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Oct. 14, 2018 - Preparing The Way

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Prayer
Where last week, we saw how The Word Became Flesh...
How:
God Himself entered into His creation...
How Jesus Christ HUMBLED himself - by emptying Himself - to the point of obedience...
How Underserved Favor from God came to man
And all of this - in the Word becoming flesh...
THIS WEEK...
We’re going to see how John the Baptist was commissioned BY God - to prepare the way for THE WORD BECOMING FLESH...
And so for the next 2 weeks, we’ll focus in on HOW JOHN was called to prepare the way...
What he was called TO
And THEN - see how JOHN’s way (preparation) stood up against Jesus’ way.
Let’s go to our text...
John 1:19–28 ESV
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
SO if we just look at the story and what’s going on here...
We see that John the Baptist comes on the scene…and starts Baptizing people.
Now - this sparks the interest of a certain group of people...
WHO?
John 1:19 ESV
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
When John began baptizing people, it sparked interest from - as it says - The Jews.
SO much so, that they end up sending priests and Levites from Jerusalem to inquire about who John the Baptist was.
Why were the Jews interested?
Why were the Jewish leaders interested?
Because - Ritual Water Cleansing had a place in Jewish history...
The use of water as a religious and physical cleansing instrument is prevalent throughout the Pentateuch (first 5 verses).
Those who had committed certain unclean offenses were required to immerse themselves in water in order to ritually purify the body.
Examples of such offenses include:
• Touching a corpse (Num 19:10–13; 31:23–24; Lev 11, 22:4–6)
• Eating or picking up a dead animal (Lev 17:15)
• Contagious skin infections (Lev 14:8–9)
Beyond these cleansing rituals, several other cleansing practices were required in order to partake of eating sacrificed animals (Lev 8:19–21) and temple worship (Lev 15:31). Certain impurities could be only removed by using running water (Lev 14:5–6, 50–52; 15:13; Deut 21:4).
Do we know FOR CERTAIN when these things began, probably not…but we also see this in Leviticus...
Leviticus 16:4 ESV
4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.
So (he) - the LEVITE priest was commanded to perform a symbolic cleansing in water before and after performing his priestly duties
We also see in the same chapter verses 23-24
Leviticus 16:23–24 ESV
23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. 24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.
SO - seeing how the Levite Priests were to conduct themselves in the OT, the Old Covenant, it makes sense then...
That when in verse 19 of John 1, that the Levites were sent to see who John really was...
John 1:19 ESV
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
Now - this ritual cleansing was not ONLY reserved for the priests...
It ended up becoming a CUSTOM for Gentile converts to Judaism...
And so if a gentile wanted to join Judaism…he would:
1 Become circumcised
2 Get water baptized
3 He would also offer a sacrifice
And so - this water cleansing had a history in Jewish Tradition...
And as such - The priests and Levites come and ask John - WHO ARE YOU?
And John replies:
John 1:20 ESV
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
And so what I think we can infer from this is:
SLIDE: John Distinguishes Who He Is: From the Greater One Coming

