A Messenger of Hope

A Messenger of Hope

John is just a voice pointing people to Jesus.

This morning, we’ve already had a wonderful service, and the Lord is moving and working, but He’s going to speak to us through His Word this morning. So let me invite you to turn to John, the Gospel of John. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. You can start in Genesis and start working your way through. If you get to Revelation, you’ve gone way too far, so go back. It is the 4th gospel, the Gospel of John.

We’re in the series called “Come and See.”  It’s an invitation that John is presenting and weaving through this Gospel. Come and see Jesus so that you would believe that He is the Son of God, so that your life would be transformed by Him as you make the decision to follow Him and believe in Him. So, we want you to come and see.

This past week I had an interesting experience as a 38-year-old man. I had an ear infection. And I find that to be odd as a 38-year-old man, especially when I called the doctor and they sent me to the pediatrician on staff. I know she’s the pediatrician cause when she prescribed the medicine, she said, oh you are an adult. You need to take this much. But I say that to say this: I was agonizing in pain Monday and into kind of Tuesday morning. So much so that Jennifer will tell you I’m a horrible patient and was in a terrible mood for much of the day Monday. So, I called the doctor needing relief, needing hope just that I was going to make it through. It was pretty bad Monday. I’m not going to lie; it hurt really bad.

So, I go to the doctor and the pediatrician kind of jokes and the smile’s on her face that she’s doctoring a 38-year-old guy with an ear infection, but she says I’ll be OK in a week. That gave me great hope. Yeah, I mean it didn’t really heal the problem, but the fact is she diagnosed the problem and gave me medicine to heal the problem. That provided me great hope that I was going to be OK by next Monday. I’m OK today except it started in the other ear.

So anyway, it doesn’t matter. That is neither here nor there. Doctors are messengers of hope a lot of times. Now I know we’ve all experienced times when the doctor’s given us bad news, and the news hasn’t been as hopeful as we would like, but many, many times when we go to the doctor whether it’s just a cold or whatever, they are messengers of hope. They diagnose a problem and provide a solution through medicine. The doctor is not the solution.  The medicine is the solution.

As we look at the next section of John, we’ve finished the prologue. John introduces us to a messenger. He’s a messenger of hope with a very powerful witness. He is not the doctor, or he is not the medicine. He is simply a guy who is pointing out a problem and pointing people to the solution to the problem with a powerful, powerful testimony. A powerful witness.

Now a lot of us have been to these conferences and we’ve been to these sermons, and we’ve heard these guys get up on stage and they have powerful testimonies.  You know the people I’m talking about. They stand up there and they’ll talk about how they for three years were drinking and doing drugs and committing all these crimes and they were just so far away from God. And then one day God reached down and just saved them and we look at people who have been through so much in life like that and we say that’s a powerful testimony.

I want you to know something. Your testimony is just as powerful as their testimony. You may have been saved as a four-year-old at Vacation Bible School. That’s a powerful testimony because Jesus saved you from your sins.

John the Baptist wasn’t a bad guy. He wasn’t out there smoking dope or doing drugs or killing people. He’d probably been following and obeying God for much of his life if not all of his life, and he still has a powerful testimony, a powerful witness that we need to look at, observe, and we can learn some things from John’s powerful testimony this morning.

Just to review for you, we’ve seen that Jesus is eternal. John has introduced us to the main character Jesus. Jesus is eternal. Jesus is divine. He’s fully God. Jesus is Creator. Jesus is Life. Jesus is Light. Jesus is fully human, and Jesus is grace and Truth. That’s what we call the prologue.

We now enter a section of the book that starts in verse 19 and goes all the way through Chapter 12, which is the public ministry of Jesus. And John is going to kind of give us a sub introduction to the public ministry of Jesus by pointing us to a witness, a powerful witness.

So, if you have your Bibles, John chapter one, starting in verse 19 this morning. We’ll read through verse 28.

