Summary: Luke starts with the story of a child... but not Jesus. Luke starts with the birth of John the Baptist? Why? Why would John need to mentioned before Christ was?
OPEN: How many of you have started decorating your house for Christmas? As you drive thru Logansport you’ll see a lot of homes have put up Christmas trees and all kinds of Lights and Nativity scenes, and various other decorations. Out in my front yard, I’ve put up my own decorations: there’s not much there, just a lighted angel, lighted reindeer, and centered between them – a nativity scene. (we showed a picture)
ILLUS: Now, by contrast, there’s a family in Connecticut that - for the past 20 years – has set up a display of over 350,000 lights that illuminate their house and yard and 1000s of visitors drive by their home during December just to enjoy the sight (we showed a couple of pics of the Halliwell home in Fairfield, CT). That’s how that family prepares for the season celebrating Christ’s birth.
But what’s intriguing about our passage this morning is how God prepared for Christ’s birth over 2000 years ago. In the book of Luke, it starts out telling us about the birth of a child. But the child Luke starts with isn’t Jesus! What child is this? (It’s John the Baptist)
Now, why would God start this Gospel out with John’s birth… not Jesus’? Well, Luke tells us that the reason that was done was “it seemed good to me … to write an orderly account for you.” Luke 1:3.
Luke was NOT an eye witness of the life of Jesus (Luke was a Gentile who was converter after resurrection). So, what Luke seems to have done was collected stories. He interviewed folks - folks like Matthew, Peter, John, Mary and some of other individuals you read about in his Gospel. And then – guided by the Holy Spirit – he put all those stories together. And he determined to put them together in an ORDERLY MANNER.
And the VERY FIRST story of Luke’s Gospel had to do with the birth of John the Baptist. He put John first… not Jesus. WHY? Well, because John had to come BEFORE Jesus.
In the book of Malachi God declared “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will PREPARE THE WAY before me.” Malachi 3:1
Isaiah prophesied about John’ ministry this way: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘PREPARE THE WAY of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’” Isaiah 40:3-5
The point was, John had to come first because he was the one who prepared the way for Jesus. John had a mission that needed to be accomplished BEFORE Jesus could accomplish what He’d come to do.
So what was John’s MISSION? Luke 1:17 says his mission was “to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And John’s father Zechariah prophesied that his son “(would) be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to GIVE KNOWLEDGE OF SALVATION to his people in the FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:76-79
John’s objective was to tell people that the Messiah was coming (Jesus), and to let everyone know that when this Messiah arrived He’d bring knowledge of salvation and of the forgiveness of sins. And that’s just what John did in John 1:29 where we read: “…John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
That was part of John’s message.
John’s job was to PREPARE people to see Jesus for what He was. Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted that “People only see what they are prepared to see.” People only see what they’re looking for.
ILLUS: A father and son were at a tree farm looking for a tree to cut for their home. But every time the father saw a tree he thought would work the boy would shake his head - he didn’t want THAT tree. After an hour of searching, the father finally said “Look son, I’m tired. I’m sorry but I’m going to cut down the next tree I think will work.” The boy looked up in shock “You mean, even if it doesn’t have any lights on it either?”
The boy was prepared ONLY to see a tree as a Christmas tree… if it had lights. Otherwise, it wasn’t what he was looking for. “People only see what they are prepared to see.” And John’s job was to prepare people to SEE Jesus.