Reading: Matthew chapter 16 verse 13-18:
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say the Son of Man is?
14 They replied, Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
15 But what about you? he asked. Who do you say I am?
16 Simon Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
• A friend once asked Isidor I. Rabi,
• A Nobel prize winner in science, how he became a scientist.
• Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day.
• She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day,
• But she always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?”
• “Asking good questions,” Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.”
JESUS KNEW HOW TO ASK A GOOD QUESTION:
• And when he asked the disciples; “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
• He was preparing the ground for his next question.
• This second question would cause the disciples to put their faith on the line;
• It demanded they make a declaration of the man they were following.
• There answer would reveal a right appreciation of Jesus Christ;
• Or they would be guilty of blasphemy having misplaced their trust in this person.
• It was a question that no-one wanted to answer;
• Until Peter got them out of their jam, by declaring the correct answer.
This short mini-series of three talks that we are starting today;
• Is looking at the most popular opinions of the crowd regarding Jesus.
• Why did they think he was John the Baptist, or Elijah or Jeremiah.
• And as we look at why the people thought this way.
• We hope our study will give us a greater appreciation of Jesus!
Four similarities between John and Jesus,
• As you examine the life of If John the Baptiser you discover a man in a hurry:
• I don’t mean panicking or stressed or out of control.
• I mean he was focused, fanatical, passionate,
• 100% committed to the calling God had given him.
• John was urgent, for him everything had to be in the NOW!
• He never thought about tomorrow, his concern was always today.
(1). Matthew chapter 3 verse 2:
"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".
• Don't miss those last two words; "At hand":
• They are urgent words; "It's here, don't miss it".
It's like a train coming down the track.
• God’s train runs better than anything British Rail could promise,
• This train is on time and it is movingggggg!
In Matthew chapter 3 verse 2: John the Baptiser tells the crowd who are listening:
• "Don't miss this opportunity, make sure you get on board.
• Because there will not be another one!”
• It's not waiting, hanging around at the station, it's moving so be prepared to go.
• Notice the urgency in those two words “At hand”.
(2). Luke chapter 3 verse 3-6:
"He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
"A voice of one CALLING in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"
John the Baptiser:
• Was a voice calling out to people, some versions have the word 'Crying'.
• John is warning the people.
• Siren on an emergency vehicle, commanding peoples attention,
• Letting them know that something urgent and important is happening.
• This is a life or death situation;
• The Messiah is here, to find him means life to miss him will mean death!
Although you never read of Jesus panicking or stressed out, or flustered:
• I want to suggest he was a man of urgency.
• A man who (to quote Paul) “Made the most of every opportunity”.
(a). ill: Bible study at Perin’s this week I noted:
• The priority of Jesus’ ministry:
• Mark chapter 1 verse 38;
Jesus said, "Let's go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also.
This is why I've come."
The chapter is dominated by Jesus healing people:
• Demon possessed man, Simon’s mother-in-law, neighbours & villagers.
• But Jesus tells the disciples time to move on, I have a more important agenda.
• Healings are of course temporary;
• The gospel impacts lives for eternity.
• The awareness of limited time:
• Ill: John chapter 9 verse 4:
“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.
Night is coming, when no-one can work”.
• Jesus was aware that he was working to a limited timescale;
• He knew his public ministry would be short, 3 years.
• So while it was day (opportunity to work);
• He would make the most of it!
• The knowledge of a heavenly time-table:
• Ill: John chapter 17 verse 1: “Father the time has come”.
• Like John he was focused, fanatical, passionate,
• 100% committed to the calling God had given him.
(2). Simplicity (Luke chapter 3 verses 10-18).
The crowd, the people who heard John:
• Realised that there was a tremendous contrast between John the Baptiser,
• And the complicated, organised worship of their religious leaders.
• The Pharisees had their own rules, their own set pattern,
• Their own jargon, they literally had a closed shop.
• Everything was so complicated and highly organised;
• It was almost impossible for the average person to do.
• Over 700 rules for the Sabbath.
