; like the angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach.
3. In reference to the Divine Bridegroom, the minister's motto should ever be, "He must increase, and I must decrease," words which testify to the growing glory of Christ and the disposition of faithful friends to lose themselves in Him.
(1) Ministers must not preach themselves or seek to display their own powers and attainments. Self must be reduced to a minimum that He may be all in all.
(2) They should seek to be forgotten, absorbed in Him, getting behind Him, "nor showing even the tip of one's little finger; "(3) and not only by speaking, but by living.
(J. Stoughton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.