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Skip Heitzig - Luke 3

Skip Heitzig - Luke 3
Skip Heitzig - Luke 3
TOPICS: The Bible from 30.000 Feet, Bible Study, Gospel of Luke, John the Baptist

Father we are about your business. And as we sit here tonight in this large living room that we call our fellowship, it is your church, it is our fellowship, we want to begin knowing, Lord, that we have a very unique setup with you, a deal going on, a covenant that you have established with us based upon what Jesus did for us, a covenant of grace, unmerited favor. You look upon us, you feel about us, and you treat us as if we were Jesus Christ himself, because the righteousness of Jesus has been given, imputed to us. That is so hard for us to get our heads around or to believe, but it's what your Scripture declares.

So that's why we do indeed relax in your presence and breathe in this sweet, refreshing air of worship. Because we don't stand before you condemned; we are before you, Lord, free, chosen by you, and here, Lord, just to enjoy your presence and enjoy your truths. And I pray for anyone who is suffering from the guilt of imperfection or a bad week. I pray that they would move toward you and be soothed by your love and grace. And where it is needed that there would be repentance. Meet us here, Lord, over the pages of your inspired Word, we ask in Jesus name, amen.

I'm going to say a name and you're going to finish it for me. Ready? Alexander the... Great. Herod the... Great, and Napoleon was sometimes called Napoleon the... Great. One hundred forty-two names I found were given the title "the Great," "the Great." But some of them were not so great. Alexander did some greats things, but as I look at his life historically, morally, personally, he was Alexander the Not So Great. And Herod was definitely the not-so-great Herod. But these people are given throughout history the title of the "Great One" or the "Illustrious One." Greatness is not always, in fact, it is not usually what people imagine it to be. To be unique, to be singular, to be a cut above the rest, that's the idea, that's the definition of "greatness."

I read something that fascinated me that 92 percent of all baseball players that join the major leagues that have a contract to play with a major league team, 92 percent will never play in a single major league baseball game. Only 8 percent of contract holders will actually play. So you might say only 8 percent of all of them are truly great. When it comes to John the Baptist, Jesus Christ said he was a great man. He said, "Of all of those born of women, none is greater than John the Baptist." What made him great? Well, it wasn't because he lived a long life. He died at a relatively young age, being imprisoned and being executed. It wasn't that he had a long ministry. It was a very short one. But he was great because his life counted. What he did with what God gave him, he made it count for the glory of the Lord.

And in heaven's estimation that is a life well lived; that's a great life. We have him highlighted before us in Luke, chapter 3. A couple things to remember about John the Baptizer: he was born in Judah, the hill country of Judah, the southern part of the land. We believe that his second cousin was Jesus Christ. We know they were cousins. He was his second cousin. So they knew each other growing up. They would have seen each other from time to time. When the family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, would have come from Nazareth and gone down to the temple to worship at the three annual feasts, they would have no doubt run into John. And so they had the memories of childhood and upbringing that lived with him his whole life. We know that John would have been a priest. He was from the priestly family.

His dad, Zacharias, served as a priest in the temple when the angel Gabriel spoke to him that his wife Elizabeth, though old, was going to have a child. So if his dad was a priest that would have meant that John naturally would be in the priestly line. He was of the same family, and it was just passed on from father to son, same tribe, same family. He was what the Hebrews called kohanim, priests. Now priests were trained beginning at age twenty, but they went into ministry at age thirty. Jesus and John were just a few months apart. So John being a son of a priest, you might call him a PK, right? a priest's kid, was one who went rogue. He didn't follow the protocol. He didn't get trained in the temple. He went down to the desert. He was out in the wilderness as we find him introduced in chapter 3.

