Jesus is the Son of Man
John the Baptist
Good Morning. Please grab your bibles with me and turn to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 3. As always, if you do not have or own a Bible, please see me after the service and we will get a Bible into your hands.
Now we have been going through the Gospel of Luke. Luke is a historian, a researcher, and prolific organizer and a physician. He has done an incredible amount of research, getting eyewitness testimony, interviewing as many people as possible.
Luke has been paralleling and contrasting John the Baptist with his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. Both of their miraculous births were foretold ahead of time by an Angel, they were born and named ahead of time. John was sent to be the forerunner, to pave the way for the Messiah, who just happened to be his younger cousin.
The last time we saw John was in Luke 1:80, where Luke notes: And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
So, we drop off John as a kid and we come back and we will see him come out from the wilderness and start his true, God given ministry. That’s what we are going to read on this morning, Luke, chapter 3, verses 1 through 20.
I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to grab your Bible and follow along in your preferred translation. Always, always Always! Read for yourself what the Word of God says.
Luke 3:1-20, the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to write:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,[a]
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics[b] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation and be content with your wages.”
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.
So, we start with Luke being Luke and proving that he can and will be trusted. Luke, ever the historian, ever the researcher, spends some time and establishes some details, names some names, so that we can know exactly when this takes place.
Herod was the ruler during the time of Johns birth and Jesus birth. When he died, rule passed on to his sons. Well, they did such a bad job that Romans took power away from them and appointed their own governors.
Pontius Pilate was the 5th such governor and he ruled from 26 AD-36 AD. This, of course, also sets the stage for Jesus trial and crucifixion that would take place about three years from this. Johns ministry took place somewhere around 27-29 AD.
The other thing we see with Luke’s list of names here is that there were no good rulers during this time. Israel was locked in a pattern of ungodly, immoral and evil leaders. And in the midst of this, under terrible, corrupt, anti-God authority, God is doing his greatest work. That might be something that this nation needs to remember. One side of the aisle for the next four years, the other side of the aisle for the previous four years. No matter how bad it is, Gods got this.
I like how Ligon Duncan says it: The good news for us is that means no matter how dark our times, our circumstances, or our contexts, God can overrule it all. He begins the ministry of the Messiah through the ministry of John in a dark, dark point of Israel’s history. Don’t ever judge God’s power and ability by your present circumstances. In the very darkest night, He can prepare to do His brightest work.
During this time, the Word of God came upon John. He went out and he was not sharing his own words or his own message. He was not sharing his own opinion or his own thoughts. He was sharing the Word of and the message of God.
John went out, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This was an incredibly offensive message that John was preaching. We will get to the repentance aspect in a moment. But first, even the baptism part was deeply offensive to the crowds.
John Piper explains:
In the context in which John lived baptism had one main significance among the Jews: it was the symbolic rite that proselytes had to go through to become Jewish. This made John’s baptism very offensive. It implied that unless the Jews were willing to repent, they were not really Jews and could not count on the promised blessings God had made to his chosen people. Or to put it another way, in calling Jews to accept a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, John was telling them that they cannot rely on their Jewishness for salvation; they have to be changed in their heart toward God.
Again, we will get to the second half of that momentarily. But what Piper was pointing out was that only Gentiles had to go through baptism until this point. In order to be converted, they had to be washed clean in order to be brought into the family of Abraham. TO say that everyone had to be washed clean, that no one was inherently worthy, just because of who they were, that was offensive.
Our society tells kids that they are special and that they are deserving of everything they want. Our culture is one of never saying no to our kids. And they grow thinking that they deserve to have the world handed to them on a silver platter. Its offensive to them when we tell them no, or when we tell them to repent.
It’s the same way what John was telling the crowds. Of course, we know that baptism doesn’t save in and of itself. Baptism doesn’t regenerate our heart. Baptism doesn’t wash our soul clean. And of course, baptism doesn’t grant forgiveness or repentance. Baptism, instead, is a sign of those things already being granted to us by the Holy Spirit.
The math is simple. Without a regenerate heart, there can be no repentance. Repentance plus atonement equals forgiveness. But any atonement that we could offer would never be near enough. So, it is only Christs atonement that, his shed blood on the cross that can take the part in that equation and provide the forgiveness of our sins.
Luke quotes the prophecy in Isaiah40, showing that it refers to John, that he is the fulfillment of that prophecy. In fact, all four Gospel quote Isaiah 40, verse 3 in regard to John the Baptist. Only Luke, however, also quotes verses 4 & 5. The general consensus is that Luke, as we see throughout his Gospel, is emphasizing that salvation by Christ is for “all flesh.”
John looks out at the people coming to see him and to hear the message from God and he has strong words for them. He calls them a brood of vipers. The Jewish people of the day would have understood the reference and the insult contained in that phrase. It was a reference to the serpent in the garden in Genesis 3. John was calling them Sons of the Devil. Jesus made this very same comment in his ministry as well.
The truth is that this is one of our two only options. We are either a son of the devil or we are a son of God. There is no in between. And there are many who think they are children of God who are going to be eternally disappointed and eternally covered in the wrath of God when the judgment comes.
John has strong and harsh words for the religious establishment. In modern parlance, he was talking to those who knew their Bible. He was talking to those who lived morally and voted exclusively Republican. He was talking to those who showed up to church every Sunday. HE was talking to deacons, elders, pastors and their families. He was talking to those who lived the life, had the appearance of living for God, but did not have the grace of God.