Johns 1: 19-28:  This was John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He didn’t deny it but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “What then?” they asked him. “Are you Elijah?”  “I am not,” he said. “Are you the Prophet?”  “No,” he answered. 22 “Who are you, then?” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord—just as Isaiah the prophet said.” 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know Him. 27 He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.” 28 All this happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

There’re two insights I want us to see about a powerful witness.

1 – A powerful witness is untouched by personal ambition or selfish gain.

John the Baptist had become a quite popular individual. Thousands were flocking to the desert to see him and to hear him and to just learn about his message and to be baptized by him. Now this guy John the Baptist was a little bit different. You can read other descriptions of him in the other Gospels, but we learn that he has no formal training. He dresses in a quite odd way wearing a camel’s hair garment with a leather belt. He eats locusts and honey.

Now, if you’re going to eat a locust, you better have some honey, right? So that makes perfect sense to me. So, you got John the Baptist in between messages, eating locust and dipping it into honey. That’s who this guy is. He doesn’t quite blend in with the mainstream culture.  He has long scraggly hair. He’s not in a church in the city or in a village. He’s out in the desert or out on the sea. His message is not really user-friendly. At one point, the Pharisees or religious leaders of the day approach him in another Gospel, and he calls them a brood of vipers. I don’t know what a brood of vipers is, but it doesn’t sound like it’s a compliment.

He’s pointing out people faults and sins. I picture John the Baptist. This is our culture and a little bit different way and John the Baptist is better than this, but I picture John the Baptist as the guy who I have seen many times standing at the corner, the east gate of the Bank of America Stadium shouting all kinds of things to all of us walking into the stadium. You know, the street preachers. Very unfriendly – they use an un-user friendly message calling people out on their sins. They’re loud and very boisterous. But John was very effective.

Thousands of people are flocking to John – Jews and Gentiles. They’re all flocking to John. He is very popular. So popular that the religious leaders, the religious elite, get word of this. They are like wait a minute. You know this guy? I don’t know this guy. Did he go to school with you?  He didn’t go to school with me.  Did you cut his hair?  I didn’t cut his hair.  He’s never cut his hair? We got to check this guy out.

So the religious elite, the leaders, the ones who have the authority, they got to go check him out, but they didn’t want to go themselves, so they sent a delegation. They sent their assistants to go. Now you go and check him out and talk to him, find out what he’s doing, who he is, and report back to us.

Now a couple of reasons they want to do this. One, they want to find out if he’s being a blasphemer, which they already assume He is. Two, they’re doing this because the Roman government I’m sure has taken interest in John the Baptist, and they’re going to see him as an uprising of rebellion or as a leader of people who will try to overthrow the Romans.

So, the Pharisees are trying to get a handle on this before a lot of people get hurt. And so, I just picture it like this. John’s out there. He’s preaching. He’s teaching. He’s baptizing. He’s dipping his locust into his honey. He looks over and sees these guys that are dressed a little nicer than everybody else. He’s like ‘sup. How y’all doing? And they are like, who are you? I’m John. Who are you? Yeah, that’s not in the Bible. This is my sanctified imagination how this kind of went down. Yeah, well we’re from Jerusalem. We want to know what you’re doing. I’m eating locust and honey. What are you doing?

Basically, they’re here to say this: we need to know who you are and under what authority that you have to be doing what you are doing. With his popularity, he could have claimed to have been somebody he wasn’t. He could have claimed to have been this great preacher. He could have charged people. He could have made money, but John didn’t have any personal ambition or selfish gain because he knew who he was, and he knew who he was not.

Right out of the gate he says that he is not the Messiah you are looking for. And immediately I think of Star Wars, the original one, the good one, the very first one. We got Obi wan and the young Luke Skywalker with the droids. And they are like, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Now, like two of you understand what I’m talking about there. But the point is, John is like, I’m not the Messiah. I’m not the one. I’m just a guy out in the wilderness.