And it was all because that's what the Lord wanted him to do for a very special purpose. He was the forerunner of the Messiah in a very unusual manner, being in the middle of nowhere. I often marvel at God's ways, and I'll discuss it in a minute as you see this unfold. But I just marvel at how God calls people, and what he sets them up to do, and where he sends them. It is counterintuitive. And I always smile when I get to John the Baptist, not only because he's just an unusual cat, which he was, stuff he ate, what he looked like. It's as if he steps out of the pages of the Old Testament and steps into the New Testament. In fact, he was the last Old Testament prophet. You'll read it yourself when we get to chapter 16 of Luke. Jesus will say, "For all of the prophets prophesied until John."

John is the last of the Old Testament prophets. There was the old covenant, 400 silent years, and then the very last prophet introducing the New Testament was John. The Old Testament prophet, very Old Testament-like, very Elijah-like, very reminiscent of the fire-and-brimstone prophets of the ancient world, steps on to the pages of the New Testament. The way Luke writes about John the Baptist is somewhat important for you to understand, because when you read the first couple of verses, there are six names. And so he sets the historical background of John the Baptist. And here's why he does this: the coming, or the introduction, the announcement of John the Baptist was in Luke's mind, this physician, this doctor, was in his mind such a hinge of history.

It was so monumental that he wanted to make sure that the readers understood the dates of when it all happened. He sets the scene internationally, he sets the scene nationally, and he sets the scene spiritually. So he dates it. There are six names. There are three dates or three sections of dating it; internationally, this is what's going on in Rome; nationally, here's what's going on in Israel when it happened; spiritually, here's what's going on in the temple. So we get to verse 1, "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness."

Now John the Baptist the cousin of Jesus comes on the scene. His job is to set the stage, to pave the road, you might say. He's the road worker for the Messiah, pointing the way to the One who was coming. And he's going to do so by what he does and by what he says. What he does is he baptizes people. What he says is pretty scathing, pretty scathing remarks. Now the baptism that John is performing at the beginning of his ministry was a baptism of preparation, a baptism of preparation. It is not a baptism of transformation. It is not the same baptism of that of Jesus; it is different. I'll explain to you how baptism started and what it means. But here we have John baptizing people, pointing forward to someone else who is going to baptize them in the Holy Spirit. So John's baptism is preparatory; it is not transformative.

Now, when you get to the book of Acts, chapter 19, and Paul the apostle goes to the town of Ephesus and he asks the converts, which seemed to him to be genuine converts, he said, "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" And they said, "Well, we haven't even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." And so Paul said, "Well, into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." Immediately Paul said, "Well, truly John's baptism was a baptism unto repentance, but he spoke of One who was to come; and that is, Jesus Christ." And he rebaptized them in the name of Jesus, because one was preparation, the other was transformation. The transformation of Jesus Christ is the baptism of the Spirit, whereby the Spirit of God enters a life and totally regenerates that life. So that's John's baptism; it is different.

So the first two verses, it says as it opens, it's "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar." This is 28 to 29 AD, because that is the fifteenth year of Tiberias Caesar. Tiberias Caesar was the second Roman emperor. The very first Roman emperor was Caesar Augustus. You remember Caesar Augustus. When Jesus was born, Caesar Augustus was in power in Rome. But when Jesus begins his ministry, Caesar Augustus is gone; Tiberias Caesar is now on the throne in Rome. Then it mentions Pontius Pilate. We know about him, we've read him before, and we've seen him in the other Gospels. But just a reminder, Pontius Pilate is the Roman representative as the governor of Judea. He is not of Roman origin. He's Spanish. He's from Seville, Spain. When he was young, he joined the Roman legions.

And he was always looking for a break to be stationed and have some sort of significant role. Well, he found his lucky break, you might say, when he married the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus, Claudia Procula. And so because they were related, he got stationed as the governor. And he was a very poor governor, by the way, of Judea. That's what Rome considered him. Going on in that same verse it mentions Herod or Philip: "Herod being the tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip the tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis." Let me just explain briefly about the Herods. I'm not going to unravel it. It is the most complicated family in Scripture. Herod the Great is dead. This is not the Herod the Great, he's dead, died in 4 BC.

