· Adopted son of Caesar Agustus, known to history as a brilliant Roman general but a reluctant Roman emperor, known for his severity and cruelty
· Prefect of the Roman province of Judea, became governor in A.D. 26, when the political situation with the Herods became particularly contentious.
…the word of God came to John…
· This is the only time this particular phrase is used in the entire NT.
o Used often in the OT to refer to the message that the prophets received from the Lord to give to the people
o John is the last of the OT prophets – he closes out the OT era
§ Luke 16, Jesus will say “the Law and the Prophets (the OT) were until John…”
…in the wilderness…
· Just as OT Israel, the Word of God comes to John in the wilderness
· Also, note that God’s timing is just as important as His call on your life.
o God had through Gabriel called John to be the forerunner of the Messiah, from before his birth
§ But it’s only now, thirty years later, that he is now given the “go” to begin to walk in that calling.
§ All the 30 years leading up to this – likely watching as his parents grew older and more feeble, and then die (they were “well stricken with age”), living in the barren, dry wilderness, subsisting on wild honey and locusts, wondering, waiting, watching – were necessary preparation for this specific time.
o God had placed His call on John, and John knew it…but he didn’t know the timing.
preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins
· Baptism wasn’t anything new to the Jews
o The rabbis taught that before a Gentile could convert to Judaism, he had to first undergo the rite of baptism, to wash away the sinfulness of his Gentile flesh
· But John is preaching “a baptism for repentance” to all who come to hear him – Jew and Gentile alike
o To submit to baptism – and the very public baptism, was a very humbling thing for a Jew
§ He was declaring, “I’m just as bad as a heathen Gentile.”
o It was a radical dedication or rededication of their lives to the Lord
§ And it was a declaration – a very public declaration – that we’re all equally far from God on our own, and all equally in need of His forgiveness and cleansing
· Now, so’s you know, the baptism that John preached was different from the baptism we receive when we become Christian.
|Acts 18:25||This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.|
|Acts 19:3-4||And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”|
o John’s baptism was one of repentance, to prepare the way for Jesus.
o Our baptism is a baptism into Christ, where we publicly identify with His death and resurrection, a public declaration that we are now His.
…prepare the way of the Lord…
· There’s a central idea that I want to focus on in John’s application of Isaiah 40 to himself and his ministry:
o He’s not saying that I need to do anything for salvation - that’s all God’s work, start to finish.
§ Ephesians 2 tells us that “it is by grace that [we] are saved, through faith – and that (the faith!) is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, that no man should boast.”
§ We are saved – and kept saved – by what Jesus did for us on the cross and continues to do for us sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.
o Yet, what shows that we are in relationship with Him, that we really are His, is that we live in repentance.
§ “Repentance” means to “change course,” do an “about face”
§ What that looks like is that we turn from sin so that we can turn to the Lord.
· Here’s the deal: I can’t turn to embrace the Lord and all that He has for me if I’m still hugging and cuddling my darling sins!
o My bad attitudes
o My “secret” lusts
o My “little” disobediences and rebellions
· So as I draw closer to the Lord, what that looks like as the Holy Spirit continues to apply Jesus’ life into my life and as I go deeper with Him, is that I’m constantly coming to grips with my sinful flesh and continually repenting
o And that’s not a drag! It’s not a life-long self-whipping thing at all…it’s an active, joyful letting go and turning from all the things that only really ultimately drag me down and ensnare and enslave me in the first place, so that I can receive and live in His life and light and love and mercy and receive and enjoy all that He is and all that He has for me.
§ So if you think that’s a drag, you need your head examined!
· And John’s telling us here is that part of repentance is setting things right with God and with my fellow-man.
o And therefore that things can be set right
o The Jews at that time thought that the problem was mainly "them" - that is, the Romans who politically oppressed them. John made them see that when you got right down to it, the problem was really with me, not them. I have to get right with God.
…bear fruits worthy of repentance…
· As John Calvin put it: Faith alone saves, but faith which saves is never alone.
o I cannot come into a living, life-altering relationship with the God of the universe and not be changed.
o My works don’t save me – but if I’m saved, my works will show it.
