December 10, 2017
Pastor John Hering
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”—3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Intro: “Hey! Your shoe’s untied!” Did I get your attention? Good! If you were just about to walk down the steps with wrapped Christmas presents in your arms you’d be glad I warned you about your shoes being untied. If I was really nice, I might even bend over and tie your shoe for you. But, if you were driving down I-635 and I wanted to get your attention I probably won’t yell, “Hey!” because you wouldn’t hear me. I’d probably have to honk my horn to get your attention. Whether sitting in Jerry’s World watching the Big Ten Championship game, or sitting in a high school gym during a basketball game just yelling “Hey!” to get you to tie your shoe doesn’t seem reasonable. But, standing here waiting you to get settled in, waiting for you to give me your attention and shouting, “Hey!” seems to have worked. I don’t think Pastor Ledermann and I should do this every Sunday because it probably wouldn’t take too long and you’d tune us out. And we don’t want to tune you out because we have something important to say. And now that I have your attention I don’t want it anymore because I want to deflect your attention to the message from Mark 1 where John the Baptist says, “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” We get his point. It’s not about you and me,
It’s All About Jesus
The Message to hear
John the Baptist didn’t have to shout “Hey” to get people’s attention. “5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” John had something important to say that was the perfect message. We could sum up John’ whole ministry to say it was all about Jesus. John was there fulfilling God’s purpose: “1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, Those who heard these words from Isaiah understand exactly the point. A messenger was sent ahead of the king’s arrival so people could get ready. The messengers on Christmas night told the shepherds that a newborn King was born. More so than just yelling, “Hey!” I suppose if a sky filled with angels appeared over your house this evening, that would also grab your attention!
John the Baptist was a messenger the people needed to hear. If John was here today to get the word out I wonder if he would buy adds on highway billboards? Hire a marketing coordinator to develop attention-getting ad campaigns? Print up and pass out flyers to pass out into the neighborhood to invite people to Christmas Eve worship? I don’t see any hint in God’s Word that his method of getting people’s attention came from a clever marketing plan. But, what he did and how he lived certainly got Fox News to show up with their cameras! This is what Isaiah said, “3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ …5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” Isaiah might as well of said, “Hey! Pay attention! Listen up!”
Consider his diet – “he ate locusts and wild honey.” Every time I hear what John ate I think, “Brilliant! Of course, anyone eating that kind of food would be an attraction! You know-kinda like “FEAR FACTOR!” But, historians tell us that grasshoppers were common food for the poor, especially during time of famine. The wings and legs were pulled off and what was left over was dried, roasted or ground up and baked. John got their attention because he was a penniless prophet. He wasn’t looking for handouts, but he was looking for the opportunity to tell people. Maybe he had Isaiah 55 in mind as he took his next bit of locust pie ““Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare” (Is 55:2). Do you get it? By what he ate John got their attention because John had a message to share that was all about Jesus!
Consider his clothes – “6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist,” Every time I hear what John wore I think, “Brilliant! Of course, anyone wearing clothes like that would be an attraction! You know-kinda like stars of Hollywood walking down the red carpet.” Or not! You’ve seen pictures of John the Baptist in Sunday School books that have him wearing a gunny sack with a strap draped over one shoulder. It was more likely a long robe similar to what everyone else in those days wore. Only the difference was John’s robe was made of uncomfortable, scratchy, camel’s hair which were the clothes poor people wore. Maybe John was thinking of Isaiah 61 when he got dressed in the morning. “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Is 61:10). Do you get it? By what he wore he got their attention because John had a message to share that was all about Jesus!
Consider his actions- “4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Let’s be clear about this last statement. John’s baptism was the same in nearly all aspects of the baptism Jesus instituted. Both are used by the Holy Spirit to offer and grant forgiveness of sins connecting the Word to the water to work faith in the hearts of people. The difference was that John’s baptism was for Israelites looking forward to what the Messiah would do, and Jesus’ baptism is for all nations to look back and see what Jesus has done. John the Baptist pointed forward to the Messiah that would defeat Satan, the Holy Spirit uses the Word connected to Water, wafer and wine to point back to Jesus who did defeat Satan. Perhaps John the Baptism has Isaiah 4 in mind while he was pouring water over the heads of people, “3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, …. 4 The Lord will wash away the filth… of Zion; he will cleanse ….. Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire” (Isaiah 4:3,4). Do you get it? By what John did he got their attention because John had a message to share that was all about Jesus!
Consider his place – “4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness… they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Don’t think of the Banks of the Mississippi where people lived. Think of the Rio Grande near El Paso, but usually more of a creek than a river. Not many people lived there. Kinda weird? I wonder if the Mission Board would have supported John’s ministry plan to set up shop where no one lived, to be a lone voice in the desert! Probably not! But, it was so weird it grabbed the attention of the Jews. “ 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.” I wonder what the people were thinking about as they made their way into the wilderness? Maybe it was Isaiah 40 “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Is 40:3). Do you get it? By where John lived he got their attention because John had a message to share that was all about Jesus!
After John got their attention and they were listening, what was the message he wanted them to hear? “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” Slaves took of the sandals of their masters to clean them, wash their master’s feet along with all the other menial tasks. Think who is saying this! The crowds got it. John was a powerful prophet with a powerful message. They were all going out to him to be baptized and other Bible writers tell us that some even thought John might be the Christ! John made it clear! It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus! The message to hear. It’s all about Jesus,
The message to Share
Having someone tell you, “Hey!” your shoe is untied!” could save you from tripping over. After you avoid the dangerous situation doesn’t it seem logical that you would pass it on?—to warn the next person to be careful if their shoe is untied, too?
You are a believer in Jesus. So am I. This automatically makes us witnesses for Jesus—people who are passing on the message. Perhaps this is a good time, right before Christmas, to ask how you’ve been as a witness of Christ? What lessons can we learn from John? It was pretty simple, wasn’t it? He got their attention. Then he deflected the attention away from himself to the message about Jesus. It told them about Jesus who perfectly served his Father in heaven by what he ate (Diet), what he wore (clothes), what he did (actions), and where he lived (place). Jesus made it clear it wasn’t about his comforts, but it was all about the comfort we receive from knowing our sins are forgiven and we belong to God.
So, dear believer in Jesus, how will you get people’s attention? I don’t think what you eat, what you wear, where you live or even what you say is going to draw very much attention to yourself. I suppose you could be of those people in a conversation that no matter the other person says you chime in about some experience about you ate that made you sick, what you wore that was so out of place, what you did that so embarrassed you, or what you said that made you sound so silly. Then there are the folks who are constantly bragging about what they eat, wear, do and where they live. After while, who wants to listen to that?
So how will we get their attention? Are you going to hell, ‘Hey!” when their shoe is untied? Or honk your horn at them? Do you get it? Not by what we eat, wear, do or where we live! …. But to make it all about Jesus! So, let’s make this happen starting with a prayer: “Oh Lord Jesus, forgive my gluttony which has made it all about my satisfaction. Forgive my self-centeredness which has turned people off. Forgive my pettiness which has turned people away. Forgive my boasting, even the times I didn’t realize I was doing it. Forgive my inattention to others when they speak their concerns. And Lord, on the other side of the coin, forgive my timidity which caused blown opportunities to invite people to come and see. When I kept silent when I should have spoken up what your Word says. When I should have pointed people to you, because, Lord, you’re so good that you sent Jesus to live, die and rise for us all. Lord, forgive me that I all too often made it all about me, and not about you. Amen!”
That would be a good prayer to start, but there’s another one to follow! “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being so selfless that you gave your very life to pay for all my failures. Thank you for not condemning me for my self-centered ways that turned people off and for my timidity in witnessing about you. Lord Jesus, send me the power of your Spirit. Give me the courage to get attention in appropriate ways and then to share the message—It’s not about me. It’s all about you! Amen!