After Herod the Great died, he divided his kingdom up, or it was divided into regions by his three sons. Now, this is where it gets a little complex, excuse me. A "tetrarch" means the ruler of a fourth of something, the fourth of something. So it usually refers to a kingdom divided into four. A tetrarch is a fourth of that, a governor of a fourth of a region. However, the name tetrarch came to mean just the governor of anything, whether it's a third of something or a fourth of something or a part of something. So Herod had three sons, they're called tetrarchs, but they're ruling a third of the empire of Herod the Great. You follow? So you have Herod Antipas, Herod Antipas ruled where Jesus grew up and lived, the Galilee region up north.

Herod Philip his half brother, it mentions Iturea and Trachonitis, he was up between Galilee and the northwestern coast of Israel up by Caesarea Philippi, which is something he named after Caesar Augustus. The third son was a guy by the name of Caesar Archelaus who reigned over Judah, Samaria, and Edom, east of the Dead Sea. This fourth guy that is listed here, Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Abilene is not Abilene, Texas. It is northwest of present-day Damascus, and history knows absolutely nothing about him. Josephus mentions him, but that's about all that mentions him. It's just giving you this for reference. Then in verse 2, "Annas and Caiaphas were high priests", now stop right there. The high priest sets for us the setting of the spiritual goings-on, what's happening at the temple, the politics of the temple.

Annas was the high priest before Caiaphas. There were not two high priests; there was one at a time. Annas was still alive when his son-in-law Caiaphas became the high priest. So, Annas was the retired high priest; the acting high priest was Caiaphas the son-in-law of Annas. The reason Annas is mentioned is because though Caiaphas is the acting high priest, the power behind the throne, if you will, was still father-in-law. Everybody respected Annas, everybody wanted what he thought, and wondered what he thought, and went to him for important decisions. So when Jesus was arrested, he will be brought before first Annas, then Caiaphas, then the Jewish Sanhedrin, then Pontius Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate. He'll go through six trials. The very first one will be through or before Annas who is retired.

But they want to know what he's going to say about Jesus, because he was so influential that they really cared more about what Annas thought than about what Caiaphas thought. So those are some of the spiritual-political wranglings that were happening in the temple at the time. During that time we are told: "The word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." Now I have been to this wilderness. This wilderness of Judea makes Rio Rancho look like a lush garden. It is toward the northern end of the Dead Sea. There are spots where nothing at all, not even a weed, can grow. It is barren. It's 120, 130 degrees. It's the lowest spot on the earth, the Dead Sea. And John's out in the desert. He's not in Jerusalem.

It's amazing to me this whole principle that God commissions a person to start a ministry in the middle of nowhere. He doesn't go to Jerusalem to where people need to hear it. There's a bigger population base in Jerusalem. He goes in the middle of nowhere and makes the people come to him. It's unusual. Now having said it's unusual, I quickly want to say there were people who lived in the deserts like the Essenes who had messianic expectations, and some people think that John sort of hung around with them. We're not sure about that. At any rate, he's in the desert. And it's interesting, like John, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Rome; lived in Nazareth, not Jerusalem. And John is out in the wilderness. Every PR firm on planet earth would say, "John, that's the wrong way to start a ministry.

"You need to be conveniently located at a place where people can get to you. You need to give yourself the kind of exposure that would attract people. You need, John, to make a demographic study and then base your ministry upon that demographic study." There's none of that here, and that seems interesting to me, because it's just the way of God. It's the Nazareth principle: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Can anything good come out of the middle of nowhere, wilderness, down by the Dead Sea? Well, the greatest man who ever lived can. Isn't interesting how God places his people at different spots for different reasons, and it is so counterintuitive to human nature. "God has chosen the foolish things of this world," First Corinthians 1, "to confound the wise."

