Sermon title:Why John Didn’t Want to Baptize Jesus      Luke 3:1-4, 15-18, 21-23



    Immanuel Baptist Church – December 31, 2017

Back to




Out of the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

only Matthew and Luke

give us the Christmas story,

relating events surrounding the birth of Christ.

Both of them conclude those accounts

by telling us that Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus

to live in the town of Nazareth in Galilee.


All four Gospels go on

tell about John the Baptist

baptizing Jesus, when our Lord was about 30 years old,

and Jesus after that

starting His ministry.


But the Gospel of Luke alone[  OPEN  ]

tells us something more

about what happened in between.

Luke includes an episode about Jesus

when He was a 12-year-old boy.

still living with His mother Mary

and his adoptive father, Joseph the carpenter.

We find it in Luke, Chapter 2,

beginning at Verse 39.


Beginning at Luke 2:39, it says,


39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord,

they returned to Galilee

to their own town of Nazareth.

40 And the child grew and became strong;

he was filled with wisdom,

and the grace of God was on him.


41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem

for the Festival of the Passover.

42 When he was twelve years old,

they went up to the festival, according to the custom.


43 After the festival was over,

while his parents were returning home,

the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem,

but they were unaware of it.

44 Thinking he was in their company,

they traveled on for a day.

Then they began looking for him

among their relatives and friends.

45 When they did not find him,

they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.


46 After three days they found him

in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

47 Everyone who heard him was amazed

at his understanding and his answers.

48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished.

His mother said to him,

“Son, why have you treated us like this?

Your father and I

have been anxiously searching for you.”


49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked.

“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

50 But they did not understand

what he was saying to them.


51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them

and was obedient to them.

But his mother treasured

all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature,

and in favor with God and man.


Now, if you’re like me

this is one of those Bible accounts

that leaves me scratching my head.


Why did God put that in here?


Well, I think it’s there because

we can learn some important lessons from it.


One lesson is obedience to authority.

There are many passages in the Bible

that say God wants children to be obedient to their parents.

And this passage says that loud and clear.

Even Jesus—who created the world

and is coming again to rule the world

—Jesus was expected to be obedient

to Mary and Joseph,

who were just ordinary parents.

In fact, Joseph was just Jesus adoptive father—

yet the Lord was still obedient to him.

When he helped out in Joseph’s carpentry shop,

Jesus would have taken orders from him.

This is a lesson and an example for children.


But, it’s also a lesson for all of us.

2 Timothy 2:12 says we will reign as kings with Christ.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says we will

rule the world and will judge angels.

But, in our present circumstances right now

we must be obedient to authority in this world—

just as Jesus, the Lord of the universe,

as a child

was obedient to His earthly parents.

We can learn that lesson from the 12-year-old Jesus.

He knew who He was.

He was in the Temple of God in Jerusalem

because it was His Father’s house.

He knew He was the Son of God.

He was amazing the Rabbis and teachers of the Law

with His understanding and His answers

because He was the One

who gave that Law to Moses

through His angels.

He was a 12-year-old boy,

but He was the eternal Son of God.

Yet, he continued obedient to His earthly parents.

What a powerful lesson

for children today,

and for all of us—

a lesson in humility,

and a lesson in obedience.



But it still leaves me scratching my head

about why Jesus did that to Mary and Joseph,

leaving them worried

about what happened

to their missing 12-year-old.


I think there must be a lesson for us in this, too.

It involves our human weakness

and how long it takes us

to grow in faith

and to trust God

without being anxious and worried.


Joseph and Mary were worried and anxious about Jesus

when they didn’t find Him

in the large group of relatives travelling together

back to Nazareth.

Did they forget that Jesus’ birth had been announced

to each of them by angels

who explained that the child would be the Son of God?

Did they forget that a heavenly company of angels

announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds outside Bethlehem?

Did they forget that God sent a star

and led foreign Magi

to bring valuable gifts?

Did they forget that angelic messages in dreams

led them to Egypt

to escape Herod’s attack on the babies of Bethlehem

and then led them safely back to Galilee?


Joseph and Mary still didn’t get it.

They didn’t get it

that God’s loving hand of protection

was with them.


God inspired Luke

to write down this incident

and record the fact that Joseph and Mary

were still plagued by anxiety and worry and fear

despite all the assurances of God’s blessing.


I believe God had this incident recorded

because we, too, still don’t get it.

We worry and fret

when we get sick

or when an accident happens

or when a loved one is travelling

and we haven’t heard from them.

We think, “Woe is me!  Woe is me!”


Like Mary and Joseph,

we don’t get it.


We don’t get it

that God is holding us in the palm of His hand,

and that we have a blessed assurance of salvation in Christ.