• e.g. Broach. E.g. chair.
As well as that their prayers were lengthy:
• They believed God heard long prayers,
• One prayer on record starts with 16 different adjectives.
“Blessed, praised and glorified, exalted, extolled and honoured, magnified and lauded be the name of the holy one, the almighty one, the creator of…….etc, etc”.
• The average man in the street looked at a Pharisee;
• And instantly knew they could not compete with that.
• Religion was a complicated closed shop;
• The average man on the street had to settle for second best.
IN CONTRAST TO THEM, JOHN THE BAPTISER WAS FRESH, ALIVE, SIMPLE AND RELEVANT:
• When people listened to John the Baptiser preach:
• He caused them to respond, and say:
• "How can we prove we mean business with God?"
• Now that’s communication!
John tells the people straight:
• In easy to understand, everyday language, simple answers,
• And notice that each of his answers is oh so very, very practical.
Verse 11 Look at John’s simplistic answer he gives to the crowds:
"The man with two tunics should share with him who has none,
and the one who has food should do the same".
• To the Tax Collectors he says:
• "Don't collect any more than you are required to".
• To the soldiers he says:
• "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely - be content with your pay".
John the Baptiser gives simple, practical answers:
• To the questions that the people were asking;
• He says; "Prove you mean business with God by the way you live".
• It is not a new performance God is after (that’s what the Pharisees do)
• But a new attitude, leading onto new actions.
Like John, Jesus was often simple, relevant and very practical in his teachings:
• Luke chapter 10 verses 25-38.
• Ill: Good Samaritan.
• We would have said in response to the question: ‘Who is my neighbour?’
• Start with those you live by, then your work colleagues, then….list goes on and on.
• Yet by telling one simple story Jesus perfectly and universally gets the point home;
• That story of course is still one of the best-known parts of the Bible.
• Punch line to the sermon ever preached.
• e.g. Wise and foolish builders.
• Like John the baptiser;
• Jesus was simple, practical and relavent in what he taught and said!
(3). Authenticity (Being real).
• With John the Baptiser what you saw, is what you got.
• Whatever group of people John is with, he is always the same.
Chameleon (tartan nervous breakdown).
• Look at how John is with 3 different groups of people;
• Notice his authenticity.
(1). 1st group of people (John ch 1 vs 19):
"Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was".
John is in an awkward situation:
• He is being questioned and intimidated by the priests & Levites;
• John is being checked out;
• They want to know who John thinks he is?
• And what does he thinks he is doing preaching & baptising people?
John chapter 1 verse 20-23:
"He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ."
They asked him, "Then are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No."
Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us.
What do you say about yourself?"
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet: "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make way for the Lord!"
John does not try:
• To impress them with clever word games and answers,
• He makes it very clear that he is not the Christ / Messiah.
• He is not out to win them as friends,
• He simply says who he is and why he has come, he tells them truth.
(2). Before the Pharisees the next group of people (Matthew chapter 3 verse 7b-10):
• Remember everyone was scared of the Pharisees,
• They held power (with a capitol P) over the people,
• And because they held power and influence;
• They called all the shots.
• Now when John the Baptiser arrives on the scene,
• They suddenly have a rival, a competitor who needs sorting out.
• He is on their patch and not playing by their rules;
• And so they come to investigate and if possible remove this renegade preacher.
In Matthew chapter 3 verse 7b-10:
• They thought they would sort him out;
• But they are the ones who get the surprise:
"But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising,
he said to them: "You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.
I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children of Abraham.
The axe is already at the root of the trees,
and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
Nobody would have ever dared to publicly talk to the Pharisees like that:
• But John the Baptiser did!
• He tells them truth; he tells them clearly;
• You may have the right pedigree & the right words, & wear the right garments.
• But what about the condition of your hearts, they are corrupt (ill: white washed tombs).
(3). Next group of people John stood before was his followers, his disciples (John chapter 1 verse 35):
"The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.
When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus".