And so we see it here: "In the wilderness. And he went," verse 3, "into all a region around the Jordan," that is, the Jordan River. It's a river that stretches from north to south 156 miles. At one point it bisected the land. Nowadays it's the eastern border of the country of Israel, Jordan being on the east side. "He went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the words of Isaiah the prophet." The Jordan, why the Jordan River? Why that section just north of the Dead Sea where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea is where John the Baptist was baptizing? A couple years back we took our tour group there, very hot, very hot, very murky, dirty, slimy water.

Why there? In part, it was there because that is the spot that the children of Israel crossed over into the land under Joshua. They went through that section of the Jordan River when it opened up and they crossed over on dry land. You remember the story from the book of Joshua. So, in effect, nationally Israel had been baptized in that Jordan River years before. John takes this place as the place where he inaugurates his ministry. Notice it's "a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Contrary to what some of you may think, baptism is not a Christian ordnance in its origin. It's Jewish. The Jews started it first. If you wanted to become a Jew, what they called a "proselyte", let's say you're a Gentile and you want to become a Jew.

You had to go through three things: number one, instruction by a scribe; number two, male circumcision, of course, if you're a male; and number three, immersion, baptism in water. It speaks of cleansing. Also, if you were Jewish, you would baptize yourself. You wouldn't be baptized by anybody, you would baptize yourself whenever you wanted to go up to the temple and worship. There were pools of water. That pool was called a mikveh. It was just a hole dug out of the rock with water placed within it, slightly running, slightly moving. And you would immerse yourself in the mikveh, come out the other side, and be able to go up into the temple to worship. Or if you were defiled by touching a dead body, you'd have to go be baptized and come out. Or if you touched something else that would defile you, same thing.

If you had a bloody flux, if you remember your Old Testament, a bloody flow that contaminated you, you would also have to be introduced into that water, come out, and be ritually cleansed. So, baptism was done one of two ways: somebody did it to you, if you were a Gentile becoming a Jew; or you did it to yourself, if you wanted to get ritually purified to go worship. What's interesting here is that John is doing it to Jews and Gentiles, which was foreign. It was shocking. The Jewish mind would have been shocked to see John saying what he said to Jews and Gentiles together. Some of them were Roman soldiers, some of them were tax collectors, some of them were just Jewish people. He's demanding repentance for one and all.

And he's saying even if you are Jewish, you have to be baptized into a baptism of repentance. Verse 4, I'll explain a little bit more about that as we go. "As it is written," verse 4, "in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying", this is from Isaiah, chapter 40, "'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."'" Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all include the quotation from Isaiah, chapter 40, when speaking about John the Baptist. Even John himself quotes this. They ask him, "Are you the Messiah?" He said, "No." "Are you Elijah?" "No." "Are you that Prophet?" "No." "Well, who are you?"

"I am", and he quotes this, "'the voice of one crying in the wilderness: "[Prepare or] make straight the ways of the Lord."'" "I'm just the voice. I'm just the messenger. I'm really not even the message." Jesus is the Word. That's how John introduces him: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh." Jesus is the Word. John is the voice that carries the word. "Jesus, he's the message. Me, I'm just the messenger. I'm the guy who builds the roads and heralds the coming of the One who's more important than I am." Now when he talks in the language that he talks about, quoting from Isaiah the prophet, how you'll make his paths straight, and you'll bring down the mountains, and you'll bring up the valleys.

There was a practice thousands of years ago by eastern kings when they wanted to tour the regions of their dominion that they would send out couriers who would announce the coming of the king and tell the people of that region, "You better fix your roads, the king the coming." So the King is Jesus, the courier is John, saying, "Get ready, the King is coming. Get the roads straight. Get the road fixed." But in his case he's applying it spiritually, not a road for your feet, but the roadway of your heart. So he talks about repentance. "Then he said to the multitudes that came to be baptized by him," listen to his sermon,"' Brood of vipers!'" You know what a brood is, means the whole bunch. You know what a viper is, it's a snake. "You bunch of slimy snakes!" How's that for a sermon opener?

