A blessed Lord’s day again to you. I’d like us to go directly to our passage today which is in Matthew chapter 3 and much of what you’re going to see in this passage is found in what we just sung, an old classic hymn On Jordan’s Back the Baptists Cry. Here we the Baptist cry.
Matthew chapter 3 verses 1 to 12. Hear the word of the Living God – In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” This is the word of God. Let us pray.
Almighty God, we need Your help. We ask for Your mercy as we have sung this morning, Oh God, have mercy to us. Grant us grace for we need the grace of Your Holy Spirit in order to understand Your word. Give us understanding. Help us to behold wondrous truths in Your Holy Scriptures. Help us to behold the face of Christ. Even in the ministry of John the Baptist, a highly exalted prophet in the scriptures. We ask Lord that as we see his highly influential ministry, we might see the even Greater ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ in His everlasting new covenant. We ask this in His Name, Amen.
Any successful musician has an opening act. Powerful leaders have representatives that go before them. Sermons are oftern preceded by a preparatory hymn. And even our Lord Jesus Christ had a forerunner who prepared the way for Him. And that’s where we are in Matthew chapter
3. We’ve seen in chapter 1 that amazing genealogy that then came to the point of the birth of Christ; in chapter 2, you saw how Jesus’ parents fled to Egypt in the providence of God. They fulfilled that scripture which said ‘out of Egypt, I called my son and the baby, the young Jesus escaped the blood-thirsty Herod. “Out of Egypt I called my son” which shows that Christ, well He is the true Israel of God. He is the faithful servant whom Israel failed to be whom Israel foreshadowed. And now, it’s been many years. I don’t know exactly the number of years but there’s a huge period of time between chapter two and chapter three because now, John the Baptist who is close of age to Jesus Christ who is his cousin thru Mary. He’s an adult and he is starting as well, he has done his public ministry. And he is here to pave the way for an even greater ministry, that of the Lord Jesus Christ. And why did God send the Lord Jesus Christ. Well we could put it in many ways but we know that God’s only Begotten Son has been sent to grant God’s people the grace of salvation and an intimate knowledge of the Father. But before the Son even said anything, before He makes an appearance in His adulthood, in His public ministry, we have the ministry of John the Baptist. And we’re gonna see that his ministry and Jesus’s ministry, they have many similarities. But John the Baptist himself, you may know, makes it very clear that his ministry is nothing compared to Christ’s. It is nothing. Christ is greater; Christ has a greater ministry and John’s role is one of preparation. Preparation for the life-giving ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we just sung, On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s cry, announces that the Lord is nigh, awake and harken, for He brings glad tidings of the King of kings! In other words, John the Baptist comes to the people to prepare the way of the Lord. And what we’ll see and hopefully what we’ll glean from this passage is that the ministry of John the Baptist is a biblical model for any faithful christian ministry. What do we mean by that? It is the one that insists in magnifying the kingdom of Christ instead of our own. Now, John the Baptist’s ministry is not a perfect one. It’s an imperfect one, he is still a sinner. But her presents to us indeed a good model. Faithful christian ministry today is not about self-exaltation. A faithful church today is not about promoting your name and your logo and growing just your little movement, your little congregation. It’s much bigger than that. It’s about magnifying the One kingdom that matters most the kingdom of Christ, not our own. This is the Baptist’s cry…he’s all about Christ exalting Him. Now, it just so happens that we happen to be Baptists. So I pray that this would be our cry as well. Now, there’s a lot of friends of ours that are not Baptists and they would insist that a better translation would be John the Baptiser, or whatever. It’s in our English translation already, I like it better, John the Baptist!