§ In other words, what I do or don’t do doesn’t save me – but if I’m really saved, what I do and don’t do changes
o I’ll “bear fruits worthy of repentance”
§ True repentance will always bear fruit – and the fruit that the Lord looks for is…love.
fruits worthy of repentance
· Basically: don’t be selfish & stingy, be fair, don’t be cruel, and be happy with what the Lord’s grace has provided.
o Basic stuff – really basic stuff, the same stuff we teach our kids!
o We often fall for the trap of thinking that “repentance” is some heavy load and burden, and that what God’s going to require of us is some great, heavy thing…
§ …but in many ways, this “easy” yoke that John puts on us in repentance is sometimes heavier than walking up the steps of the Sancta Scala just outside the church of St. John the Lateran in Rome on our knees (like Luther did to try to get right with God, before the Spirit prompted him to spark the Protestant Reformation) or some other great, mighty task…
§ What John’s calling for is really just faithfulness in the small, ordinary things of life – that’s what repentance looks like at the end of the day.
· Often we are more willing to be faithful in great, dramatic tasks than in the ordinary things!
· Tax collectors, then as much as now (and probably even more so)
o The way the Romans did it was very shrewd
o They wouldn’t directly tax a conquered people
o Instead, they auctioned off the right to collect taxes to the highest bidder, who would then be allowed to collect as much as he could get away with; anything over his obligated amount, he was able to pocket
§ And it was very persuasive, having burly, armed Roman soldiers standing behind him as he sat in the tax office!
o So taxmen were viewed as traitors to their own people, and considered worse than a Gentile.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire
· The Holy Spirit’s outpouring was promised as part of the New Covenant.
o We are promised an immersion, an overflowing of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
o This was often experienced as people were prayed for with hands laid on them (Acts 6:6, 8:17, 9:17, 13:3-4, and 19:6).
· The Messiah would also bring a baptism of fire, fire that would will both purify and destroy what is lacking, like fire burns up the worthless chaff.
o God’s power is always a transforming power, a purifying power.
· The Messiah will also be the one to divide the true from the false, to separate the wheat from the chaff; the winnowing fan is in His hand
o Judas is set apart from Peter
o one thief blasphemes, another believes.
…brother Philip’s wife…
· Herod the Great died in 4B.C., and his kingdom was divided between his three sons Herod Archelaus, Herod Philip II, and Herod Antipas, and another dude by the name of Lysanias (v.1 mentions him as Tetrarch of Abilene). Each of the sons of Herod that became Tetrarchs were from different mothers
· Herod Antipas, on a trip to Rome visited his half-brother, Herod Philip
· Herod Philip had married his half-brother, Herod Aristobulus' daughter Herodias.
· While visiting his wealthy brother Philip in Rome and staying in his house, Herod Antipas became involved with Herodias, his half-brother's wife (and his own half-niece). He steals her away from his half-brother and brings her back to Judea with him. He then divorces his wife, the daughter of a Nabataean king (the Nabataeans were a powerful Arab nation bordering the Roman provinces at the time). This starts a costly and embarrassing border war. Herodias semi-officially leaves her uncle/husband Philip and marries her half-uncle Antipas, and now they are together.
And while He prayed
· We notice Luke’s repeated emphasis on prayer. Other gospel writers describe this occasion, but only Luke points out that it happened while He prayed.
You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.
· This was before Jesus did anything along the lines of the great work He was sent to accomplish
o The tense of the verb is literally, “in You I am already and always well pleased.”
· In myself, I am God’s enemy, and all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight
o That’s why religion doesn’t work
o That’s why trying to earn God’s favor, trying to earn His blessings, doesn’t work
· In Jesus, I can hear the Father say to me, “This is My beloved son, in you I am well pleased.”
o In Jesus, the Holy Spirit can come upon me for empowering and blessing.
· It’s important to point out at this point that Jesus was baptized and empowered by the Holy Spirit before He stepped out in His ministry.
o He began His work with the blessing of the Father and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit
§ In Jesus, we can have the same things.
§ I need the power and love and grace and blessing and baptism and indwelling of the Holy Spirit to live this Christian life thing
· To love my wife as Christ loved the church
· To raise my son in the Lord
· To live a life that shows people that Jesus is real and that He’s good and that He loves them and wants to save and redeem them
Thirty years of age
· This seems to have been the age of full maturity in the Jewish mind. Priests could begin their service only at 30 (Numbers 4:2-3).
· Luke differs in the account of Matthew from David onward, but they both end their genealogies with Joseph. Why? Luke follows Mary’s line (Jesus’ actual lineage) while Matthew follows Joseph’s line (His legal lineage by adoption). This is Luke’s who point in his important phrase being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.
· Luke ends with Joseph because he is following proper form and including no women in his genealogy