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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Prophet Who Lost His Head Over Jesus - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - The Prophet Who Lost His Head Over Jesus - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - The Prophet Who Lost His Head Over Jesus - Part 1
TOPICS: Reigniting Your Passion For Christ

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. What personal qualities does God value most? What kind of people does he choose to honor? The answer is surprising, while the world applauds those who attained fame and fortune, God uses ordinary kind of variety people to do extraordinary things for him. And today we'll look at one of the most overlooked, yet significant individuals in the entire New Testament. My message is titled: "The Prophet Who Lost His Head Over Jesus" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Rick Warren's mega bestselling book, "The Purpose Driven Life" has become one of the best selling non-fiction books in all the publishing history. And when the book came out a few years ago, interestingly, in many secular bookstores, it was placed in the self-help category. And yet Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life" is really the anti self-help book, because of its focus. Do you remember how rick begins the book, the opening paragraph, "It's not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It's far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions.

If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose". It's not about us. No one understood that truth or illustrated that truth any better than the central character of our study today. He understood that his purpose in life was not to direct attention to himself, but to direct it toward Jesus Christ, and for all of his efforts, he ended up losing his life. I invite you to take your Bibles today and turn to Luke 3, as we talk about the prophet who lost his head over Jesus. Luke 3.

Now, Luke's account of the life of Christ, remember does not begin with the birth of Jesus Christ. Instead, Luke begins in Luke 1 with the coming of one who is prophesied in the Old Testament, who would precede the Lord Jesus Christ and announced his ministry, his name would be John. And in the final verse of Luke 1:80, we find these words about John. "And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel". Then when we come to Luke 2, we find the account of the birth of Jesus Christ. And Luke 2 ends with these words about Jesus. Luke 2:52. "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men".

Now, when we come to Luke 3, we're at the intersection of the lives of John and Jesus. We are now at the time when Jesus is ready to begin his public three-year ministry, that would end with his death and his resurrection. But before Jesus can begin his ministry, John has to announce him, and that is where we are in our study today, as we look at the greatest prophet in all of the world. Let's first of all look at the times of John the Baptist, the times in which he ministered. Look at verses 1 and 2. "Now in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was Tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was Tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was Tetrarch of Abilene, not Texas Israel. And in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias in the wilderness".

Do you know how hard I had to work this week to learn how to pronounce each of these names? That's just in the side there. Now, why all of this historical mumbo-jumbo, why don't we just get to destroy? Remember Luke was riding to Theophilus. He was riding in a candle, the life of Christ. He said, I want you to remember Theophilus, this is not just some fable that is rooted in fiction, it is rooted in historical fact. So here's the historical setting for the coming of John the Baptist, who would announced the coming of Christ. Let's look at this for just a moment. This was the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Remember Octavian had been the Roman emperor when Christ was born. He died in about 1480 AD, and that is when Tiberius succeeded him.

The scripture says, we are now in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius, so that's probably 28 or 29 AD, when this occurred. Not only that, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. When Jesus was born, Herod the great was king over all of Palestine, all of Israel, he had been appointed. Remember he was an Edomite, who'd been appointed by Antipater the Roman emperor. When Herod the great died, his kingdom of Israel was divided into four parts. A Tetrarchy is a fourth of the kingdom. So it was divided in four parts for reasons I won't go into right now, there's not time enough to. Pontius Pilate ended up one of the rulers over Judea. He was the governor of Judea. He was a puppet of Rome. He ran into political problems that we'll see when we get to the crucifixion.

One of the Tetrarchy however, who ruled over a fourth of Israel was one of Herod the great sons whose name was Herod. He was, according to verse 1, the Tetrarch, the ruler over Galilee. He was known as Herod Antipas. Jesus called him "That fox". Then he had a brother whose name was Philip, who was Tetrarch over the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis. We'll talk about Philip more in just a moment. We don't know much about this other Tetrarch named Licinius. This also occurred in verse 2, "In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas". Remember the Romans had their own rule all over Israel, but they allowed the Jews to settle their own matters pretty much. And so there was a priesthood in Israel, and at this time Annas and Caiaphas were serving in the high priesthood.

