Sermon for Jan 15

By on January 29, 2017

Are You Ready for Jesus?

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 8 January 2017

Luke 3:1-22

NIV Luke 3:1 ¶ 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 desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As 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. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'”

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? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘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.”

10 ¶ “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also 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. 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.”

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. 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.”

18 ¶ And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. 19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of 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.

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


Introduce / Establish Need


Our new sermon series will take us on an in depth journey to hear and contemplate the stories of Jesus through Luke’s gospel lens.  I like the analogy of a lens.  It brings things into sharper focus.  It can magnify images to make them clearer.  And a lens can be used to direct light into fire.  My hope is that as we make our way through the gospel, our vision of Jesus will be clearer, brighter, and more powerful than ever.


We begin our journey with Jesus through the ministry of John.  As I read today’s scripture, you’re going to see John come on to the scene with an explosion and leave almost as quickly.  But in doing so, he gets us ready to meet Jesus.


Into the Biblical World


As I thought through today’s text, there are three ideas that I want to weave together.  The first is the setting, followed by the message, and then ending with the response.


Imagine a time of unrest amongst the people.  History tells us that when the masses are restless, something about the status quo will change.  And that is where we find the people of Judea in Jesus’ time.  The people were tired of Roman rule.  They were frustrated with their own leaders for collaborating with them and with Herod.  There were 4 sects within Judaism claiming to represent the true tenets of the religion.  And God had been silent via prophetic message.  There had not been a recognized prophet in 400 years.  It was a time ripe for change and ripe for a fresh message from God.


It is into this time that the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah.  Luke makes it clear this is the prophet’s call.  God was proclaiming his message of truth once again through a prophet.  Of course, God’s prophetic call is timed to coincide with the ministry of Jesus because John has a special mission.  He is the one who is to prepare the way.


Luke quotes the passage from Isaiah in which the mountains and valleys will be made flat and the roads will be made straight and passable.  We have an idea of that image here in the mountains.  It was with great effort that I26 in Madison County was finished by filling in dips and cutting through the mountain.  A housing development is being graded just down the road from me and the landscape is changing.  These efforts make travel and construction easier.  It is necessary preparation.  We are to see that in the same way in which we prepare land, we prepare the soul.


John prepares the way for the Lord by preaching a message that caused people to examine their relationship with God.  The headline was that it was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  But there was content as well.  John said to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  That is shorthand for saying that repentance is much more than saying I’m sorry.  Biblical repentance is a change in attitude and practice so that it is pleasing to God.


The crowds asked for specific examples of what this meant and so John told them.  Share with the less fortunate.  Don’t take advantage of people.  Be content with what you have.  I find it interesting that there are parallels to John’s message and that found in Jesus’ teaching, particularly in the Sermons on the Mount and the Plain.  Luke mentions that with many other words John preached the good news to the people.


John’s message included one more important item.  As people wondered if he might be the Christ, he told them that he was not, but that one who was coming to baptize them with the Holy Spirit will be the Christ.  At the end of our passage, Jesus came to be baptized by John and the Holy Spirit descended onto him as a dove and God spoke.


We are now left with the response of the people.  John’s message sparked a revival.  The crowds came and they were baptized.  They received the word of God and asked what should we do?  They asked if John was the Christ as they sense the work and move of God.  It is interesting that in this context, Luke tells us that John’s ministry ends with Herod’s response to John’s prophetic voice by locking him up in prison.


With Jesus’ baptism, John’s mission is complete.  He has made the way to the Lord.  The hearts of the people are prepared to encounter Jesus.  And Luke is ready to take us on that journey.


Into Our Experience


But before we go on that journey, let’s not leave John’s message in the dust.  There is significance in a prophet’s voice, especially after a long period of God’s apparent silence.  John’s message today is the same.  Are you ready for the Lord Jesus?  Are you producing fruit in keeping with repentance?  This is a Methodist distinctive and emphasis in response to the saving grace of God.  I put on our bulletin cover the words of John Wesley as depicted by Joyceline.  Let us be people who do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can as long as we can.


As we put this into practice in the ministry of our church and by the example of our lives, we will produce fruit in keeping with repentance as we live our lives for Jesus!


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