Then they are like, are you Elijah?  Why would they ask about that? Well, there was an expectation that before the Messiah came, before the Christ came, Elijah would come back. We remember Elijah didn’t die.  He was caught up in the heaven, and so there’s this expectation from Malachi Chapter 4, verse 5, where the prophet says that I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

So that’s why they said, well, you’re not the Messiah.  Are you the Elijah, the forerunner? He’s like, no, I’m really not Elijah. I’m just a guy. I’m not Elijah. I’m just John the Baptist. That is John’s take of himself.

Then they asked if he was the prophet? Don’t miss that word “the.” It’s not “a” profit. They said, are you the prophet? It’s a question that comes from Deuteronomy 18 where Moses is referring to the coming of the Messiah. So, when they say are you the prophet, they’re asking him again -are you the Messiah?  He’s like no, I’m not the prophet, I’m just a guy. No selfish gain. No personal ambition. He knows who he’s not, and he knows who he is.

Now before we move on, I want to tell you what Jesus says about John. John is very humble. John has a very humble view of himself. But here’s how Jesus describes John in Matthew 11 – From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force, for all the prophets and the law prophesies until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he (talking about John the Baptist) is the Elijah who is to come. Let anyone who has ears listen.

So, Jesus clearly says that John the Baptist is the Elijah figure that is to come before Him, that John the Baptist is in fact, the prophesized prophet. But John didn’t see himself that way because he was humble. Jesus also says this: But I tell you Elijah has already come, and they didn’t recognize him. On the contrary, they did whatever they pleased to him. Then in the same way, the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Jesus also in other places points out that John the Baptist is the greatest of among those who have been born of women. Jesus has a very high view of John. For John was extremely humble because he knew that his job was simply a voice.

2 – A powerful witness points people to Jesus.

They don’t point people to themselves. I’ve heard these testimonies and I’ve heard these things before where I get the sense that they’re just bragging about their past. They’re pointing the attention to themselves instead of pointing people to Jesus. John wants to point people to Jesus. That’s all he cares about because he calls himself a voice, a voice to make the paths straight and he’s quoting from the prophet Isaiah 40, verse 3.

And in that context, the Isaiah context, the people of Israel are exiled. They’ve been kicked out of Jerusalem. And the prophet is saying to those captives in Babylon that there is going to come a day when the angel, whether literal or figuratively, an angel is going to carve a straight path from Babylon back to the promised land. That is what that Prophet is telling the people of the day. But he’s also saying that there’s going to come a day when there will be one to come who will carve a straight path to Jesus. He’s saying that the roads can be bumpy. Potholes, hills, and valleys need to be filled in.  Do you know what a forerunner did? John the Baptist is a forerunner.  The angel in Isaiah is kind of like a forerunner going ahead of the people.

A king very rarely went anywhere unexpected. If a king is leaving his city to go to another city, he sent a messenger. He sent a forerunner. The forerunner would go ahead of him and say, hey, the king will be here on Wednesday. So that city immediately starts to make preparations. The messenger starts to make preparations for a smooth entrance into the city. Everything’s got to be perfect for the arrival of the king. They would fill in the potholes, fill in the valleys, level the hills, and make a straight path into the city for the king.

I want to ask you a question: is your life, is your testimony, pointing people to Jesus? Are you making the path straight so people can see Jesus? Are you filling in those potholes or are you driving over them in a semi-truck making them worse? Are you a bulldozer leveling the hills so people can see Jesus? Are you a backhoe or an excavator that just keeps piling the muddy dirt on top of the hill so people can’t see Jesus? What are you?

Are you a voice that is focused on yourself, your life, your ways, your comfort and your wealth and all these things? Or are you focused on pointing people to Jesus? John is like the original mega church pastor. And all he cares about is telling people about Jesus. He doesn’t care about a fancy haircut; he doesn’t care about a fancy cloak. He didn’t care about having nice sandals. He just cared about pointing people to Jesus, and that is what we should be about.