John was ‘the preacher who was willing to lose his congregation’:
Frog at the bottom of a well:
• He looks up and thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well,
• If he surfaced he would have an entirely different view.
• Sadly there are Christians who have a limited understanding,
• They fail to appreciate the bigger picture, that it’s all about Jesus!
John knew the big picture:
• And he sends his two disciples away to follow Jesus.
• Earlier in verse 29, he told the crowd to go after Jesus & now he tells his disciples.
• John the Baptiser wasn't on an ego trip,
• He was true to his mission, to point people to Jesus!
(4). Next group of people John stood before was royalty (Mark chapter 6 verse 18b):
"For John had been saying to Herod,
"It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."
So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.
But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.
When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him".
Most of us have been raised to respect and ‘bow & scrape’ to royalty:
• If we met Prince Charles;
• We would not dare mention his relationship to Camilla Parker-Bowles;
• But I think John the baptiser would!
• He might respect the title but he would not respect wrong behaviour!
As you view the life of John:
• Whether to friends or foe, priest or sinner, royal or pauper;
• John remains true to himself and to the lord.
• With John there was no hypocrisy, what you saw is what you got.
• You might not like it, but you got it.
• John was constantly honest and truthful,
• That's why they mistook him for the Christ, the Messiah.
• When you examine the words of those who encountered Jesus;
• It is evident of course that he was authentic, the real thing.
(A). Before people.
• Before his disciples (ill: Peter (1 Peter 2 verse 22) & John (1 John 3 verse 5)
• Before the crowds (ill: gospels)
• Before his close friends
• (ill: Relaxed with Mary, Martha & Lazarus – Luke ch 10 vs 38 Learning & worshipping).
• Before his enemies
• (ill: Trials – no legal charge & Pilot – “no basis for a charge”).
• Whatever backdrop you put Jesus up against;
• It is evident of course that he was authentic, the real thing.
(b). In private.
• We see him when he is hungry, thirsty, tired, being hassled by the public,
• We even see him be treated unjustly and even being tortured.
• One word you could write over the life of Jesus;
• A brief, simple, but expressive eulogy was pronounced by Martin Luther;
• Upon a pastor at Zwickau in 1522 named Nicholas Haussmann.
“What we preach, he lived,” said the great reformer.
• Jesus was authentic, he fully practiced what he preached,
• He taught the truth & lived truth because he WAS & IS the truth.
(4). Humility (John chapter 3 verse 29-30):
"The 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 bridegrooms voice.
That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
He must become greater; I must become less".
This verse reveals to us John' secret of success:
• "He must become greater; I must become less".
• John’s secret: humility, and a right appreciation of Jesus.
• In fact a few verses earlier in the chapter (verse 25);
• We read about an argument erupting between John's disciples and a Jew:
• John’s disciples come to him and warn him to be careful;
• You’ve got a rival called Jesus and people are deserting you and going to hear him.
• Notice what they actually say:
• Verse 26b they say: "EVERYONE is going to HIM, (Jesus)".
• "Be careful John or you won't have a ministry left",
• "This new man is stealing away all your converts".
Don’t you just love John’s reply:
• He says to them in vs 29; "Of course they are".
• "They have come to see the Bride Groom, not the Best Man".
• Humility is John's trade mark.
• Jesus made some incredible claims;
• e.g. “I am the way…..life” “The Father and I are one” etc.
• But amazingly only ONCE did he ever describe his inner self;
• Mathew chapter 11 verse 28:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
• Jesus had every right to be proud;
• Or to strut around but he never did!
Humility is a word written across the life of Jesus;
• And when the apostle Paul when writing to the Philippians about humility;
• Needed an illustration he gave us the perfect illustration chapter 2.
Quote: The Message:
5”Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
6He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
7Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!
8Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death--and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
9Because of that obedience,
God lifted him high and honoured him far beyond anyone or anything, ever,
10so that all created beings in heaven and on earth--even those long ago dead and buried--will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ,
11and call out in praise that he is the Master of all,
to the glorious honour of God the Father.”