Consider what Matthew 11:11 says Jesus says about John. Truly, I say to you, among those born of women.. Now I wonder who, who, who is included in “among those who are born of women”. Well, that’s everyone. And Jesus says among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. That’s what He says…yet, what does John the Baptist say about Christ? He says about Christ, I’m not worthy to even carry His sandal. In another place He says I’m not worthy even to untie His sandal. And when Jesus, in verse 13 will later on come to John, as a fulfillment of God’s word, to be baptized by John, what does John say? You’re the One that should be baptizing me. That’s how highly he respected and sought to exalt Jesus. He insisted even when he had great opportunity to boast himself. I mean, how would you feel if Jesus said among all those born of women, there is no greater than you in this world? It’s a great opportunity to boast. He took no opportunity whatsoever to boast though he insisted on glorifying Christ over himself. His call was to exalt Christ, not himself. His calling was to prepare the way for Christ’s ministry, not his own. And church, we are called to do the same. We may live on the other side of Redemptive history. There is no more preparing the way for the first coming of Christ. That’s already happened. Nevertheless, we must insists on glorifying Christ in His kingdom over ourselves and our own.
So we’ll look at firstly, the Baptist’s preaching. We’ll catch a glimpse of a Baptist’s passion, and hopefully we’ll understand the Baptist’s preparation. What is it exactly that he is preparing the people for.
So, firstly, the Baptist’s preaching. Verse 1 reads “In those days..” Luke chapter 3 tels us what those days were. Luke chapter 3 tells us that this happened in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. And that Pontius Pilate was already the governor of Judea. It’s been many years since Jesus as a little one fled to Egypt with His parents. He has returned and it was at this time in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar that the Word of God came to John. And our passage says, John the Baptist came preaching, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.
That’s that, that beautiful Greek word “kerusso” which speaks of heralding, announcing, proclaiming. He started preaching in the wilderness. And he wasn’t alone in the wilderness. It would be kind of weird if he was preaching in the wilderness and no one was there to hear him. But in the wilderness of Judea at that time, indeed, people were scarce. There were not that many people. It was not a huge population. He starts, you might say with humble beginnings with a small ministry with not many people there to listen. And by now, John, who was as we’ve said Jesus’ cousin through Mary, he was about 30 years old. And during this very short-lived ministry, if, if we say Christ had about three-year earthly ministry, John would have had less than that because we know that while Jesus had His on-going ministry, John was already beheaded at a certain point in time. But during this short- lived ministry, he amassed quite the following. Lots of people were coming to him, listening to his preaching. The Pharisees in that day, saw that his ministry was very influential. So the Pharisees, the Sadducees, they were all concerned. If you look at the other gospels, if you look at the gospel of John, you would know that the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders actually sent people to John to start asking him questions: Are you the Christ? Are you Elijah? Are you the prophet? Who are you? Now that’s how you know you’re really causing lots of trouble when people start asking you, “Are you the Messiah?” That could be a very good thing that could be a bad thing most of the time, it’s a bad thing when people are starting to think that you are the Messiah.” But although he was incredibly influential, and he gained many followers, his ministry was not about himself, okay. Listen to what John the Beloved the Apostle writes in John 1 chapter 1 verse 6. You can, you can just listen – There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. That, that right there encapsulates the role, the purpose of John the Baptist in Redemptive history. And he preached not to build his own kingdom, but to announce God’s kingdom. In our passage in verse 2, he begins to preach “Repent!
For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The message of repentance in prevalent throughout the Old Testament, and it makes sense that John would begin preaching repentance for he actually is an Old Testament prophet. He is the last and final Old Testament prophet.
And this is why I’ve said that John the Baptist in Jesus’ ministries, they have a lot in common. Because when Jesus begins His ministry in Matthew chapter 4, He begins preaching what? Exactly the same substance: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” Now, when you read that in the English, you might think, is at hand, maybe it’s far away, maybe it’s coming soon. But that can actually be translated THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN HAS COME NEAR. It has arrived. The Kingdom of heaven has come upon us. That’s why the Apostle Paul speaking to New Testament christians in 1Corinthians chapter 10 is able to say that we are the people on whom the ‘end of the ages’ has come upon. So, John the Baptist is speaking of a very present reality that was now arriving in the ministry of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God which the Old Testament prophets preached about. They used such elaborate imagery and allegory. Isaiah would talk about the time when, when a host of a new banquet would arrive and he would give the people new wine.