We forget

that we have been born again as God’s children.

We forget

that there is a place in heaven waiting for us,

where we will live forever

in peace and happiness.


But that isn’t anything to be ashamed of.

God knows our weakness.

He knows we’re like Mary and Joseph were

when they worried anxiously about their 12-year-old Jesus.


God knows that we are still like children.


Have you ever seen a little child

who gets a small cut on their finger?

The child may scream and cry

and go to pieces emotionally

over that small cut.

And God knows that we are still like that

only over bigger things.


He knows our weakness,

and He understands,

and He doesn’t hold it against us

when we act like that.


And, so, I think that may be why

God had Luke record this incident

about the frantic search Mary and Joseph made for Jesu.


It helps us know

that God understands our fragile nature,

and He makes allowance for us.




Now, although Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers  [ OPEN]

who recorded that episode,

all 4 of the Gospels go on

to tell about what happened

when Jesus was about 30 years old

and John the Baptist baptized Him

in the Jordan River.


Still, I’m going to read Luke’s account of this,

found in the 3rd Chapter of Luke,

because Luke gives the most detailed account

of John’s ministry.


I’ll start reading at Luke Chapter 3, Verse 1.


1 In the fifteenth year

of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—

when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,

Herod tetrarch of Galilee,

his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—

2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God

came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism

of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


Luke documented the timing

for the Jews, by naming the high priests.

He documented the time for local Gentiles

by naming the local governors and rulers.

And he documented the timing for the whole world—

and for us today—

by stating that this happened

In the fifteenth year

of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.

So, we today know exactly when

John began “preaching . . . repentance

for the forgiveness of sins

and began baptizing those who repented.

First Century Roman history

is as well established

as American history.

Historians know the years of “the reign of Tiberius Caesar

as well as they know the years

when George Washington and Abraham Lincoln held office.

There is no doubt whatsoever

when these events occurred,

because Luke was so specific.


And because he was writing

under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit,

Luke could also be very specific

as to how John the Baptist

fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.


Continuing in Luke Chapter 3, Verse 4, we read,


4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:


A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

"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 people will see God's salvation."


So, John was sent to prepare the way for the Lord—

to prepare the way for Jesus,

smoothing the way for Him, as it were.


The original manuscripts of the Gospels

didn’t include any photographs, of course,

and had no portraits accompanying them, either.


But Matthew and Mark do give us

a brief description of John the Baptist

that Luke leaves out.


Matthew 3:4 tells us this about John:

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’s not the clothing of a rich man back then,

and that’s not the diet rich people ate, either.


It was the rough clothing of a prophet of God,

and it was the diet of the poorest of the poor.


He carried on ministry

to glorify God,

not to enrich himself.


He didn’t cater to, or coddle, his audience, either.


Luke 3 continues in Verse 7 to say,


7 John said to the crowds

coming out to be baptized by him,

"You brood of vipers!

Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?


According to Matthew’s Gospel,

John used this harsh language

when he saw Pharisees and Sadducees

among the crowd

who came to be baptized.


The Pharisees were a very legalistic sect

that imposed their own rules

on top of God’s laws.


The Sadducees were the liberals of their day.

They believed only part of the Scriptures.

They denied the existence of angels

and believed there was no resurrection

and no life after death.


John the Baptist called both groups a “brood of vipers”

or snakes in the grass.


John knew they were proud and arrogant,

boasting that they enjoyed God’s favor

because they were descended from Abraham,

despite their bad behavior.


So, in Luke Chapter 3, Verse 8,

John the Baptist said to them,


8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

And do not begin to say to

, 'We have Abraham as our father.'

For I tell you that out of these stones

God can raise up children for Abraham.

9 The ax 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."


John didn’t mince words.


He told them those who failed to repent

would be like trees

that were about to be cut down

and thrown into the fire.


John was doing a separating work.

Many people got baptized by John,

in symbol of repentance from sin,

but only some of them actually followed up

by doing works in keeping with repentance.

So John warned of the consequences

of not doing so.


Those in the crowd

who were receptive to John’s preaching

asked him

what positive steps they should take

after being baptized.

Verse 10 says,


10 "What should we do then?"  the crowd asked.


11 John answered, "Anyone who has two shirts

should share with the one who has none,

and anyone who has food should do the same."


Good works like that

would show that they had abandoned sinful selfishness

and were now unselfishly helping others.


Many Jews at that time

viewed the Roman Empire as their enemy,

so they were unhappy with any of their fellow Jews

who worked for the Roman Empire,

in roles like tax collectors, soldiers or policemen.


But some of those Jews who did work for the Romans

came to hear John preach

and responded to his invitation

to repent and be baptized.

So, Luke 3:12 tells us,


12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized.