Which begs the question: What attracted people to go hear John? Why on earth would anybody make a twenty-five-, thirty-mile trip from Jerusalem, where it's cool in its climate, to go down, down, down to the middle of nowhere to hear this guy address them like that? He didn't open his sermon with a clever joke or a story or a statistic to grab people's attention. He goes, "You bunch of snakes!" I just want you to muse on that for a moment and think аbout: Why were people attracted to John? It was not his feel-good sermons. It was not the music before the message; he had none. In fact, John wasn't even proclaiming a gospel. All of his words are condemnatory, they're scathing. Well, I'll tell you one of the reasons I believe: it's because John was a man of conviction.

I don't think John cared about what his ratings were. I don't think he had people say, "Well, what are the results today? How was the tithe out in the wilderness?" "What are we getting on social media after what I just said?" He doesn't care. He so has such a conviction that "I am saying something that God has sent me to say, based on what Isaiah the prophet said." And there's something to be said for a person who has deeply held conviction, man or woman. When somebody lives their life pointing toward the north star of Christ and doesn't really care if people like that or not, there's something attractive about that kind of deep conviction. There's a great story about David Hume. If you have a background at all in philosophy or history, you know the name.

He was an eighteenth-century skeptic, a deist; certainly not a Christian. But David Hume was somebody who wrote against Christianity as we know it. David Hume would sometimes travel twenty miles, those days by horseback, to hear George Whitefield preach. And somebody spotted him in London early in the morning, early, early, and he was rounding a corner. He goes, "Aren't you David Hume?" He goes, "Well, yes, I am." "Well, where are you going?" He goes, "I'm going to go hear George Whitefield preach." And he said, "Geo, why? You don't believe what Whitefield preaches." He goes, "You're right, but he does. He does. He believes what he preaches. I want to hear what he has to say. There's conviction in what he has to say." Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "Set a man on fire and people will come to watch him burn."

Here's John set on fire in the wilderness. People will make the trip from Jerusalem. "Let's just go see this guy." So his opening line is not, "Ladies and gentlemen, you look marvelous today." It's, "You bunch of slimy snakes!" That's just his first line. Wait till you hear the rest of the sermon. "'Who warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come?'" Boy, God is coming down hard in judgment."'Therefore'" , it's a short sermon. He's already at the "therefore." "'Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." For I will say to you, for I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.'" Wow! Okay, here's a man who is set on fire by the Holy Spirit stripping away the religious veneer that people have had and people still have to this day.

I had it. I believed because I was raised in the religious home I was raised in, that I was fine. I went through the rituals. I went to confession. "I'm fine." And it took somebody to strip away that veneer and go, "You are anything but fine. You are facing the wrath and the judgment of God." I know, you're going, "Really? This is the beginning of the gospel, the good news?" Well, it's bad news right now. It will get "good news." You have to know the bad news to appreciate the good news. "The bad news: you're a bunch of slimy snakes and you got wrath coming. The good news is I'm going to point to Jesus who's going to come and take all that for you." But he's not there yet. He's getting their attention and he tells them to repent. "'Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and don't begin to say within yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father."'"

There was a belief common among Jewish people, as there are today among religious people, that "Because I am Jewish, because I am religious, I have this covenant with God. I am secure because of my pedigree, my background, my genealogy." Like some people say, "Well, I was raised in a Christian home. My mom, she's a strong believer. I think that's good enough for both of us. I think she'll cover me." Sorry, insurance is only one per person. If you're not covered, you're not covered. He mentions "stones," and I may not be accurate on this, but my mind goes back, and, perhaps, this was in his thinking: there's a promise in Ezekiel where the Lord said, "I will take your heart of stone and replace it with a [real heart, a living heart] a heart of flesh." It talks about transformation.