Ezekiel talked about a time where, where streams of water would flow out of the temple and begin to give new life to all that it touches. All throughout the Old Testament, the prophets spoe of this coming kingdom. It was a time of restoration. It was a time of renewal. It was a time of, as Hebrews says, reformation. And here, John is saying that it is now here. It is at hand. Jesus’ ministry though, eventhough they’re preaching similar things, is of course greater. John the Baptist reminds everybody of their need to turn from their sins and in that sense, he is very much old covenant. He is very much law-centric in his preaching.
He’s all about repentance. He’s all about judgment, which is important. But Jesus tells us more. Jesus not only tells us to repent. When He begins preaching in Mark chapter 1 verse 14 after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news, in the gospel.” Jesus Christ of course preached the law, but He also preached the gospel. And if John the Baptist is preparing the way for the Good News Himself, Jesus is such good news to His people, then it makes sense that old school, old covenant style. He is preaching doomsday. He’s preaching hellfire and brimstone. He’s preaching the law because He’s preparing the way for grace. The ultimate preacher of GRACE, Jesus Christ.
Now, when we say old covenant, law; new covenant, gospel, we’re not saying there’s no gospel in the old covenant. And neither are we saying there’s no law in the new covenant. But in terms of salvation history, there iis certainly an emphasis the old covenant era of the strictness of the law. Because it was giving way for a new and better covenant which grants freedom from the curse of the law. That’s why oftentimes, we speak of the new covenant with a nickname The Covenant of Grace. So the point is that John the Baptist was preaching and his preaching looked forward to Christ’s accomplishing our redemption. But we preach a redemption that has already been accomplished. So what I’m trying to say is, if Jesus spoke highly of John the Baptist and his ministry, which is just right..he had a very important ministry. If yu think about it, we today, have an even better ministry. Because we’re not preaching in a way that is giving way to the finished work of Christ. We are preaching in light of the finished work of Christ! We’re preaching in light of the fact that the redemption, which will be accomplished soon after John the Baptist was peaching these things has already been accomplished.
It’s an objective reality. And we can say with full and absolute confidence to all people, that if anyone repents of their sins and believes in Jesus Christ Who has died and resurrected from the grave, you shall be saved. And there’s even vindication to our message. There were a lot of people stuck in unbelief before the death and resurrection of Christ. But upon the great miracle and sign of His resurrection, many came to understand that He truly was the Messiah. Look at us! We’re living in a time where Christ has already risen. An objective truth; an objective fact that we can proclaim to people. It’s a confirmation and a vindication that Christ was exactly Who He said He was and is today. So John’s preaching was anticipatory. That’s why verse 3 says that He is the One spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said te voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight. Now here is a quote that Matthew was writing. But if you look at John chapter 1 verse 23, you would know that actually. John the Baptist himself quoted this from his very lips. He was well aware of who he was and his role in Redemptive history. So we continue in verse 4, a description of John. He looks kind of weird. He is wearing a garment of camel’s hair in a leather belt around his waist. And what was his diet?
Well, it wasn’t keto. It wasn’t intermittent fasting, although probably he fasted a lot. His food was locusts and honey which was abundant in the places in the wilderness. So he really was a man of the wild. And he really was in, in his look and feel, kind of how you wold, how you would imagine a prophet and all of a sudden arising after hundreds of years of silence, right. It has been hundreds years of silence that’s why people are kind of freaked out about this man. Since the closing of Malachi, God has been silent and all of the sudden, a voice of one crying in the wilderness. And look how he looks? It’s like, wow! What’s going on? Are we all gonna die now? Is it, is it the end times? And in one sense, it is.
