Summary: A sermon on repentance and moving out of the "wilderness".

“Making Crooked Roads Straight”

Matthew 3:1-12

By: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN

“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

John appeared in the wilderness.

In the minds of the Jews at this time, the wilderness represented a hostile and ominous place.

It is the place of hunger, thirst, death, outlaws, and demons.

It is home for dangerous creatures—scorpions and snakes.

The wilderness was considered an area of primal chaos or as cursed by God.

John the Baptist went into this dark region to do battle with the forces of evil.

Jesus did the same thing after His baptism by John.

Where is the wilderness today?

For some, it may be found in the board rooms of companies where the bottom line is making a profit—no matter the moral or human cost.

For others it is in the hallways of our high schools where kids are under great pressure from other kids to conform and become the kind of people they never thought, nor desired to be.

For some, the wilderness may be found in the media where so many conflicting voices are vying for our hearts, minds and souls.

Others may find the wilderness to be in their own homes—where family squabbles are the norm and chaos runs rampant.

Still others may be lost in the wilderness of materialism where money is KING and Jesus is molded into an image unrecognizable in Scripture-- the Christ of Upper-Middle-Class American Suburbia.

Perhaps others find wilderness to be in the feeding of their lusts and desires…where they find themselves lost and unsatisfied, but so addicted that they crave more and more of the same.

Where is the primary arena where you are having it out with Satan?

Where do you find your relationship with Jesus Christ to be most vulnerable?

When I had my born again experience my freshman year of college…

…due to the fact that my biggest wilderness area was found in heavy metal rock music…

…I found that I had to smash all my many records and tapes and throw them in the garbage!

A friend of mine told me, at the time, “Ken this is like you are slapping your lover in the face!”

And he was right.

My old lover needed to hit the road in order for my new lover to fully come in!

What is it that you need to get rid of in order for Jesus to come completely in and vanquish your wilderness?

In the last analysis, wilderness is a spiritual state—not a geographic area, is it not?

And if wilderness is a state of chaos—without a sign, pathway or marker—the spiritual challenge is to find a way out of the wilderness!

When John the Baptist shows up in the “wilderness of Judea” what the people see is a spitting image of Elijah—the wild hair and the wild robe and the wild words of the greatest prophet who ever lived.

Elijah was the first big voice to name the failures of God’s people.

He was the man who dared to tell the truth—about their greed, about their cold-heartedness, about their wimpiness in the face of evil!

And Elijah was the one who predicted that, because of their spiritual sloth, the people of God would crumble into oblivion—losing their land, losing their way in the seductive wilderness of the world.

And, of course, everything that Elijah predicted came true—the bloody battles, the arrogant arguments, the social decay, the humiliating exile of Israel’s history.

And so, centuries later, when John the Baptist shows up in the shadows of that remnant, he is speaking to a people who have no Holy Spirit, no holy hope, no holy guts.

But, as a mirage from the past, he simply electrifies the crowd!!!

His urgency, his energy, his truth—yes, even his anger—tantalizes their apathy.

And our Gospel Lesson tells us that lots of people came to hear him!

They open themselves to be driven right off the comfortable, boring highways of their lives.


Why did they come?

Could it be that they knew their relationship with God was in big trouble?

Could it be they were so empty, so desperate for the ONLY solution which is God?

And maybe, just maybe, in the midst of John’s rebuke—they will repent!

Maybe they will be reborn!

Maybe they will remember—remember who God is and remember who they are.

Have you forgotten who you are?

Could it be that you need to repent and remember who God is in order to be saved from your wilderness?

The people came because maybe, just maybe, John’s blunt message would become a bold blessing!!!

Perhaps people came to John the Baptist because they sensed hope when they heard him preach.

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