Maybe that's what he's thinking of. Or, perhaps, he's thinking of Gentiles as stones, regarded by Jewish people the Gentiles were as people of no consequence, stones. He can take stones, he can take outsiders and make them insiders. "'And even now'" , okay, the sermon gets worse, "'the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.'" The word "repent," metanoia, means to turn around or to change your mind. When you change your mind, when you change your thinking, you turn around in your thinking, what follows your mind should be your actions, repentance, a change. When my wife, Lenya, was first introduced to Christianity, she grew up as an atheist.

Her father tucked her in bed at night and told her stories, not about how God loves her and will keep you and guide you, but the stories he told her were stories of how God doesn't exist. "There is no God, and you have to do life on your own." That's what she grew up with. So, when her father became a Christian, it, like, shook her. It's like, "Wha-wha-what?" And now so she's dealing with, "Well, what do I believe in and how do I orient myself?" So she made this movement toward God, and let me just call it that, a movement toward God. She goes, "Okay, well, I'm going to believe in him. I'm going to believe in him." But something was not right in her. She would go to church a couple times and it feels like something just isn't right. "As I'm hearing what the preacher's saying and in my life something's not right."

So she went forward one Sunday and asked one of the pastors. She told him the story: "Look, I've kind of, like, said I believe in God and I read the Four Spiritual Laws where it says put Jesus, you know, here. And then it shows the picture of these things in life just sort of falling into place. So I brought Jesus into my life, and I just want life to get really good." The pastor who talked to her was a friend of mine named Malcolm. He lives in Florida, Malcolm Wild. And he was from England and he said, "Well, have you repented of your sins?" And she said, "Have I re, what?" "Have you repented of your sins?" She'd never heard the word before. She's thinking, "Have I repented? What does that mean? I haven't even pented, how could I repent? I don't even know what that means." So he explained repentance to her.

And she said, "I have not done that." He said, "That's what you need." It's two sides of the same coin. Repentance is often spoken about with belief. "Repent" means to turn from; "belief" means you turn toward something. So you leave one thing and turn toward another. You leave the old life, you say no to sin, "I'm leaving that behind and I'm turning and believing in you." Same coin, two different sides, both a motion, a movement, a change. And so that was the day that she said, "Everything changed for me, because I changed my mind. I changed my direction in repentance." So the ax is laid to the root of the trees. The tree is about to get chopped down. If the tree doesn't bear fruit, in those days they didn't just put up trees for looks. It's like, "Let's just landscape out here." No. If it's not going to bear fruit, it's firewood.

So, if you're not bearing fruit as a people, the ax is coming; that's the message here. "So the people asked him, saying, 'What shall we do then?'" It's a good question to ask: "Okay, so what do we do then?" Now the question, "What shall we do then?" means, as you will see by the answer, "Give us practical suggestions that will demonstrate the reality of our change. Tell us what we ought to do, that will practically show that there is indeed repentance as you say, John, real change." So, "He answers it, he said, 'He who has two tunics, let him give to one who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.'" So, you will show or demonstrate change by sharing. That's one of the ways that you demonstrate change. You share with people who don't have what you have.

Verse 12, "Then the tax collectors also came to be baptized." Isn't that something? Everyone hated the tax collectors. Not much has changed. Back then, however, they were so despised they were not even allowed into public worship in the synagogues because they had so cooperated with Rome and they were all dishonest. That's how people saw them. Did you know that if you were a tax collector, let's say you were a tax collector, you were allowed to collect as much as you could collect? Using whatever means you need to use, you can collect it. Rome required a certain amount, a certain percentage, whatever you could get on top of that was your profit. You could pocket it. So they were seen as dishonest, gouging the people. So he tells them, verse 13, "'collect no more than what is appointed for you.'"

So he says, "You'll show your change by sparing the people." First group by sharing, the second group by sparing. "Don't gouge the people." "Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, 'What shall we do?' And so he said to them, 'Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.'" That's good advice for us today. Don't spread rumors about people. Don't be vindictive. Be a contented person with whatever you're making. "You will show by caring as soldiers." "Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to them, 'I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.'"