Then Jerusalem and all Judea. In all the region about the Jordan, they were all going about to him. And they were baptised by him in the Rier Jordan. They were confessing their sins. And that is indeed what the law helps us to do. We see that every Lord’s Day. You’ve experienced that today, that when the Spirit uses the law and the hearts of God’s people, we are brought to repentance. We are brought to conviction over sin.
But as you know, simply feeling sorry for your sins and, and wanting to stop sinning and turning from your sins, that will accomplish nothing. We need something to turn to. And that’s why John the Baptist ministry is so important. Because as we see, he’s not just telling people there’s something wrong with you. You, you got sin, you need to deal with it. If that was all the message was, then there is no hope. Without GRACE, law will CONDEMN you. So thank the Lord that, that, the John the Baptist ministry then paves the way for Christ..His GRACE, His NEW
COVENANT, the GOOD NEWS. So I’m sure by now you can understand why John the Baptist was causing a str. He was grabbing people’s attention. He had gained many followers. Later in the New Testament, we will even meet people who were disciples of John the Baptist. Who still had an incomplete message and needed to know more about the Christ, whom John the Baptist pointed them to. And his preaching, well his preaching was clearly effective. It was not only sound, it was not only consistent with what the prophets of old have said, but it was passionate. And that brings us secondly to the Baptist’s passion.
John was a prophet. He called people to repentance. And his passionate preaching as often happens began to go against the grain of the established culture and religion, religious views of his day. Look at verse
7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! You snakes? Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? You know, in other places, Jesus speaks in similar terms. He says the exact same thing in Matthew 12 34. He looks at them; same group and he says: You brood of vipers! Or you know that other term…white-washed tombs! That idea that you are so obsessed with making yourself look clean on the outside. But in the inside, you are dead corpses. You are dying and decaying. You have no life in you. It’s just all a facade. So John the Baptist much like his Lord, was not afraid to confront the hypocrisy of religious people; to confront the hypocrisy of the most respected leaders of his day. He dares even to tell in verse 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. So John the Baptist was truly convinced that a mere profession of faith does not necessitate a possession of faith. Just because you say “I believe,” you claim “I believe.” The mouth is not enough, the heart must be there just as Paul writes in Romans chapter 10 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. And by the judgment of the prophet John the Baptist, he looked at what was going on in the established religion of his day, he looked at the temple of worship. He looked at the way that the priests, the elders and the Pharisees were conducting themselves, and very importantly, the way that they were mistreating people of God. They were in a sense of fulfillment of what Ezekiel and what many prophets have said about the false shepherds of Israel who were not feeding the sheep, but devouring the sheep. And John the Baptist who was moved by Spirit wrought passion for the holiness of God confronted them and said bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Look at you with your status and with your clothing that identifies you. Look at the way that you’re treating the people. And he says to them in verse 9 to these Jewish leaders – And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. He’s not just a preacher. John the Baptist is..he’s a passionate preacher of God’s truth. He’s telling them, if you claim you belong to Yahweh, your lives would show it. There would be something. He’s not calling for sinless, perfectionism, but he’s simply being consistent that if the Lord has indeed worked in the heart of a person, if Ezekiel 36 is true that God is able to take out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, and put His Spirit in you and cause you to obey His statutes, that’s something that people would recognize even in infantile and small ways. But it’s not there. Instead, what do they do? They claim that they have a right to the kingdom of God through their genealogy. They claim oh, oh we have Moses. Oh, we are descendants of Abraham. We are people of the covenants. We are people of the law. And John the Baptist himself, who is, one of them in terms of lineage, in terms of background, in terms of being descended from Israel tells them ‘don’t you even try to use your physical, fleshly, descendancy from Abraham..as a reason to believe that you have immediate right to the kingdom of God. Because you don’t. In fact, he even says look, if God wants you, He would make children of Abraham out of these stones. And he’s saying that because John the Baptist himself recognizes like the prophets of old have. That is not about mere circumcision of the flesh. It’s about circumcision of the heart. It’s not about being mere children of Abraham according to fleshly descendancy. It’s about being children of Abraham according to promise by being united to the true Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. NOT ALL ISRAEL BELONGS TO ISRAEL.
