Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

Molalla, Oregon

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John the Baptizer

January 12th, 2013 by Ryan

Today we are continuing in the Gospel according to John. Last week we got through John’s intro to the gospel. For a little refresher, in the beginning of his gospel John establishes the sovereignty of God by talking about how Jesus:

 

  1. Existed in the beginning of time. “In the beginning was the Word” Jesus is eternal and has always been.
  2. Existed with and a part of God in one person. “..The Word was with God and the Word was God” Jesus and God are one in the same. In such Jesus has the Power of God.
  3. Actively participated in the creation of the world. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus was responsible for the creation of everything we see in this universe. John makes sure to explicitly state that all was created through Jesus. He had an active role.

 

John also gives a brief intro to John the Baptist and describes him as an ambassador paving the way for the true King. The intro is very brief, so we should probably lay out a little backstory on John the Baptist.

First off I did a little research and I have come to the conclusion I don’t like calling John, who baptized people, John the “Baptist”. I feel like he should be John the Baptizer. It feel more active which fits his personality more. Also, the term “Baptist”, in modern times, has become synonymous with the Christian

 

We are going to jump into Luke for a little bit as the Gospel of John doesn’t capture a lot of this historical stuff. Here is a description of John the Baptizer’s parents as described by Luke in his Gospel:

 

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of  the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  And they were both  righteous before God, walking  blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. (Luke 1:5-6 ESV)

 

That is a pretty high recommendation that Luke bestows upon them.

 

Walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord

 

This was obviously during the “pre-Jesus” plan for redemption and was based on keeping the Law of Moses. They were pro’s at following God’s laws.

 

The couple was highly regarded in the city they lived and Zechariah was a respected priest in that community. Sounds like they had it all together, but their life was filled with some regret and sadness as they were now older and had not been blessed with any children. In the Hebrew world children were seen as a blessing from God and larger families were very common. This in contrast to now-a-days we are headed in the reverse and families are becoming smaller and it is a lot more common for couple never to have any kids.

 

One day Zechariah is chosen to perform the incense burning duties in the temple and his life takes an unexpected turn. Gabriel appears and lets him know they are going to have a special child, John the Baptizer. Zechariah, who had been faithful and trusting to God all these years had lost his hope in this respect. He basically said, “Yeah, right.” His speech was taken away and did not return until John was born. God basically said, “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all”.

 

When Elizabeth finds out she is pregnant, she is overcome. I read this week a funny thought about this. Elizabeth was excited about two gifts she had received. A miracle child and a mute husband.

 

John the Baptizer was described as a relative of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. It doesn’t go into specific of how Mary and John the Baptists mother, Elizabeth, were related. John was about 6 months older than Jesus.

 

The first interactions the two had was when both were in utero. Mary had just been told by Gabriel that she would be with child and she went to visit Elizabeth. When Elizabeth greeted Mary, Elizabeth’s baby (John the Baptist) is described as leaping in her womb. John the Baptist knew from 6 months in the womb what his purpose in life was. That has got to be a record. He hadn’t even been born yet. I know 30 years old who still don’t know what they want to do.

 

When John grows up he becomes a… how should i put this… a wild man. Bearded, wild hair, and wore a camel skin with a leather belt. He lived alone in the wilderness eating bugs and honey.

 

As I was thinking about John this week I found it kind of funny to think what would happen if John the Baptist stopped by.

 

He would freak us out. Seriously.

 

I remember growing up in a Southern Baptist church. We were not allowed to wear jeans to church. If the pastor didn’t wear a tie it was the end of the world. John would show up to preach with no shirt on. Mass hysteria would ensue.

 

It was not only his appearance that was off-putting, his message was “Repent of your sins”. He had no problem calling anyone out either. The hierarchy of society meant nothing to him.  The funny thing is that even with his appearance and his message he drew large groups of people to him to listen. He had huge influence and had an impact on hundreds if not thousands of people. The Bible talks about a constant stream of people that would come repent their sins and be baptized by John.

 

In this time period of Roman rule society had become very wicked. Although there was a lot of people who were listening to what John had to say there were also a lot of people who hated him. As you can imagine, calling out sin doesn’t make you the most popular guy in the room.

 

One of these people who hated him was Herod Antipas. This Herod was son of Herod the Great. Herod the great was the ruler that slaughtered infants in an attempt to kill Jesus. This guy is a bad dude from a family of bad dudes. Well, Herod Antipas had stolen his brothers wife, Herodias, and had divorced his wife. He then starting living with his brother’s wife. John called him out on this. This did not make Herod Antipas happy, but Herod was intimidated by John’s followers so he did not do anything. Herodias was obsessed with having John teh Baptizer killed and pushed Herod Antipas. She hated him and did not like the fact he was calling out the sinful relationship that Herodias and Herod Antipas were partaking in. She eventually convinced Herod Antipas to pull the trigger and John the Baptizer was killed.

 

This is the back story to John the Baptizer. We jump back into the Gospel of John around the time where John the Baptizer ministry was at the height. John’s gospel picks up the Jesus story after Jesus had already been tempted for 40 days. John the Baptizer had already baptized Jesus. Open God’s word to John chapter 1. We will continue in verse 19.