Who John was talking to usually holds to an us vs them mentality. WE are good because we are Christians, and they are bad because they are not. We deserve salvation because look at all we have done and look at where we were born and the life we have lived. They don’t deserve it because they are sinners. This is the group of religious people of the day that John was addressing.
John makes clear that we are to bear fruit keeping with repentance. We can have an outward moral shell, but with no grace and no repentance, we will no bear good fruit. Paul, of course, lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 & 23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Repentance and faith. Those are the two things required of us. Faith and the repentance that follows are the only things that can offer us forgiveness and salvation. Nothing else matters.
Your pedigree doesn’t matter.
Your nationality doesn’t matter.
Your race doesn’t matter.
Your gender doesn’t matter.
Your morals don’t matter.
The only thing that matters is who you say Christ is.
Baptism and their Jewishness couldn’t save the Pharisees.
Indulgences and money couldn’t save people during the time that Martin Luther started the Reformation.
The Social Gospel or legalistic moralism can’t save people today.
Instead, as the scriptures say in multiple places, “The just shall live by faith.”
John continues the tree analogy, as does Paul later in Romans. The trees that think they are good, but have no faith, those trees are cut down. And in their place, other trees which are bearing good fruit will be grafted in. Once a tree is grafted together, there are no longer two trees. There is no difference, between the two. They are the same identity, the same tree.
One tree, one people of God. One plan of salvation. There never has been and there never will be two means, two paths to salvation.
Gospel has bad news necessarily in it. The wrath of God is coming. We all deserve it. God, in order to be perfect and holy must punish sin with his wrath. But it also has good News, that’s what makes it the Gospel. That good news is Christs substitutionary Atonement. He took our place, took the wrath of God up there on the cross that was meant for us. He took it and didn’t deserve any of it because he lived a perfect life. He offered up the forgiveness of sins and the atonement for our sins. John knew this and shared both. He was not afraid to share the bad news, to speak strongly to those who needed to hear it.
Some who heard did indeed become convicted of their sins. And so, they essentially asked John, “So, what should we do?” And John tells them to fundamentally change the way they treat their fellow human beings.
You all remember Zacchaeus? HE was a wee little man? Jesus met him and told him what he needed to do in order to show that he was truly repentant. He told Zacchaeus to pay back those he took advantage of by giving them back 4 times what he took. That’s the same principal that John uses here as he gives three examples of how to live.
First, to the general public, he says to be generous, caring, sympathetic. If you have enough and someone has none, give them some of what you have. Be generous. The motto that Hope and I live by, taught by her parents, “You can’t out give God.”
Second, don’t cheat people. Don’t be greedy. Take only what you are owed. Don’t take more than that. Don’t overcharge. Pay what you owe.
Thirdly, Do your job. Work hard. Obey your bosses and the authorities over you. Don’t abuse any authority you may have.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Johns point in this is to live your faith. Live with fruit bearing with repentance. Repentance is important. Johns ministry starts here with a call to repent. Jesus ministry starts with a call to repent. Martin Luther kicked off the Reformation with a call to repent. The very first of his 95 theses states, when our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘repent’, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
The Westminster Catechism, one of the best of the historical Question and answer teaching tools about faith and doctrine, asks with question 87: What is repentance unto life?”
Then it answers:
“Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a
true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,
doth with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full
purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”
This is incredibly important as a true sign of new life, a new heart and saving grace given by God.
As John was talking about these things, its peaked people’s interest and it made them wonder about the promised messiah. They were wondering, they were questioning, they asked, Could John be that promised messiah? Could he be the Christ? Even here, Johns actions and preaching were pointing people to the Christ.
In verses 16 & 17, Johns words point them to the Christ who was still to come. He must increase and we must decrease. None of us, are even worthy to unstrap the sandals of the Christ.
He said this baptism is symbolic, but the baptism that Jesus brings, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that is the baptism that saves us from the judgment to come.
The Good News of the Gospel doesn’t exist with out the knowledge of the bad news. John shared the bad, the coming judgment and all that. But John preached the good news to all who would come to hear him. He preached repentance. He preached holiness. He preached bearing fruit in keeping with that repentance.
Not everyone appreciated this message, however. John would call out behavior when he saw it that went against Gods standard. This included Herod and his divorce and remarriage. This was not appreciated by Herod and John got locked up for speaking the truth, for speaking the word from God.
Philip Graham Ryken shares a story. He writes:
John wasn’t trying to win friends and influence people; he was trying to get them to repent. Therefore, he spoke with holy boldness, bluntly confronting their sin. I am reminded of the nineteenth century Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright, who once preached to President Andrew Jackson. Before the service he was warned not to say anything out of line. So, when Cartwright got up to preach, he said, “I understand Andrew Jackson is here. I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to Hell if he doesn’t repent.” The congregation was shocked, but afterwards the president shook Cartwright’s hand and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.”
John the Baptist was not so lucky. He preached the word of God and he was arrest for it. We see in Johns Gospel, chapter 6 that he was eventually put to death because of it.
One of the things that Luke wants to make clear is that is only through Christ and him alone that our salvation takes place. John points towards the way. As a messenger in the mold of the Old Testament prophets, he shows types and shadows of what Christ will fulfill in full. John fulfills his mission by pointing directly to the Word of God and Jesus Christ himself. As such, we should see through John the Baptist, as an example and look directly to Jesus Christ and the Word of God itself.