Summary: Our need to follow the example of John the Baptist.
Luke 3:1- 20 – To Follow or Not To Follow the prophet?
Last Sunday night, we began to talk about John the Baptist’s message. We found out that people from all over the country were gathering to hear this guy. John had achieved a cult status and all sorts of people were coming out to hear him. You don’t believe me? Turn in your bibles to Luke 3
Read Luke 3:1-20
Luke records that crowds were coming out to be baptized by him. It wasn’t just a crowd – but it was crowds. The Greek word used here indicates that they were a confused throng, a great mass of people, a mixed bunch of people. If you were at church last Sunday night you would remember that there were Gentiles there, Jews there, Tax Collectors, Soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees. Why was John so popular – because he was a prophetic character who was so out of place in the time and place. God’s prophets had been quiet for about 400 years and now here is a new one bursting onto the scene who reminded everyone of the great prophet Isaiah. Like Isaiah, John was a fairly unusual character with an unusual message. Not only that, but he spoke with authority and conviction – with immense power and appealed to their moral convictions. And so people gathered from near and far to hear him.
What was he saying to them ? …
- Avoid the Axe of God’s judgment. He told the crowd “God’s axe is ready to strike you and to avoid you need to do 3 things. Those who were with us last Sunday night will remember what we talked about. To avoid the axe we need to ….
1) Hear the tough words that our actions don’t match upto our words. Often we say we want to follow God with our whole life but our actions and fruit don’t indicate that this is the case …
2) Swallow the bitter pill of repentance and confession. When we hear the tough words and are convicted by God’s spirit, we have to turn around and come back to God asking him to forgive us.
3) Live and Bear fruit. Once we are cleaned and forgiven, we need to bear the fruit that is indicative of a life being lived with God.
John came to prepare the way for the Lord. He came to make the paths straight, to level the mountains, fill in the valleys. But he came to do this not physically in the dirt, rocks and clay of the Palestinian countryside, but in the hearts and minds of people in the crowds that came to listen to him. John wasn’t a ditch digger or a road worker, he was a heart surgeon. And he came to perform radical heart surgery on people so that when the Messiah came, people would be ready to follow him and surrender fully to him.
Today we have just inducted our Board members. They are leaders in our church and as such, I want to spend a few moments talking directly to them. If you are a leader in any of our ministries here in this church, this probably also applies to you, so don’t tune out completely. To you, the leaders of our church and particularly the board members I want to challenge you to follow John the Baptist’s example in 3 areas? After that I’ve got 2 things I want to say to our whole congregation. Let’s have a bit of a look at John the Baptist first …
1) John held a realistic view of himself
Firstly John came as a prophet to prepare the way for the Messiah. As a prophet, he was not interested in gaining a following for himself. He could have - there were crowds that flocked to him. But as a prophet, he was keenly aware that he was simple an instrument used by God. He was not in charge. It wasn’t his program. And there was not any intrinsic importance in or of himself. Listen to what John said when the people in the crowd started to lift him up on a pedestal on which he didn’t belong.
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
The people began to wonder whether John was the Messiah – Could it be? But John is under no illusions about what part he plays in God’s plan. He was not the Messiah. He baptizes merely with water. The Messiah will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire. John recognized his position – he was lower than the lowest of slaves owned by the Messiah. The description that John gives of himself here in vs 16 is fascinating. Sandals were the most common form of footwear in use at the time and because of all the walking around in the dirt and filth of the streets, it was not a really pleasant task to have to touch a person’s feet let along their sandals which would have trodden in all manner of rubbish. The removal of a sandal was assigned to one of the lowest slaves to do. John here says, I’m not even worthy enough to untie his sandals – not worthy enough to be his slave.