Summary: John had been able to deal with the question of direction...the one that asked "What shall we do?" But beyond that is an more basic question that asks, "To whom shall we go?"
DIRECTION AND DECISION
LUKE 3:1 18
There is a story about a man named Fred who inherited $10 million... but the will said he must accept it either in Chile or Brazil. He chose Brazil.
Sadly, it turned out that in Chile he would have received his inheritance in land on which uranium, gold and silver had just been discovered.
Once in Brazil he had to choose between receiving his inheritance in coffee or nuts. He chose nuts. Too bad! The bottom fell out of the nut market and coffee went up to $1.30 wholesale...unroasted! Poor Fred lost everything he had to his name.
So he went out and sold his solid gold watch for the money he needed to fly home. It seems that he had enough for a ticket to either New York or Boston. He chose Boston.
When the plane for New York taxied up, he noticed it was a brand new super 747 jet with red carpets and wine popping hostesses. The plane for Boston then arrived. It was a 1928 Ford trimotor with a sway back and it took a full day to get off the ground.
It was filled with crying children and tethered goats. Over the Andes one of the engines fell off. So our man Fred made his way up to the captain and said, "I'm a jinx on this plane. Let me out if you want to save your lives. Give me a parachute.
The pilot agreed, but added, "On this plane, anybody who bails out must wear two chutes. So Fred jumped out of the plane...and as he fell dizzily through the air he tried to make up his mind which ripcord to pull.
Finally he chose the one on the left. It was rusty and the wire pulled loose. So then he pulled the other handle. This chute opened...but then its shroud lines snapped.
In desperation, the poor fellow cried out, "St Francis save me!" A great hand from heaven reached down and seized the poor fellow by the wrist and let him dangle in mid air. Then a gentle but inquisitive voice asked, "St Francis Xavier or St Francis of Assisi?"
Poor old Fred is an extreme case...but we all have and will face decisions that will change the direction of our lives forever. And this morning I want to speak on the subject "Direction and Decisions"
READ Luke 3:1 18
John the Baptist would probably be called the most unforgettable character anyone could ever meet. He was quite a colorful person, and many factors went in to making him what he was.
He was a man of the desert...a first century prophet who roamed the hills and plains announcing the coming of the Messiah. But he was not just some homeless vagrant or wild mountain man living off the land in the Judean wilderness.
His father was a Jewish priest...and so John knew all about religious thought and practice...and he knew what normal Jewish life was like. But he possessed none of the graces of normal, polite society. He was not the kind of guy you would normally want your daughter bringing home for dinner.
His words and deeds were rough and tumble...and his patience was short. He charged the religious leadership with hypocrisy and confronted the people with unfaithfulness. He was truly the voice that roared throughout the land.
And it seemed he feared no man, because he even charged the king with an unlawful marriage. But in spite of all of that, great crowds would flock to see him wherever he went. Many people may have been attracted to the novelty of this voice crying in the wilderness.
Yet many of them also found their conscience and their ways of life called into question. John preached a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." And this meant that he challenged the people to radically alter the direction of their lives...and then to give public evidence of that by being baptized in the Jordan River.
And I find this man so amazing. You wouldn't think that people he referred to as "a brood of vipers" would stay around long and listen to him...but they did. And not only did they stay, but many of them responded to his moral and ethical demands.
His fiery speech and surprising popularity even caused the king to fear him. And eventually John's strong voice against sin would cost him his life at the hands of king Herod.
But his influence could not be stopped...and he created the necessary environment that would bring the focus to the one who followed him... Jesus of Nazareth.
The mission and the message of John the Baptist signaled the beginning of the gospel...or the good news of Jesus Christ. So to learn about Jesus we must start with John...that one who described himself as the forerunner...pointing to one to come who was greater than he.