John Distinguishes Who He Is

REMEMBER - 400 years of silence since a prophet last spoke to the people from God...
The OT ends - and there was - silence...
THEN - this guy comes on the scene - and starts baptizing people - calling them to repentance...
And so - The priests come and ask him - WHO ARE YOU?
John’s thought:
I must distinguish WHO I AM - with the GREATER ONE COMING...
These people - THE WORLD - MUST NOT THINK that I am - the Christ!
the Savior
the Messiah
And so trying to get to the bottom of all of this, the priests continue to dig...
John 1:21–22 ESV
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
And so here you have this one man John, and this other GROUP of priests, and each side here...
HAVING been sent by someone...
One the one side - you have PRIESTS who are WITHOUT knowledge…trying to figure this thing out.
They don’t know who John is, where he came from…by what authority he’s baptizing people...
And so they are WITHOUT knowledge...
On top of that - they were sent by the Pharisees, who ALSO, obviously are without KNOWLEDGE...
I find it interesting that the Pharisees didn’t initially come themselves...
Either way - The Pharisees demonstrate they too are WITHOUT knowledge...
But then you look at the other side.
John the Baptist - sent by - God!
And being SENT by God - has KNOWLEDGE...
Enough to say this… in response…to - What do you say about yourself?
John 1:23 ESV
23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
So John here - takes this OT prophecy from Isaiah, and applies it to himself…!
He says - No, I’m NOT the Christ - but let me tell you WHO I ACTUALLY AM...
I’m here - to MAKE STRAIGHT the way of the LORD!
I AM the one spoken of in the book of ISAIAH!
Can you imagine that?
You waking up tomorrow, and God REVEALING to you - that you are indeed the one/voice spoken of in...
Isaiah 40:3 ESV
3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Uhh..honey, soooo I’m not going to work today...
Why?
Oh....uhhmmm, I found out that I’m supposed to head down to lake Erie and baptize people for the remission of their sins...
But this is what happened.
John - when asked who he was - responds to the priests by quoting this verse: I am the VOICE of one crying....
SO John here - does what he can to make sure he distinguishes WHO HE IS - from the Christ that is coming...
He needs the world to KNOW they are NOT THE SAME person...
And he does so - but He also makes it clear that he IS THERE - to make straight the way of the LORD...
**you ever have a situation happen where - maybe someone was supposed to DO SOMETHING for you...
or GET YOU SOMETHING...
But then a lot of time goes by and you just forget about it?
BUT THEN - out of nowhere - that THING you were waiting for - HAPPENS??
And you’re like - OHHH YEEEAAHHH!! I forgot about that!!!
That’s how this would have been.
Remember - 400 years of silence...
400 years of waiting for the MESSIAH!
What would have happened?
People would have fallen into their routines...
Let’s go to the synagogue on this day...
circumcisions would have been happening...
Ritual washings would have been taking place....
All of these RITUALS....these routines....would have been taking place...
AND THEN - seemingly out of nowhere - JOHN the BAPTIST shows up…talking about the COMING of the LORD...
And LISTEN to the priests response to John when he tells them that “he is the voice of the one crying in the wilderness”
He’s attributes this quote to himself - and he’s talking to priests...
John 1:25 ESV
25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
They still don’t get it do they?
John had just told them that he was there - ON BEHALF of the LORD - that the MESSIAH is coming....
PREPARE YOURSELF…John said…!
And they say - Well then if you’re not the Messiah, if you’re not the prophet - then WHY ARE YOU BAPTIZING?
Remember - in Jewish tradition, the water ritual cleansing was for Gentile converts to Judaism..
And they say - Well why are you water baptizing?
They failed to KNOW or they at least ignored the reality of what John’s baptism was for...
Luke 3:3 ESV
3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
This baptism of John the Baptist was not the same baptism that the Jews adhered to regarding Gentile converts...
John’s baptism was a baptism of REPENTANCE - FOR the forgiveness of sins...
It was a Baptism that was calling into question ANY thought that
But even with this said - John knew these priests were HUNG up on the WATER baptism..
They were HUNG up on the ritual itself!
That’s why they responded to John the way they did - when he told them that he was NOT the Christ, but there on His behalf!
They responded with - Well then WHY ARE YOU BAPTIZING!?
They were HUNG up on the ritual…they were hung up on the PHYSICAL side of LIFE...
And we see this play out in Matthew 3:
Matthew 3:7–10 ESV
7 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? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 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. 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.
JOHN is looking at these men - these religious elites…and saying
YOU NEED TO REPENT of your sins...
You need to CONSIDER your SINS...
John is saying -
SLIDE:
TAKE YOUR EYES OFF of that which you THINK saves you, and instead GAZE upon that which DAMNS you!
John KNEW what these priests were thinking!!
What does he say in v9?
Matthew 3:9 ESV
9 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.
They were HUNG up on the PHYSICAL side of life:
they were resting in their LINEAGE
they were resting in their Ethnicity
they were resting in their circumcision
they were resting in their sacrifices
THINKING that THOSE THINGS - MADE them right with God
And John knows this...
He KNOWS that he needs to make another distinction!
Where before we saw that- In preparing the Way for the Lord, John distinguishes WHO HE IS - from who Christ is...
We’re going to see John NOW make another distinguishing point…and it’s huge!
SLIDE: John Distinguishes ‘His Baptism’: From the Greater One Coming