"Teacher,"  they asked, "what should we do?"


13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to,"  he told them.


So, John didn’t tell them to quit their jobs as tax collectors.

He just told them to give up the corrupt practice

that was common in those days

for tax collectors to tell people they owed

more money than the actual tax,

and then the tax collector

would pocket the difference.

John the Baptist told them to stop doing that.


The soldiers who came to John

weren’t actually fighting wars,

because the Pax Romana—the Roman Peace—

had put an end to conflicts

in that part of the world.


The soldiers were actually doing the work of policemen.

They were keeping the peace

by enforcing the laws,

and maintaining public safety.


Verse 14 tells us,


14 Then some soldiers asked him,

"And what should we do?"


He replied, "Don't extort money

and don't accuse people falsely—

be content with your pay."


So, repentance didn’t require them

to seek different employment,

but merely to be law-abiding themselves—

not using their police powers

to extort money

or to accuse people falsely.


Verse 15 reminds us

that the Jewish people were expecting their Messiah

to come at that time.

The prophecies in Daniel, Chapter 9,

foretold in advance

the year that Christ would appear.


So, Verse 15 says,


15 The people were waiting expectantly

and were all wondering in their hearts

if John might possibly be the Messiah.


16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come,

the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.


So John told them,

not only was he himself not the Messiah,

but he didn’t consider himself to be worthy

even to be the Messiah’s humble servant.

He felt unworthy

even to untie the Messiah’s sandal straps.


John continued, at the end of Verse 16, to say,


He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

17 His winnowing fork is in his hand

to clear his threshing floor

and to gather the wheat into his barn,

but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 


So, John was saying

Jesus would separate people.

Some would become Jesus’ disciples

and would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Others would be separated out

like when a farmer is harvesting wheat.

With his winnowing fork,

the farmer would throw the wheat into the air.

And the wind blowing over his threshing floor

would carry the light-weight chaff off to the side,

leaving the heavier wheat to fall to the floor.

The farmer would then gather the wheat into his barn

and dispose of the chaff.

John said Jesus would separate people like that,

gathering the wheat—

those who became His disciples—into his barn,

and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.


Then Verse 18 says,

18 And with many other words

John exhorted the people

and proclaimed the good news to them.


The “good news” John the Baptist proclaimed 

was the good news

that Christ was coming.

The 4th Gospel, the Gospel of John written by the Apostle John,

says this about John the Baptist

at John 1, Verses 6-9.

It says,


6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

7 He came as a witness

to testify concerning that light,

so that through him all might believe.

8 He himself was not the light;

he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone

was coming into the world.


So, the role of John the Baptist

was to prepare people for Christ

and to introduce Christ.


Now the next couple of verses in Luke Chapter 3 -Verses 19 and 20

 jump ahead in time.

They say,


19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch

because of his marriage to Herodias,

his brother's wife,

and all the other evil things he had done,

20 Herod added this to them all:

He locked John up in prison.


But that is a look ahead in time,

so, we’ll talk about it

when we reach that point

in the stream of events.


Verse 21 resumes the story

of what happened

when John was baptizing the crowds of people.

It says,


21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.


The Gospel of Matthew tells us[  OPEN  ]

a little more detail about that.

It tells us that when Jesus approached,

evidently as the next person in line,

waiting to be baptized,

John didn’t want to do it.


Matthew, Chapter 3, beginning at Verse 13 says,


"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan

to be baptized by John.

But John tried to deter him, saying,

'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?'

"Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now;

it is proper for us to do this

to fulfill all righteousness.'

Then John consented.”  (Matthew 3:13-15)   


Why did John hesitate at first,

and object to the idea of baptizing Jesus?


Remember that John said he himself was unworthy

even to untie the sandal straps

of the Messiah he came to announce.

Jesus and John were related by birth,

and John knew Jesus well. 

John knew that he was a sinner,

and he knew that Jesus was without sin—

the Son of God.

So, John told Jesus,  I need to be baptized by you.


But when Jesus insisted, John consented and baptized Him.


Continuing in Luke 3, Verse 21,


And as he was praying, heaven was opened

22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him

in bodily form like a dove.

And a voice came from heaven:

"You are my Son, whom I love;

with you I am well pleased."


23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.

So, Jesus’ baptism by John

signaled His entry into public ministry.


This was evidently when He left the carpentry shop in Nazareth

and was about to begin preaching and teaching.


But there was a lot more to Jesus’ baptism

that we need to talk about next week.

God the Father spoke from heaven

about the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

There is some heavy-duty theology there

that we need to look at.


And then, immediately after His baptism

Jesus went into the wilderness

to be tempted by the devil.

Who is this devil?    And how does he fit into our theology?

We’ll look at biblical answers

to these questions next week.