And you go to a passage like Galatians chapter 4 verses 21 to 31 where it speaks about how Abraham has in a sense, allegorically speaking to covenants. And it uses Isaac versus Ishmael as an allegory to basically say there are Jews that are simply fleshly descendants of Abraham but unless you belong to Christ, unless you believe in the One that whom Abraham was promised the One who would bless the nations, then you are cut off from the kngdom of God. For from the very beginning, the kingdom of God was not about flesh and blood but about spirit and life.
So God ordained passionate preaching often involves going against the grain of established cultural and religious dogma. It’ll happen. It means sometimes, for example in this culture having to address the errors of Roman Catholicism even though your family and friends might get mad. And your church might be seen as a church that talks bad about Rome and therefore, I don’t want to attend anymore. And it could be different depending on your context until moving to Australia, I had never met so many professing christians who pandered in to the LGBT movement, who were soft on the issue of abortion, I never met so many of them. And this kind of evangelic squishiness, it’s slowly becoming a religion of the post-christian west. And when you speak up against it, you’re alienated. When you dare say something about it, you are shamed, you know. It could be, it could be anything. It could be churches who well after we realized that we could probably meet in a way that I okay, and safe, and there weren’t even any more governmental restrictions, and so on. Just continue going on with quote unquote, virtual church as if that’s a thing whatsoever. As if you are faithfully doing ministry as a church. And this was a huge thing in our state. There, there were many influential conservative churches that were making many arguments for virtual Lord’s Supper. They were writing articles, posting it up on TGC Australia, and you say those things and you, you speak against those things and you try to be biblical about those things and well, people will think that you’re a crazy, radical, just weird person, weird church you do not deserve a voice in our wonderful conservative evangelical circle that is well-respected by society. But the bible touches on these matters. So, the time will always come. Even when it comes to cultural sins commonly accepted, sins that time will come where preachers will inevitably address them. And we address these errors not because we hate people, not because we want to destroy them but because we love people. But because we actually want to help them. When we address these things, I hope of course it can always happen when we address these things in a hateful way, in an unloving way. And I’m not just talking about manner. Because manner can be subjective, and tone can be subjective. Can you really read tone that well through text messages and articles, and things like that, you know. You’re not an expert in all of those things. But even just in our hearts state, we should be lovingly warning people of what is to come if they are to continue on the path of destruction. And that’s what John the Baptist is doing here. I’d like to think he’s not just a madman. He has a reason for saying these things. I mean, look at verse 10, Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.
Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. A slightly different analogy might be found in Romans chapter 11 concerning Israel and Gentiles and so on. On how God has His one tree but for a long period of time, He put up with unbelieving branches. But then at the coming of Christ, in this new covenant ra, God is making it clear. That only those with faith in His Son, belong to His Israel, belong to His kingdom. And so, what does Paul say in Romans 11, he speaks of unbelieving branches being removed and the wild branches coming from an olive tree. A wild olive tree. You know like most of us Gentiles who were not privy to the covenants and the prophets and the law and the nation of Israel and all of that. And we are grafted in to the one tree. Even in that analogy, God shows all along He has only ever had one people. That’s why in Galatians chapter 6, Paul turns to the Christian church and says PEACE BE TO THE ISRAEL OF GOD. And He was speaking of the church comprised of ethnic Jews and Gentiles His one true Israel. And here’s John the Baptist speaking of that. The ax, is laid to the root of the trees. Now he’s using a tree analogy okay. Sometimes, with analogies, you need to be, you need to be sensitive that we’re using different kinds..akala ko ba isang tree lang. Yes, well, this is a different way of explaining it, okay. And every tree that does not bear fruit, what happens? It’s cut down and it’s thrown into the fire. Make no mistake. He’s talking about hell, okay. He’s not talking about something else. He’s taking about hell. So the new covenant is to be established in the blood of Christ. And as Jeremiah says, as Hebrews says, this is not like the old covenant which the Jews broke. Many unbelievers had the privilege of being part of old covenant Israel. But the new covenant has, has it’s Mediator, not Moses, but Christ. And it has believers alone as its members. Thus, as the old covenant comes to a close as this final old covenant prophet is preaching, John the Baptist is warning the Jewish leaders who have become proud, puffed up, conceited, entitled because of their physical, fleshly lineage, he reminds them, if you do not repent, you will be cut off.
