Summary: John the Baptist is a great example to anyone wanting to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
“Making Crooked Roads Straight”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church,
Newport News, VA
Johnny and his wife went to the funeral of cousin Billy at a little country church just down the road that they admired.
But when they went inside, it was not as it appeared to be.
The preacher shouted and screamed at them and all the other mourners: “It’s too late for Billy. He might have wanted to believe. He might have wanted to accept Jesus. But he can’t now. It’s too late for Billy.”
Johnny mumbled to his wife, “This is terrible. How can this be of any comfort to anyone?”
The preacher went on: “It may be too late for Billy, but it’s not too late for you. If you get right with God, if you accept Jesus, if you get your fanny back in church, you still have time! Now is the time. Do it!”
On the drive home Johnny continued to complain to his wife.
“That was one of the most insensitive, manipulative, and inappropriate funeral sermons I have ever heard. Who would ever want to go to that church? What do you think?”
Choosing her words carefully, she said. “Yes, it was insensitive, manipulative, and inappropriate. But worst of all…it was true!”
It is true that sometimes the truth must come dressed in rough clothing.
And that was certainly the nature of John the Baptist’s approach.
When we read the brief gospel summaries of his messages, some of us might wonder why people went to so much trouble to hear him.
Were they masochists looking for abuse, or did they perhaps hope to hear him thunder against the sins of their neighbors?
One way or another, the crowds flocked to him.
And mainly, I think, because they heard, in the integrity of his message, an opportunity which they had been looking for for a long time.
His was a message of judgment; but in the judgement was opportunity!
And this opportunity is wrapped up in the word “repent.”
This was John’s message, and it was a message of hope.
“Repent,” he cried, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
With the word “repent”, John was telling the people that they don’t have to remain like they are.
We don’t have to be held captive by our failures, our past, or our inadequacies.
We can repent.
We can get rid of the past.
We can start over.
Wouldn’t you hate to live in a world where there was no chance to repent?
In a sense, we could define hell as a place where there is no possibility of repentance. That’s one of the things that makes it hell.
There’s no way out, no opportunity to get rid of the garbage of life, no chance to start again.
Several years ago one of our Protestant denominations had a wonderful, but hard-hitting publicity poster.
It was aimed at people who had drifted away from the church.
At the center of the poster was a picture of six men carrying a casket up the stairs into a church for a funeral.
Printed over the picture were these words: “Will it take six strong men to bring you back to church?…The Church welcomes you back no matter what condition you are in, but we would prefer to see you breathing.”
Let’s face it, ‘Repent’ is one of the most beautiful words in our language.
It pays us human beings quite a compliment, because it says that we can do something about the road we have taken.
If we were nothing more than poor animals, we’d have to go the way our instincts demand.
But you and I, humans as we are, can repent!
If our road is crooked, it can be made straight.
If we are on the wrong track, we can turn around, or get on another train.
We may not be able to change what we’ve already done, and we may not be able to fully escape the consequences of our past choices…
…but we don’t have to continue down the same destructive road.
We can repent, and start again.
Perhaps that’s why people were drawn to John the Baptist.
They felt hope when they heard him preach.
He spoke harsh, direct words, but he led them to the door of hope.
“You can repent,” he basically said. “There is a way out of the dilemma you’re in.”
But John did make it difficult.
Because John presented his message in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion.
He was like a car salesperson who might bargain for a while, and then say: “This is my last offer,” and, as he says it, walks away from the customer.
This was John’s style.
“I have something great to offer,” he seemed to say, “and you better grab the opportunity now that it’s come to you.”