Now really, there was only one high priest, his name was Caiaphas. His father-in-law Annas had preceded him, but Annas didn't retire, instead he kind of still pulled the strings through his son-in-law Caiaphas. So Luke puts them together, Annas and Caiaphas, as the high priest. Now, not only did Luke give us this information for the historical background, but he gave us a description of the moral backdrop in which Jesus and John ministered. The one thing all of these men shared in common was they were intently corrupt. This was a time of intense moral corruption. And yet one thing you'll discover in history, it's against the darkest bleakest background, that the light of God's message shines the brightest.

You know, we see that in our own nation's history. In 1929, when the stock market crashed, it was against that dark background that you had 10.000 businessman on wall street gathering every day for Bible study and prayer. Or think about what happened on September the 11th, 2001, after the worst terrorist attack in American history. Remember how the churches were packed, at least for awhile, with people turning back to God. The Bible says during the time of the Great Tribulation, when antichrist is ruling in terror over the world, there will be a great revival. The fact is the message of God's hope shines the brightest when it seems the darkest, and that's what was going on here. Verse 2, "Against this dark moral corruption, the Word of God came to John in the wilderness".

For 400 years God had been silent since the closing verses of Malachi, or as some people say Malachi. Remember the closing words of Malachi, after that time, God didn't speak for 400 years, yet when God was ready to speak, where did the Word of God come? It didn't come to the emperor in Rome. It bypass the political leaders in Israel. It circumvented the priest and the temple in Jerusalem, instead, the Word of God came to a locust eating, camel hair clad, and probably scratchy prophet named John.

Now, I don't know how to describe John to you. He was just a weird dude, that's the only way you could talk about John. I know this is irreverent to say, but whenever I think about John, I think about Ernest T. Bass, he was the Ernest T. Bass of Israel, only those fans of the Andy Griffith Show will get that. But you know, Ernest T. Bass, you know, came out from the hills screeching and hollering, and he wasn't the most dignified person, but when he talked people listened.

Well, that was true of John, the Baptist. He lived in the wilderness, but the Word of God came to John. This word is the Greek word rhema. It means not a general message, there was a specific message that came from God, and it didn't just come to him. The Greek word here, epi, the preposition means it pressed down upon John. John was overwhelmed with this message that came from God, and what was the message? He was to deliver the message, "Get ready the Messiah is coming". And that leads to John's purpose. His unique calling was to prepare the world for the coming and ministry of Jesus Christ. How did he do it? Look at verse 3, "And John came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins".

Now, some people get all excited when they read that, there it is, baptism for the forgiveness of sins. You have to be baptized in order to be forgiven of your sins. No, first of all, that preposition for can mean, because of a baptism of repentance, because of the forgiveness of sins. But the key word here is not baptism, it is repentance. That was John's message. In fact, when you turn over to the parallel passage in Matthew 3:2, Matthew said John's message was repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. His message was not, "Get baptized for the Kingdom of God is at hand". Repentance was the message, metanoia, a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. What I want you to see here is John's message was anticipatory of the coming of Christ. Christ had not yet died and risen again.

So John was pointing to the coming of Christ. He was telling the Israelites, "Get ready, get your hearts ready to accept the Lamb of God who removes the sins of the world". You can't be ready to accept the Savior until you know you need a Savior. And so he was helping them prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah, it was anticipatory. Now, the way they showed their acceptance of that message was by water baptism. He was preaching a baptism whose theme was repentance. The way you showed in John's day, that you totally identified with a message was through the ritual of baptism.

Now this may surprise you to know that baptism did not start out as a Christian ritual. Some people point back to Judaism, and it's true, the Jews baptized. If you were a gentile and you wanted to convert to Judaism, you would be baptized, you would be put into water. You weren't sprinkled. You were put into a pool of water showing that you were totally immersed in the message that you were identifying with. Actually, there's a good case to be made that baptism even preceded Judaism, and was founded in heathen religions. People get all shaken up about that. You know, "Oh, I can't believe that". Well, think about it. Christmas was originally a pagan holiday. Easter was originally a pagan holiday. Christians have a way of redeeming that, which is pagan turning it into Christian.

Well, that's what we did with baptism as well. The reason you were immersed was to show that you are totally agreeing with our identifying the message. What John was preaching was, "Get ready". And people were being baptized as a sign that they were identifying with John's message. Now John's baptism was for a different purpose than Christians are baptized today. There is a difference between John's baptism that look forward to the coming of Christ and Christian baptism, that looks back at what Christ did for us. Just as Jesus suffered the wrath of God that he didn't deserve, we experienced the wrath of God that we do deserve. All of it is taken care of when we trust in Jesus, we identify with him. He suffered the wrath of God, so we don't have to. He was buried, we are buried. He was raised again, and as the scripture says in Romans 6:4, "We are raised with him to a whole new way of living".

That's Romans 6:4. That's what Christian baptism is. It is a way of identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. So there's a difference between John's baptism and Christian baptism. A great illustration of that is seen in acts 19. I want you to hold your place here and turn over to acts 19, this was so interesting to me. Paul was on his missionary journey. Acts 19:1 says, "And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and he found some disciples". He found some people that look like they're religious. "And so he said to them".

Now let me stop here. Today if we want to know whether somebody is a Christian or not, if we've been through any kind of evangelism, explosion training, or some kind of evangelistic training, we know there's a question you ought to ask people to determine whether they're saved or not. I don't know of a better question than this one. You ask somebody, "If you were to stand before God, and he were to ask you, 'why should I let you into heaven'? What would you say"? If you want to know whether somebody is a Christian or not just ask them that question, you know how most people will answer that question? "Oh, I don't know. I'm a pretty good person". Or, "I joined the church", or "I was baptized", or, "You know, aunt Ethel taught beginners for 50 years in my church. You know, and surely that's enough to get into heaven". No, there's only one right answer to that question. "Because I have trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins". That is the only reason God will allow anyone into heaven.

We've all learned that question. Well, Paul had his own diagnostic question to determine whether somebody was saved or not. He came upon these religious people, he asked them the question, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed"? Now you see after acts 2, that was the norm. For acts 2 on, everybody who trusted in Jesus immediately was baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For with one spirit we were all baptized into one body". When you become a Christian, you are immersed, you're baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. It's not something you pray for as an add on to your Christian faith later on. No, God's plan is for you the moment you are saved to be baptized with the Holy Spirit of God. So he asked them the question, "Now you say you're a religious person, did you receive the Holy Spirit"? And they answered and said, "We don't even know whether there is a Holy Spirit".

Paul thought to himself, "Oh, we've got a problem here". And so he asked them a further up question, verse 3, "Well into what then were you baptized? And they said, 'into John's baptism'". Paul thought to himself, "Oh, that's the problem". They've heard the repentance part, they haven't heard about Jesus. And so what happens? Verse 4. "And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in him, who was coming after him, that is in Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus". Paul preached the Gospel to them. And when they heard the Gospel, they believed and they were baptized. That is always the pattern.

There is a difference between John's baptism and Christian baptism. John's message was actually a fulfillment of what Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 40. Turn back to Luke 3:4, where Luke quotes that verse. He says, "As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah, the prophet, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'". John's basic message was roll out the red carpet, the King of kings is on the scene. Now let's admit you and I have not been called to live in the wilderness and subsist on a diet of locusts and honey, and yet we have been called just like John was to point people to Jesus Christ. What is our message? How do we share that message?

As we look at John's message to the people, I want you to notice the three components of John's message that should be a component and parts of the message that we share with people about the Christ who has already come. First of all, John's message was marked by confrontation. Confrontation, look at verse 7, "John therefore began saying to the multitudes who were going out to be baptized by him, 'you brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come'". That seems a little harsh, doesn't it? I mean, can you imagine my meeting with those who were baptized a few minutes ago earlier in the day, getting them all together and saying, "You snakes, why do you want to get baptized? What's wrong with you". Man, they would have scampered out of here quickly, wouldn't they? I mean, why was John so hard on them? They were simply being baptized.

Well, again, you have to turn to the parallel passage in Matthew 3:7 to know what is going on here. Matthew says, "But when John saw many of the pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, 'you brood of vipers who warned you to flee from the wrath to come'". You see these religious leaders were hypocrites, and they were paranoid hypocrites. They saw this great following John was getting, how many of the people were following his message of repentance? They said, "We want people to think that we're religious too, so we'll be baptized". John saw through their motivation, he knew what they were up to, they wanted to appear to be religious by going through the external ride of baptism when in fact they had not changed at all in their attitudes, in their heart, so he called them out on that.
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