So our passion for the salvation of sinners..it must trump our fear of confrontation, our fear of being disliked, our fear of being unpopular and our fear of being rejected by society. Christian friends, I don’t know if you know this. I hope you do. You said goodbye to being liked by popular society, when you came to Christ. If that is still your main concern, that you would have a voice in popular culture, that you would be well respected by society, I am not talking about through your godly behavior indeed we should live in a way that is well pleasing to the Lord. We want to live peaceful, and quiet and tranquil lives. But the bible also acknowledges that when you live as a faithful christian, and when you speak about the things what God wants you to speak about, as much as you will seek to live a quiet and tranquil life, the world around you who hates Christ will hate you too. I mean, we’re at a point now I remember maybe you’ve experienced this, uh there was one of our members, is his family would be attending our church and they would really enjoy the fellowship and the preaching was alright to them. But after awhile, they just said there’s, there’s just a little bit too much like stuff about judgment and, and stuff about sin and there’s a little bit too much about hell and things like that, uh. And indeed, we don’t want to only talk about that. We want to talk about grace. We want to talk about the gospel, which is even greater. And the beautiful thing about talking about judgment and hell and sin is that it’s through that messed up and dark backdrop that grace really is magnified. That grace is seen as the beautiful unmerited favor of God, the thing that it’s so preciously is. But we’re coming to a point where people are actually telling you to stop preaching like the bible! People are telling you to stop, stop preaching like, I don’t know, the guy who said of all who were born of women, there is none greater than this Creature, than this prophet, John the Baptist. Now we’ll have different contexts, we’ll use different words. You know, maybe sometimes we’re even reading tone into these things. Maybe I read into it — you, brood of vipers! Maybe, John the Baptist was super chill. But he was upfront — hey! You brood of vipers! You know. I don’t know! The point is he’s saying it. And the point is Christ is saying it. You might have a loud voice, you might have a soft voice. You may sound this or that. The point is he’s saying it! Christian ministry is to be respectable in the eyes of God but will often be disrespected by men of earth. Again, I’ll say it — you said goodbye to being liked by popular society when you came to Christ. And that’s hard to stomach but the truth is, even if it is hard to stomach, it is true because christian ministry is not about us. It’s not about getting people to like us. It’s about Christ and His glory! And the love of God is often misunderstood and misinterpreted by this world. So don’t be surprised when you do the loving thing of speaking of these things. And it will be misunderstood and misinterpreted by the world. No matter what the response is, let us pray that we would continue to do the most loving thing. Now, that brings us thirdly to the Baptist’s preparation.