We should not make it hard for people to see Jesus. We should make a straight path. That is the power of a testimony – one that we know we’re not Jesus, we know that we’re just a reflection of the light. We know that we we’re not prophets, we’re not priests, we’re just people called to make a straight path for others to Jesus. We are a voice.

That really didn’t satisfy these religious elites. And they asked about baptism. Like, well, we don’t accept that you’re just a voice because you’re still baptizing. Baptism was not a new thing. It wasn’t a new concept. John the Baptist didn’t introduce baptism. Baptism was a ritual that was performed for Gentiles who were becoming Jewish people.

If a Gentile or non-Jew wanted to be Jewish, they would go through these rights and these rituals and these activities and then they would be baptized as a symbolism of cleansing themselves of their Gentile ways and being accepted in the Jewish community. So, this isn’t anything new except John is baptizing Jews. And that didn’t happen. Why would Jews need to be baptized? They’re already God’s people.

Because John’s message is this: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All are sinners.  All! Even the Jewish people have sinned and fallen far away from God. I’m just telling them their sins. I’m just pointing it out to them because there’s a guy coming. There’s this Man coming. He’s already here. You don’t know Him and He’s going to be here soon. I’m just baptizing with water, but He has the power to save. So, I’m just preparing these people. I’m preparing them to see their sin, to recognize their sin so that when the Messiah shows up, they see Him and believe.

John’s baptism is a baptism of preparation. It’s not exactly the same thing that we did with Andrew this morning. What we did with Andrew is believer’s baptism. He made the decision to follow Jesus and the next step is baptism. The baptism of John was just a baptism of preparation. But know this – the people were still doing it out of faith in the coming Messiah. They were recognizing their sins and their need for a savior.

John is just a voice pointing people to Jesus. We don’t really know how the conversation ends. John’s Gospel stops there, and he just moves on to the next section. But we know what happened to John the Baptist.  He is going to get his head cut off in the near future. So obviously it wasn’t an acceptable conversation among other things.

The great goal of the church, for you and for me, for all of us as Christians, is to point the world to Jesus. We gather on Sunday mornings to worship Him. But we are to go outside these walls, outside these doors, and point others to Him.

It’s interesting that just over 100 years after John the Apostle, the writer of this book died, just about 100 years after John’s death, a guy named Tertullian wrote this about the advancement of the Gospel. Less than 100 years. So, we’re about 150 years after Jesus’ death or give or take. Tertullian wrote this: “We are but of yesterday.”  And what he means is we’re just new. Christianity’s new. “We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you – cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, tribes, companies, palaces, the senate forum. We have left nothing to you but the temple of your gods.”

In 150 years, 150-200 years after Jesus, Christianity had already taken over the world because people loved each other and they loved God and they pointed people to Jesus.

It needs to be true today about the Christian church that we go from our places of worship and spread the Gospel to our cities, to our schools, to our workplaces. That we point people to Jesus. How awesome would it be that in 100 years from now or 20 years from now or 10 years from now, somebody writes that we filled all the places among you – cities, counties, schools, rec leagues, restaurants, software companies, engineering firms, grocery stores, post offices, gyms. Everywhere has a Christian influence.

And we left nothing but empty buildings of pagan and idol worship. How awesome would that be? And here’s how it starts. The church has to be the church. We point people to Jesus in all that we do, all that we say, our actions, we point people to Jesus. Let it never be said that we were a stumbling block to someone else by anything that we do or say.

Are you a voice making the path straight?

Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You so much for this day. We thank You that we can open these Scriptures and that we can see examples of powerful witnesses. A powerful witness like John the Baptist. And we can learn from his example – that we are to be humble, with one purpose, one goal, pointing people to Jesus. Father, give us the strength and the courage to do that. Help us to see the areas of our lives where we need to be changed by You and help us to follow You wherever You would lead us as a lighthouse guiding ships safe to shore.

We ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen.