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Sermon - January 10, 2016

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1240

January 10, 2015                                                                                            Luke 3:1-22

Dr. Ed Pettus


“Jesus’ Baptism”


  1. The Message of John the Baptizer – Luke 3:3-14


We have made it through another Christmas and New Year – hopefully everyone is right on line keeping any resolutions!  In the Bible there is little revealed between Christ’s birth and his appearance at the Jordan River.  All we have is from Luke when Jesus was 12 years old and visited the temple and wowed the teachers of the law.  There is then about an 18 year gap between Jesus at the temple.  The next chapter of Luke, chapter 3, reveals John the Baptizer bringing a message of preparation for the coming of the Lord.  John the Baptizer comes on the scene to announce the coming Messiah.


Luke a stickler for time line – in the first two verses he lists all the rulers and regions.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 


You’ve got Caesar, Pilate, Herod, Philip, and more.  Place names and precision, and all that is to introduce John, son of Zechariah who lives in the wilderness.  What a strange beginning, at least in our understanding.  We see people who live in the wilderness as a little strange, yet sometimes, we might envy a life free of the modern world and the wilderness could possibly be attractive for us. 


And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”


Luke connects John with Isaiah’s prophecy from Isaiah 40:3-5, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  All flesh has seen, we have seen, John enables us to see the One who is mightier than John.


John’s message includes the message of repentance.  That is what comes in meeting the Messiah, for in His presence repentance is the appropriate response.   Within that repentance comes fruit…




Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. It is such a great phrase for us to remember, fruit of repentance, but what is it?  What is this fruit?  John answers that question in verses 10-14,


10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”


The answer to the question of fruit of repentance is simple really, do what is right.  Do what is right.  Let’s consider some modern day parallels – politicians, look out for what is best for the country, not your own interests.  Businesses – look out for the good of customers, not what can make you more money.  Employers – consider a fair wage for your employees.  Citizens – do your civic duty. 


John announces the Messiah, second, he bids be bear fruit of repentance, and third, he gives a message to the Jews to not rely on their ancestry for salvation,

And do not begin 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.”

Don’t count on simply being a Jew for your hope.  A true Jew will repent and accept that the Messiah has come.  Prophecy given through Isaiah has come to pass.  As the disciples, who were Jewish, would later proclaim, there is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12). 



2. Great Expectations – Luke 3:15


Look now at 3:15 – 15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 

Expectation and questioning in their hearts – what if we considered this the condition of all who do not believe.  People are indeed looking for something better than just what they perceive as status quo.  In Luke 3 they wonder if John is the Messiah.  They are Jews looking for the Messiah.  People today are looking for a Messiah – some looked for that in the President, others look to money or power or status or drugs or other gods, but there is no doubt they are looking even when they don’t know that they are looking.  We have the message they are looking for.  In a sense, we are like John the Baptizer announcing to those who are looking for more to life that there is more.  There is a Savior in Jesus Christ.  One who loves you and calls you and died that you might live. 



3. I’m Not the Messiah – Luke 3:16-17


Monty Python, perhaps best known for the comedy about the Holy Grail, also made a movie called The Life of Brian, and the main running joke in the movie was that a guy named Brian who was born in the stable next to Jesus, was confused for the Messiah his whole life.  Brian is constantly telling people he is not the Messiah.  John also runs into this issue with the people.  all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John says, no, it’s not me!  I’m not the Messiah.  To continue a movie motif, I’m reminded of Obi Wan Kanobi who uses the force and says, “These are not the droids you’re looking for…” and he is able to point the troopers in another direction.  John is pointing the people in another direction by saying, “I’m not the Messiah you are looking for…”  You guys who know Star Wars know the reference! 

John’s baptism does not have the spiritual power of the baptism to come.  There is one more powerful. 



4. John Lands in Jail – Luke 3:18-20


John’s message and John’s warnings to leaders gets him tossed in jail.  We may not see a threat like that in our lifetime, but some have seen fines and loss of businesses.  Some have fought in court (hobby lobby and chick-fil-a) to maintain religious freedom of expression.  The gospel always will hold a threat of imprisonment or oppression.  The good news for some is bad news for others and those who are threatened by the gospel message will do all in their power to suppress it.  We are seeing that more and more in our own nation as we see the shift from Christian influence to that of secular humanism and a misinterpretation of what we were founded on.  It is quite a huge shift to see that religious freedom and expression is under threat in the country where that freedom and expression is foundational to who we are from our beginnings.  




5. Jesus’ Baptism – Luke 3:21-22


Our scripture for today comes to the main event with the baptism of Jesus.  Luke says that all the people including Jesus were baptized.  While Jesus was praying, the heavens were opened.  The Spirit came down, a dove, bodily form, a bird in flight.  I think everyone saw it.  Luke gives us the interpretation that it was the Holy Spirit.  Yes, the exact phrase is “like a dove”, but I think the way it is phrased is that people saw it; they at least saw something.  Then there was the voice.  It is another quote out of Isaiah.  Then a voice – Isaiah 42:1, “my servant in whom my soul delights.”  The connection is made between the prophetic word of the Old Testament and the coming of the long awaited Messiah.  It is another clue for the Jews.  Anytime Luke or another gospel author quotes from the Old Testament, it is for the purpose of getting the Jews to pay attention.  The connection seems obvious to us.  The servant songs of Isaiah are fulfilled in the person of Christ.  Even today, many Jews are blind to the connection.  But there are also Jews who have been given the ability to see.  It is a message to us as well, that our call is to present the gospel to all people, Jews, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindus, and all who do not yet see.  Our good news is that the Jewish Messiah is also the Messiah of all who believe, Gentile, Jew, Muslim, etc.  We have the message of truth because we have the One who is the Truth and as the disciples proclaimed in Acts 4:12, there is only one name by which we can be saved.  Only Christ can save people from their own blindness.   

In the end, Jesus’ baptism points us to our own baptism.  When we remember that we are a baptized people, we are also called to remember what that means.  Baptism calls us to walk with the Lord, to live in faith, and to support the ministry of Christ.  It means that we have been washed clean by the blood of Christ and we have died with Christ to a new life in Christ.  We also make promises as a community to nurture one another in the faith. 

As God’s people, washed clean in Christ, we are the ones with the responsibility to share this story of Luke 3 with all the things we have seen this morning and more.  Let us remember to take the message of God to the people who cross our paths.  Let us endeavor to encourage one another because we share in this baptism story and in the sacrament of baptism, connected to the One who is our source of our life.  Give thanks for the message, for those who are expecting to hear it, for the fruits of repentance, and for Jesus Christ who has taken on himself the sins of the world.  May the Lord take delight in his people as we walk in Christ.  Amen.