It was a truly loving thing that he was doing. Because Christ indeed was arriving. Kingdom was coming upon them. And he didn’t want it to be too late for these people who were stuck in pride, thinking that they were already on the way to heaven. His ministry is about paving the way for the Messiah. So, people started following him right. People from Jerusalem and Judea and all the regions. They were coming to him, they were getting baptized, right. This is like in one, you could say, this is like revival! We haven’t seen this in a long long time. We haven’t seen anything in hundreds of years and now, there’s this prophet. Look at him he really, you know, he looks kind of crazy. And he’s preaching strong, and people are following him. And people are getting baptized. But all of this was preparation. He says in verse 11, I baptize you with water for repentance, but One who is coming after me is mightier than I am, whose sandals I am unworthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. So John the Baptist’s ministry at this point in time was so influential. I wanna, I wanna take a detour here. I think a helpful one. Some people started thinking that he was claiming to be the Messiah. So, so, to add some weight to what John hte Baptist was saying when he’s sort of deflecting and he said don’t know, don’t bring glory to me. Don’t look at me; it’s not about me. Look at Christ. Add some weight, I want you to see how influential this man actually was in his day. Turn with me back to John towards John chapter 1. So in John chapter 1, verse 19 onwards, John the Baptist is confronted because Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. And in verse 19, this is uh, sorry, verse 20, He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” Hindi siya assuming huh, na, hindi naman, hindi naman tinanong eh..are you the Christ in this verse. No. He is saying this because he knows that this is already the word on the streets. People were already saying, this might be the Messiah. But he says, I am not the Christ, the Anointed One. You know, the Davidic king, God promised would sit on the throne of David. And reign his kingdom forever. There’s only one of those. He’s not it. And, and we can see here, I mean, he could say so many things. But the first thing, the first thing he wants to make very clear, I’m not the one you should be looking to. I’m not the one that you should be waiting for. It’s not about me. Because having a Messianic complex, is antithetical to being a Christ follower. Making things about us that, that completely, that is completely antithetical to being a follower of Christ. What is a Christ’s follower, what is a christian? It’s a Christ follower. It’s a little christ, not a bigger Christ. A little Christ follower. He’s the big thing. And then in verse 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” Speaking of that coming prophet that Moses prophesied about that would come from his line that everyone should listen to which is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. No! He said no to both. He’s certainly not the prophet. But how about this question. Are you Elijah? You know, Malachi 4 verse 5 says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And then you get Jesus saying about John the Baptist in Matthew 11 13, For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. So Jesus said, He is the Elijah who is to come. John the Baptist says, I’m not Elijah. Is there something wrong here? Why is he rejecting the idea that he is Elijah. Well, you know why? I beieve he’s rejecting the common Jewish understanding that Elijah was literally still alive and he was Elijah, like he’s been alive all this time. Or that he was some
kind of weird reincarnation of Elijah. He denies that! He’s not literally Elijah. But the fact is Jesus makes it clear He is the Elijah that Malachi 4 5 prophesied of. The precursor to the Messiah. And this is what it means I believe, the one who came in the spirit and ministry of Elijah. Elijah, that spiritual reformer who was willing to speak boldly against the false prophets and even challenge false religion. Indeed, he has come. John the Baptist has come in that very same spirit and ministry. This should encourage all of us to simply know our place in God’s plan of Redemption. By the Scriptures and by these prophecies, John the Baptist understood his place.
Now, the Scriptures, especially the New Testament says a lot about the christian’s role in this world. It says a lot about our role today in Redemptive history. I mean, even if you go to a place like 1 Peter, First Peter chapter 2, this is what we read, we read in verse 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, this is all wonderful, a people for his own possession, but then here’s your role – that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
That’s your role! You’re special, you’re wonderful, you’re loved by God, it’s great! We’re the churh. We’re God’s people. We’re Jesus’ bride but your role is one of proclaiming the excellencies of the One Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. That’s what you’re about. That’s what you’re still on earth for. And so here’s John the Baptist, knowing what he’s about. He who is coming after me is mightier than I. I baptise with water, He baptises with the Holy Spirit. Even we today, we can baptise with water. We don’t have the power to baptise with the Holy Spirit. That is the divine sovereign prerogative of God.
