Summary: A sermon on John the Baptist’s imprisonment and on dealing with difficulties in our lives.
¡§Me Church¡¨ video:
¡§Imagine a church where every member is passionately, whole-heartedly and recklessly calling the shots.¡¨
(A woman says) ¡§I work a busy week and when Sunday rolls around, I¡¦m tired. How about a church service that starts when I get there?¡¨
No problem ¡V when you arrive, we begin!
(A man says) ¡§Financially, my wife and I don¡¦t give a lot to the church. But we¡¦d sure like to know who does.¡¨
Alright, if you join now, you¡¦ll know what every person gives, in detail.
(An older woman says) ¡§When I¡¦m in the church service, can my car get a buff and a wax?¡¨
Not just that, but an oil change and a tune up!
(Kid says) I¡¦d like a pony!
Hey, just look in your back yard.
Me Church, where it¡¦s all about you.
Funny video that skewers contemporary church culture. We laugh, but how about us? Can¡¦t we relate just a bit? We want to be comfortable and we want things the way we want them. Let¡¦s face it, most of the time our lives are lived as if it¡¦s all about me.
Our Scripture today was about John¡¦s imprisonment. And we know from Mark 6, his imprisonment ultimately resulted in his death at the hands of Herod. But let¡¦s go back a step or two¡K what do we know about this man? Let¡¦s look at Matthew¡¦s description of his ministry:
Matthew 3:1-6, 11-15
1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, ¡§Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.¡¨ 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
¡§A voice of one calling in the desert, ¡¥Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.¡¦¡¨
4John¡¦s clothes were made of camel¡¦s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People 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 Said:
11¡§I baptize you with„T water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.¡¨
John the Baptist. Or, the Baptizer. A wild man running around wearing camel hair and eating bugs. I wonder how he fit in when he visited the synagogue on visitor¡¦s Sunday? How would he fit in here? This guy was out on the edge ¡V following God, risking for the Kingdom, preaching a message of repentance that surely got him in lots of trouble with the nice, proper, religious authorities.
Isaiah had prophesied about one who would make straight paths in the wilderness for the Messiah. He was the first to recognize Jesus as he came into his earthly ministry.
He seemed to have the proper perspective on Jesus¡¦ ministry versus his own. John¡¦s ministry had become something of an event. You can well imagine that folks were turning out not just to get baptized, but to watch the spectacle. This guy was a preacher and an afternoon¡¦s entertainment all rolled into one.
And the Scriptures tell us that he had accumulated disciples, even before Jesus did. He had a following. And yet, he kept the focus off of himself.
In John 3 we see an interesting encounter where the ministries of John and Jesus collide:
22¡KJesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24(This was before John was put in prison.) 25An argument developed between some of John¡¦s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26They came to John and said to him, ¡§Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan¡Xthe one you testified about¡Xwell, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.¡¨
27To this John replied, ¡§A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, ¡¥I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.¡¦ 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom¡¦s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must become greater; I must become less.
Wow. What a perspective. We look at John and we can certainly say that he didn¡¦t think the work of the Kingdom was all about him. As another translation puts it, John says, ¡§He must increase, and I must decrease.¡¨