Summary: Advent 2(A) - Believers prepare the way for the Lord with repentance and with good fruit(fulness).
PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD
December 10, 2006 - ADVENT 2 - Matthew 3:1-12
Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
Another week has come and gone and we are that much closer to the coming of Christ at Christmas. During the last week, we probably made more preparations in getting ready to celebrate that special day and that special time. Sometimes in this world, we become too busy with the preparations for ourselves or for our family or for our friends or for the things of this world. We may need especially this time to sit back and to consider how we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord.
We heard John’s message in the gospel of Luke. We are going to study the message in depth this morning: "preparing the way for the Lord". We also prepare ourselves for the Lord, not just for the gifts and decorations, the festivities, but also especially as a quiet time that we want with the Lord. The prophet Hosea puts it this way: "Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you"(Hosea 10:12). That is my prayer this morning as we look at these words. Not only this morning, but during this weeks ahead and the year ahead we have found that our hearts are prepared for the Lord. God has come and showered his righteousness on us so that we have the peace and the joy the world does not give to us. We use these words that are really spoken by the prophet Isaiah and quoted by Matthew to describe John the Baptist and to remind us this morning to prepare the way for the Lord. Our theme:
PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD --
I. with repentance, and;
II. with good fruit.
I. PREPARE WITH REPENTANCE
John was related to Jesus and was born for a very specific purpose. John’s life purpose was to prepare the way for the Lord: in the hearts of the believers that were there and people who would come. John had a simple message. He was a wilderness preacher. He didn’t go into the cities to preach, but he stood outside the cities and preached: Prepare the way for the Lord. The people came to him. We are told in verse 5: "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan." In Mark we hear that all the people came from Jerusalem and the surrounding area.
What did they come to see? Did they come to see John? We might think so as we heard in verse 4: "John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." That sounds strange to our ears, but it wasn’t. The early prophets were dressed much the same way. John’s diet of locust and wild honey was what he ate because he was in the wilderness. Locusts were considered a clean food by Jewish law. So it wasn’t that strange for the people who lived in that time. So why did they come? They came because of his message.
Our text began: "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ’Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’" This is a simple message. The word "repent" one commentator has said is one of the worst translations of the Greek word that we have. The original word says, "To change one’s thinking or to change one’s mind." John is preaching "Change your thinking, your mind". Then you know what happens. It changes your hearts and your lives. We are going to see what this word really means. So when you read, "repent" in Scripture, try to remember what that word means: Change your mind; change your thinking; change your heart and your life. John preaches "Change your mind for the kingdom of heaven is near". That is why they came. John was baptizing and preaching a message of repentance for changed minds and changed lives.
John was also the one promised by Isaiah, the Prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, ’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight the paths for him.’" You can imagine how anxious the people of Israel were. The promise of a Savior had been made to Adam and Eve centuries ago. The prophet Isaiah had given more clues saying: "In Bethlehem Ephratha there would be a Savior born. The virgin will give birth. There will be one to prepare the way." So John stood out by the Jordan River saying, "Change your mind. The kingdom of heaven is near." Why was he at the Jordan? Well, his name tells us--John the Baptist. He was a baptizer and a preacher and a way preparer. He was by the Jordan because there was water. It was easy there for baptisms. "I baptize you with water for repentance. I baptize you with water for a change of mind, a change of thinking and a change of heart and change of living. That is why the people came. Verse 6, very simply, very beautifully: "Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." John’s baptism was a baptism that looked forward to the promise of the fulfillment in Christ. Jesus would come and live, die and rise again. Jesus would provide freely the forgiveness of sins.