 

And this is the  testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,  “Who are you?”  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then?  Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” (John 1:19-21 ESV)

 

 

The explosion of John’s ministry had drawn the attention of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. John had literally come out of no-where. A delegation had been sent to figure out what this John guy was all about. They were confused. They asked him first if he was the Christ. John freely admits that he is not the one. They then asked him if he was Elijah. The Jews had a concept that Elijah would come back. Elijah was carried up to heaven and never died. John again answers “No”. Last they ask him if he is “the Prophet” capital “P”. This is a reference to Deuteronomy chapter 18.

 

15″The  Lord  your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—… (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV) 

 

18…I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.  And I will put my words in his mouth, and  he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:18 ESV)

 

In this time period the Jews were under the authority of the Romans. The Jews did not like this. They were probably hoping for a Prophet like Moses that could lead them out of this like Moses led the Israelites out of slavery. John denies this too.

 

Let’s continue in verse 22.

 

So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”  He said, “I am  the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight  the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.”  (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  (John 1:22-24 ESV)

 

The delegation is trying to figure him out trying to get John to talk about John. This goes against his entire ministry. John never exalted himself. His ministry was not about him. Matthew Henry says this about that aspect:

 

He was in the wilderness till the day of his showing unto Israel. His spirit, his converse, his doctrine, had something in them which commanded and gained respect; but he did not, as seducers do, give out himself to be some great one. He was more industrious to do good than to appear great; and therefore waived saying any thing of himself till he was legally interrogated. Those speak best for Christ that say least of themselves, whose own works praise them, not their own lips.

 

The delegation was grasping for straws. Their ideas of what John was about were denied by John. So they point blank ask him, “Then who are you?” And his reply is humble. He describes himself as a voice.

 

He said, “I am  the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight  the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23 ESV)

 

The term “Make straight the way of the Lord” is an allusion to what a Kings messenger would say before the King arrives. It also alludes to the repentance message he was preaching. Repenting from our crooked path and making our path straight.

 

Let’s keep going in verse 25.

 

They asked him,  “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  John answered them,  “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,  even  he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:25-28 ESV)

 

In the Jewish church baptism was used as a ceremony for proselytes. Basically it was a way for gentiles to be cleansed on their non-jewish-ness and convert to Judaism. But John the Baptizer was baptizing everyone because we all have sinned and need to be cleansed. This concept was a little out there for the Jewish leaders.

 

The Jews had an expectation that the three people mentioned (Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet) would baptize. So they had jumped to a conclusion about why John was baptizing people. John lets them know that he is only baptizing with water as a symbol of the repentance, but the Messiah would baptize the spirit, and truly give redemption from our sins. John again takes an opportunity to explain that he is just making a path for Jesus. He expresses his unworthiness to even untie Jesus’ shoe. John also mentions that they were missing the main attraction by talking to him.

 

..among you stands one you do not know…

 

They were so busy talking to the opening act that they were missing the headliner.

 

The delegation have had enough of this questioning and leave John for the rest of the day. Verse 29 picks the stopry up again on the next day.

 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold,  the Lamb of God, who  takes away the sin  of the world!  This is he of whom I said,  “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.”  I myself did not know him, but  for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31 ESV)

 

John is in his normal spot baptizing people in the Jordan river when he sees Jesus walk towards him in the distance. The Bible doesn’t specifically say how many people where present at this time, but you can probably safely assume there was the normal streams of people that came to see John everyday. John immediately stops baptizing and shouts,

 

“Behold,  the Lamb of God, who  takes away the sin  of the world!”

 

I am sure everyone their had their jaws drop. The Messiah John had been shouting about was here.

 

John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God”. John is speaking to the sacrificial system that the Jews had in place to atone for sin. Jesus is not just a lamb for atonement, but he is the lamb of GOD. The perfect atonement. The only way to fix the chasm between God and humankind that was created by the fall of man.

 

John reiterates that Jesus is the man that he has been talking about. He proclaims that Jesus is the one who he has been preparing the way for. He was baptizing with water to prepare for Jesus.

 

In the next part of this John gives testimony to what happened when John baptized Jesus.

 

And John  bore witness:  “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and  it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but  he who sent me to baptize  with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain,  this is he who baptizes  with the Holy Spirit.”  And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34 ESV)

 

John bore witness. This phrase is used to show that John was giving a factual account of what he himself witnessed with his own eyes. He was bearing witness to this miracle and it was not a story or embellishment. This event was a spiritual coronation of Jesus. The spirit of God descended upon Jesus and remained.  The Spirit of God is always with Jesus as he is the Son of God. Instead of a crown descending as the representation of the spirit it was a dove. A dove is a symbol of peace. The dove represents the meekness and gentleness of Christ. An interesting thing to note is that John, who had been preparing for Jesus all this time did not recognize him until God said:

 

“Wake up, he is right there!”

 

God said to John here is the one that will be baptizing in the spirit and granting the true redemption we talked about earlier.  John ends this testimony with an attestation that Jesus is the Son of God.

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