So John the Baptist’s point is that this is all I’m doing. I can only do this. I can just provide this external right of baptism. A sign of repentance but because the ministry points to Christ, it is He alon who can do the internal work of cleansing us from sin. Now, there’s a different pattern or us today. It’s not like, we baptize you first, and then we pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Don’t do that, right. Obviously, you receive the spirit and thus baptized, that’s the pattern throughout the Book of Acts. The point being a greater baptism must be done. That which external baptism signifies the baptism of the Holy Spirit. So John’s baptism is in preparation for that fact. And Christ has given Jon the authority to fulfill this prophecy and to prepare the way to start baptizing. In fact, Jesus would even be baptized by him. But what does John say? I’m unworthy to even carry Jesus’ sandal. I’m unworthy in another place to even untie His sandal. This whole sandal business is the lowest task of a slave…the lowest task! And. He says, even that, I’m not worthy to do for our Lord Jesus. Saints, is this how we see Christ? We’re not into false humility. It’s easy for you to say, I’m unworthy. You know, you can even get a shirt or tattoo ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ Just like John says. But do you believe it? Do you really understand that you are nothing without Him? Do you really understand that you don’t deserve Him? Now there can be evidence of this such as you’re always drawing attention to Christ and not to yourself. You always want praise be lifted up to Christ and not to us. It is the one who knows that he is unworthy, who is most captured by the worth of Christ. Imagine, the one with infinite worth is the one Whom John the Baptist says, behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. And John the Beloved will go on to write in Revelation 5 “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. And there is something that the Jews needed to know in John the Baptist’s day about this Lamb and we must know today, look at the last verse Matthew 3 12 – His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” His wheat is His elect. He’s gathering them from the Four Winds. The chaff are the reprobate. Unbelievers who remain in their sin and are destined for destruction. One repents! One does not.
But for he that recognises that the Kingdom of God has come to us in
Jesus Christ. He repents and believes in the good news that Jesus has done it all for us to enter into His eternal kingdom. For you, there is life, for you there is eternal life. Not an unquenchable fire, but instead, unquenchable never-ending joy in the Lord. And as we’ve been talking about John the Baptist ministry as a model, as a good framework, as a good model. For us, understanding our role in christian ministry today, don’t forget that his ministry was imperfect as well. Because it’s exactly what he says in verse 12, that leads him to believe later on in Matthew start wondering when he was in jail. He sent followers to speak to Jesus. Can you ask Him, ‘Are You really the One already? Or are we waiting or someone else? Because John the Baptist, he had a bit of, he had a bit of a flattened view of Redemptive history. Where he thought, it was gonna happen quickly and all at once. He was imperfect. And Jesus was here, what was He doing? He was healing the sick, He was healing lepers, He was preaching, He was loving His neighbour. He was doing all of these things and John the Baptist is sort of thinking, where’s the winnowing fork? Where’s the chaff get, you know, separation? Where’s the throwing into the fire?! Come on! Let’s get it already! So maybe, at that point maybe he had the wrong heart — I don’t know. We can have that too. That can happen to us too so he’s not a perfect ministry. There is no perfect christian ministry apart from the ministry of our great High Priest and Mediator, Jesus Christ. We will always fall short of that. We are never meant to replace that. Our role is always one of exalting that.
So church, unashamed, unflinching, no holds barred proclamation of Jesus Christ. It is worth it. Even if means dying a martyr’s death like John the Baptist did. It is worth it because Christ is worth it. And even when you feel it’s not worth it, ‘I might get hurt, I might not be liked.’ Reminder: IT’S ABOUT HIM! It’s not about you. So may the Baptists’ cry also be ours. Christ is mightier than I.
Let’s pray together. Mighty and powerful and Highly exalted God surrounded by myriads and myriads of angels, worthy of all praise and worship! Who are we oh God, that You would look upon us with mercy and that You would send Your Son to redeem us? So we ask, oh powerful, powerful Lord. We ask oh Triune God that You would strengthen the saints this Lord’s Day. That You would as You are doing, open up the floodgates of heaven and rain down Your Spirit of grace upon us to edify us and to give strength our weary souls for we need it oh God! To remain steadfast, we need it to be faithful. We need it to be able to open our mouths and say hard and difficult truths. But in all of these, may You temper us with grace and patience. May You enable us to speak the truth in love, not hypocritically, not with hatred, but in love. Oh Lord, may You captivate us with the worthiness of the Lamb Who was slain, our Lord. And may we make everything that we do as christians and as a church about Him and not us. We ask this in Your Son’s Name, Amen.