Summary: In this lesson we examine the boldness of John the Baptist in Luke 3:18-20 and learn several truths about bold Christians.
We are studying the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke in a sermon series I am calling, “To Seek and To Save the Lost.”
The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel deal with the prophecies and births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ, and then what happened to Jesus following his birth.
The third chapter of Luke’s Gospel focuses on John the Baptist. John had a remarkable ministry. His preaching was not designed to set people at ease. He saw himself as God’s messenger who called people to repentance. And although he was viewed as a little odd, it would not be an overstatement to say that he was a huge sensation. Thousands of people came to hear John preach and he baptized many who responded to his call for repentance (Matthew 3:5).
Many people began wondering whether John might be the Christ (Luke 3:15). However, John knew that he was not the Christ. He was only the messenger who was to go before the Christ to prepare the people for the ministry of the Christ.
Last time we examined John’s testimony that Jesus was in fact the Christ. Next time we will examine John’s baptism of Jesus, which took place a few months after John started preaching and at the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry. John continued his ministry for another year or so before Herod the tetrarch imprisoned him. However, Luke placed John’s imprisonment in the text we are going to examine today. The reason is that Luke was writing thematically rather than chronologically. That is, he wanted to gather most of the material about John’s life and ministry in one place early in his Gospel so that he could then focus almost exclusively on Jesus and his ministry.
So today I would like to examine the boldness of John the Baptist. Let’s read about his boldness in Luke 3:18-20:
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison. (Luke 3:18–20)
Several years ago I attended a small gathering of pastors in Tampa to have lunch with Dr. Peter Lillback. He is Professor of Historical Theology and the President of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. At that time he was also Senior Pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Dr. Lillback was in Tampa to promote the seminary, and that is how we came to have lunch with Dr. Lillback.
After he told us about the seminary, our questions drifted into wider aspects of the challenges facing Christians and pastors today. He said that our culture was becoming increasingly anti-Christian and intolerant of biblical absolutes. He was particularly referring to Christians proclaiming that homosexual activity was sinful and not biological. However, I will never forget his next comment, which really startled me. Dr. Lillback, who is a little older than I am, said that he fully expected to preach the gospel in prison before he died. He did not mean that he would be involved in a prison ministry. Instead, he meant that he would be imprisoned for preaching the gospel with uncompromising boldness. As I heard Dr. Lillback at lunch that day, I had to ask myself, “Am I willing to go to prison for preaching the gospel with uncompromising boldness?”