JOHN DISTINGUISHES ‘His Baptism’

John 1:25–28 ESV
25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Ok, now - John here briefly sheds light on this DISTINGUISHING point about John’s baptism...
And so we’re going to jump to Matthew to see this in more detail...
BUT BEFORE we do that…I have a question for you:
Let’s read this...
SLIDE: FORK
I eat dinner with a fork, but he eats dinner with a spoon.
*If I say to you - “I eat dinner with A FORK, but he eats dinner with A SPOON”...
What are the VARIABLES in this sentence? Yes - the FORK and the SPOON
Also - with this statement stated THIS WAY…what am i trying to ELEVATE for you?
Answer - the DIFFERENT VARIABLES!
Matthew 3:11 ESV
11 “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.
Do you hear the EMPHASIS John is placing on the DIFFERENT - type of baptism that is coming!!??
YES - but how is it different?
John says - I USE WATER
But Jesus will USE - the Holy Spirit
John is saying - MY baptism pails in comparison to the different kind of baptism that is coming!
There is a GREATER man coming...
And He is bringing with Himself a GREATER Baptism!
NOW - that’s NOT to say that John’s baptism was pointless!
It wasn’t pointless...
there was a purpose…and John himself tells us what that purpose was...
Let’s jump down to v31
John 1:31 ESV
31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
John here let’s us know - the GAME PLAN!
See - this whole plan here WASN’T John’s idea...
It was God’s idea…His plan!
See, before John the Baptist showed up and started baptizing people...
The Word of God came to John and INSTRUCTED him…as to what he would do and WHY He would be doing it!
And John, tells us here - What God had told him...
That the reason he came ‘baptizing with WATER’ (with this physical element)...
…was so that Jesus would be revealed (PHYSICALLY) to Israel.
The water Baptism of John the Baptist, is a part of history, because it REVEALED the Son of God to Israel…and
…to us...
Now - to close out today, as we think about John the Baptist being sent by God to...
Prepare the Way....to make straight the way of the Lord...
SLIDE: John Distinguishes His Message: From Judaism...

JOHN DISTINGUISHES ‘His Message’

Let’s look at the message that John brought with him...
And so if John had walked down the road toward the Jordan river...
carrying a banner...
That banner would have had this message on it...
The Lord is Coming (John 1:23)
Sin of all men (Luke 3:3)
Worthlessness of flesh/works for salvation (Matt 3:9)
Judgment (Luke 3:9)
Wrath of God Upon mankind due to sin (Luke 3:7)
Hell (Matt 3:12 - Mark 9:43)
Repentance (Luke 3:3)
Salvation (Luke 3:6)
Forgiveness of Sins (Luke 3:3)
Spiritual Baptism of Christ (Luke 3:16)
Bear Fruit (Luke 3:8)
Humility, Truthfulness, Contentment (Luke, 3;11-14)
The Lord is Coming (John 1:23)
Sin of all men (Luke 3:3)
Worthlessness of flesh/works for salvation (Matt 3:9)
Judgment (Luke 3:9)
Wrath of God Upon mankind due to sin (Luke 3:7)
Hell (Matt 3:12 - Mark 9:43)
GOOD NEWS:
Repentance (Luke 3:3)
Salvation (Luke 3:6)
Forgiveness of Sins (Luke 3:3)
Spiritual Baptism of Christ (Luke 3:16)
Bear Fruit (Luke 3:8), Humility, Truthfulness, Contentment (Luke, 3;11-14)
This is the message that PREPARED the way for Jesus Christ. 
As Christ entered His earthly ministry, this is what was laid out before Him.
Luke 3:18:  All of this above is classified as GOOD NEWS.
What have we seen today?
SUMMARY
John Distinguishes ‘Who He Is’: From the Greater One Coming
John Distinguishes ‘His Baptism’: From the Greater One Coming
John Distinguishes ‘His Message’: From Judaism
Let’s Pray...
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