Summary: In John the Baptist we have an example of humble living, speaking truth, and always pointing beyond ourselves to Christ.
“POINTING BEYOND OURSELVES”
By: Rev. Kenneth E. Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Approximately three-hundred years before John the Baptist came on the scene...
...God had promised through the prophet Isaiah that a person would come and announce the coming of the
...Isaiah said he would be: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in
the wilderness a highway for our God.”
And John is this man!
John was a man of the wilderness.
Our Gospel lesson tells us that he wore clothing made of camel’s hair...and he ate locusts and wild honey.
Locusts can mean the little bugs or a nut, the carob that poor people often ate.
The honey may have come from wild bees or it may have been a kind of sap from certain trees.
Whatever it was...the point is that John ate the diet of the very poor.
He was a simple prophet who pointed to someone beyond himself!
“And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness
of sins...and the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.”
They left the city...and went into the wilderness...they went out to him!
This is interesting because repentance is deeply rooted in the wilderness.
Just think of the Exodus.
In order to prepare the way for Christ’s coming, God had the people go back to their beginnings with
God...He had them return to the wilderness!
Just as Israel had long ago been separated from Egypt...from slavery in Egypt...by a pilgrimage through
the waters of the Red Sea...
...John the Baptist is calling them to once again experience separation...
...this time it is separation from their slavery to sin...
...this is a second exodus for Israel...
...in order for them to be prepared for a new covenant with God.
And their willingness to return to the wilderness reminds us that Israel’s history is one of disobedience
...and a desire to begin once more.
And John’s proclamation of the forgiveness of sins gives the people and us the assurance that God is still
willing to extend His grace!
We might ask: “Why did God have them return to the wilderness?”
I think it is symbolic...
...in the sense that they were called to return to a place where their dependence was soley on God...
...and in order to truly repent they...
...like all of us...
...had to exchange their pride for humility!
John was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
And this baptism was the symbol of repentance.
The mood, the spirit, the act of repentance is the main thing!
Repentance is more than ‘penitence’ or ‘godly sorrow for sin.’
The Greek word for Repentance means a complete change of mind, a new direction of the will, and
altered purpose in life....
...it is a turning away from sin...
...and a turning to the Lord!
Repentance is not merely remorse...
...it is not just admitting mistakes...
...it is not just saying to ourselves, “I have been a fool!”
Who hasn’t said these things?
These things are common, easy and obvious.
Repentance is more.
It is even more than being ‘sorry’ for our sins.
A Sunday School teacher asked a class what the word ‘repentance’ means.
A little boy put up his hand and said, “It is being sorry for your sins.”
Then a little girl raised her hand and said, “It is being sorry enough to quit.”
Repentance is a moral and spiritual revolution!
And because of this...
...genuine repentance is one of the hardest things in the world to do...
...and yet it is essential if we are going to be restored to a right relationship with God.
Repentance calls for the complete breakdown of pride...
...of the hunger for the prestige which can come from wealth and fame...
...and of the self-will.
A schoolgirl was saved and someone asked her, “What were you before?”
She said, “A sinner.”
Then she was asked, “What are you now?”
She answered, “A sinner.”
They asked, “What’s the difference?”
She answered, “I was a sinner running after sin. But now I’m a sinner running from sin.”
Verse 5 tells us that those who were being baptized confessed their sins.
Sin is an infinitely stronger word than ‘mistake’.
It is also an infiniteley stronger word than the easy, soothing, modern psychological jargon which the
secular world so often substitutes for the Judeo-Christian word--sin.
Confession in the language of psychoanalysis might go something like this: “I have followed too much the
inhibitions and self-expressions of my own complexes.
I have not sublimated my libido, nor have I considered my neurosis.”
These kinds of words never lead to the liberating: “I have sinned against heaven in Your sight Lord