Summary: As predicted by the prophets, John the Baptist came to tell the world to prepare the way for Jesus. Emphasis on faith & repentance, Salvation message.
A Voice in the Wilderness
Text: Matthew 3
At an intersection, the green light changes to yellow.
At the theater the house lights flash
In the Battalion Tactical Operations Center a WARNO comes down from Brigade
At the airport terminal the boarding call comes over the intercom
At a railroad crossing the lights begin to flash
In a small Midwestern town the tornado siren screams
On the football field the two minute warning sounds
In the cargo bay of a C-140 a red-light comes on
In the Desert of Judea, a voice of one calling in the wilderness, "Prepare the way for the Lord"
What do each of these have in common? They are signs or warnings that we need to prepare ourselves for what is about to happen. The prophets of the Old Testament foretold that there would be a forerunner to the Messiah, who would alert the world to the coming of this "anointed one."
Just as predicted, here comes John the Baptist, the miracle child of old and childless parents, preaching repentance, living a spartan existence by God’s provision and telling of a coming Messiah. Really an OT character, the last of the OT Prophets. One who stands astride the two testaments, bridging the gap, showing the progression from God’s old covenant with Israel to His new covenant with all humanity through Jesus Christ. And what is the message of this the lost of the Old Covenant prophets?
Proposition: Prepare the way, get ready, get your hearts ready, get your lives ready, get your homes ready
Interrogative: And how exactly are we to do that? How should we prepare ourselves for the Messiah to come into our lives?
Transition: As we look at John the Baptist’s ministry Three things are apparent about the nature of this preparation. I want to invite you to look at these with me this morning and ask yourself, "How well have I done in preparing the way for Jesus?" First our preparation must be...
vv. 5-6 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance. The people who come to be baptized confess their sins, out of sorrow for the way they have trampled God’s expectations for them.
ILLUSTRATION: Not too many years ago many newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. Still, he believed his relationship with Christ demanded a confession. And he even voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money!(Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 13)
Why did he confess this sin when he had already gotten away with it ? Because when he came face to face with Jesus he was filled with sorrow over the wrong he had done.
Maybe you’ve never robbed a bank, I don’t know maybe you have, but regardless of what sins checker your past like Al Johnson and like those who came to be baptized by John in the Desert of Judea, If you are going to prepare a place in your heart for the Messiah, your preparation must begin with sorrow for your life of sin.
John Wesley once described repentance as genuine sorrow for sin and sincere resolutions of amendment. Which brings us to our next point. John makes it clear that our preparation for Messiah must be...
vv. 7-8 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Why is John so hard on these Pharisees and Saducees when it’s obvious that he thinks they need to be saved? I think the clue is in verses 7 & 8 "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." John realizes that the Pharisees have come not to join in the repentance but to join the crowd. They lack sincerity.
And how is sincerity judged? Not by just coming to the service, not by sad looks or rivers of tears but by the fruit of a changed life "fruit in keeping with repentance."
Repentance is a U-turn in the middle of life’s road. Sorrow PLUS Sincerity.
ILLUSTRATION: Imagine that I am driving with my wife in our car, she tells me to turn right at the next intersection and by mistake, I turn left. When I realize what I’ve done, I say to my wife "I’m sorry honey, I went the wrong way." But if that’s all I do, it isn’t enough. Saying sorry doesn’t get us where we need to be; it isn’t even stopping us from going further away. To get where we need to be, I need to stop the car, turn it around and go back on to the correct road that she told me to take in the first place. That is fruit in keeping with repentance. (Steve Gladwell on Sermoncentral.com)