Sermon title:Why John Didn’t Want to Baptize Jesus Luke 3:1-4, 15-18, 21-23
Immanuel Baptist Church – December 31, 2017
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.
that we have been born again as God’s children.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.