Summary: Repentance opens the door for God Himself to enter into the messy places of our hearts.
Okay, let’s open up our Bibles this morning to Luke chapter three. If you know we started the series on Luke back in December. We spent the first three or four weeks of December talking about the arrival of Jesus; the Advent, the Birth of Jesus, the Grand Invasion; what that meant to all of us. And now we’re going to pick up in the third chapter of Luke. Let me give you some context on what’s happening in this third chapter.
From Luke chapter two to Luke chapter three, about 30 years have past between the two chapters. So where we left off in Luke chapter two was Jesus – well maybe not that long, maybe 18 years because we did hear the story at the end of Luke chapter two of Jesus the 12 year old, who walked away form His parents, who was in the temple with the priests. Now in Luke chapter three, Jesus is around 30 years old, and the conditions in the country of Israel have gone form very bad to much worse. I mean it could not be any worse than what’s happening right now in Israel.
So at the end of Luke chapter two, Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome. He was the leader of Rome. And by the way, he was a violent ruthless leader. He was a guy that controlled by fear, by intimidation, by just heavy-handedness. The Roman soldiers were very violent, cruel people who really were the police officers in the police state of Israel. Fast forward now, Caesar Augustus who called himself God is dead. And in his place is an even more evil man now, who is ruling in Rome. His name is Tiberius. Tiberius makes Caesar Augustus look like a Sunday school teacher. Tiberius was violent. He hated the people of Jerusalem. He hated the whole thing and he was determined to bring them under his absolute control.
Well you know what happens when people are controlled? There are always rebels in the crowd. There are always young men and young women who will stand up and face down the evil dictator. And certainly many, many times in the history of Israel, young men and young women would stand up and defy Rome. You know what would happen? They would get arrested, they would get thrown in jail, and most of them were executed.
So it was not uncommon for young men and women, young revolutionaries to stand and say, “We’re not going to take this oppression any longer! We’re rebelling against Rome!” They would end up in jail. Then a young guy named John the Baptist, whom we know who was foretold by angels. God told Zachariah and Elizabeth that this baby that Elizabeth was carrying would be the fore runner, the fore teller of the gospel. By this time John the Baptist was about 30 years old, he and Jesus were the same age. And John the Baptist was out in the desert; out alone.
But he began to proclaim not political freedom or military freedom or some kind of social freedom, the message that John the Baptist was a spiritual declaration. It had something on it. There was an anointing, a power of God on this young man. He was different than the young revolutionaries who were calling for the overthrow of Rome. This guy was calling for the kingdom of heaven to come to the earth. His message was powerful. And while he looked different than everybody else, the Bible says he was dressed in camel hair and he ate locust and honey; a wild man. He was a Colorado mountain man; a wild guy. He would’ve fit in right among us and been perfect.
John the Baptist was different and his message was different. And so crowds of people would leave the safety and the comfort of Jerusalem, their villages and leave their homes and go out into the middle of nowhere and hear this high firebrand, this young dude, preach the gospel. And his message was a message of repentance; the idea of turning to God, the idea of turning your hearts toward God. And he would say radical things like this. He would say to the Jewish people, “Repent and be water baptized.” Now we’re going to talk more next week about what that means; about water baptism because I think we’ve lost the awe and we’ve lost the understanding of what that means. We’re going to talk about that next Sunday.
What was so radical about his is Jewish people weren’t required to be water baptized. Jewish people certainly had religious rituals that required them to bathe and to cleanse their bodies before they could go into worship. But the idea of being immersed in the Jordan River – fully immersed in water baptism was not a Jewish tradition. In fact it was the way the Gentiles who wanted to become Jews – that’s what they had to do.