Now in each of the answers that John the Baptist gives to these groups of people, there's a principle behind it that I just want you to see. John is basically saying, "You can show that you're a changed person whether you're in this profession or in that profession. If you're a soldier, be like this. If you find yourself as a tax collector, be a tax collector, but do it this way." He doesn't day, "If you're a tax collector, you better quit, because you can never work for the government." He doesn't say, "If you're a soldier, you have to leave the army because you have to be a total pacifist." He says, "Just be a good soldier, be a great soldier. Be a good tax collector." So, can I just say, whatever profession or position you're in now, be good at it, be a good one. If you're a housewife, be a good housewife. If you're a doctor, be a great doctor.

You can show the change in your life right where you are at. You can bloom right where you are planted. He gives them that practical piece of advice. People are wondering, however, "Who is this guy? Could this be the Messiah?" Well, he says no, in effect. "I'm baptizing you with water. I'm putting you under the Jordan waters, the river. But One mightier than I is coming." So, yes, his message is repentance, but really his message is Jesus. "I'm telling you that there's a baptism of repentance, and I am preparing you morally and I'm preparing you spiritually for someone else who is coming. In fact, he is so great I'm not even worthy to play the role of a slave." The common slave in a house or a tent would remove one's sandals, hold them for the guest or for the host, wash the feet, give them back when needed.

"I'm not even good enough or worthy enough to be a house slave for the One who is coming, the mighty One. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." There are three baptisms that are mentioned here: baptism with water, once symbolized repentance. Second, the baptism of Holy Spirit; that's the transformation; that's the change. When you come to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes within you, and immerses you, baptizes you in the body of believers, the church. And the Holy Spirit then also will come upon the believer for works of service for empowerment, as we see in the first part of the book of Acts. The third baptism is the baptism by fire. Now some people will read something into that. They go, "Oh, the baptism by fire, that's the baptism in the Holy Ghost where you speak in tongues."

Now, I do believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but I don't believe fire here is a representation of that. The reason people will say that it is, is because in the book of Acts, in Acts, chapter 2, it says, these "cloven tongues like as of fire" were upon the people who were in the upper room. Remember that? So they go, "That's the baptism of fire." No. Read carefully what it says in Acts. It doesn't say fire was on them, but "tongues like as of fire." The baptism by fire, I believe, will happen at the second coming of Jesus Christ when unbelievers will come under what John predicts "the wrath of God." This baptism by fire is the baptism all unbelievers will go through. This is not believers' baptism, this is unbelievers' baptism, and those who reject Christ will go through this baptism.

If you're not baptized by the Holy Spirit, because you trust in Jesus Christ, and by water, because you identify with Jesus Christ, you will be baptized with fire, the fire of judgment that will come upon the earth. Well, now John continues and his sermon, just keeps ramping it up. "'His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean his threshing floor, and gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.'" Again, it's an analogy of judgment. Wheat farmers in the afternoons in that part of the world would separate the chaff from the wheat by taking a three-foot long, three-pronged wooden fork called a "winnowing fork," and take the grain and throw it up in the air in the afternoon, because the winds from the Mediterranean, just like in California, the sea breezes blow in.

And it's strong enough, it's prevailing enough, it's constant enough that you can throw it up and the light stuff, the husk, the chaff will blow away, and the heavier substance, the wheat, will fall to the ground. It's a separation. What you do is you collect the chaff and you burn it, it's good for nothing, and the wheat is kept. So it's an agricultural metaphor to speak of what he has been speaking аbout: judgment, fire, the baptism by fire. And he goes in verse 18, "With many other exhortations he preached to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison."

The whole story is not told here, so I'm not going to go into it much, except to give you a little historical background, because Luke does introduce the fact that Herod marries his brother Philip's wife; actually his half brother Philip, his wife Herodias. This is how it happened: they were all in the city of Rome, Herod Antipas really liked what he saw. He saw his brother, his half brother Philip's wife, Herodias. Okay, she's a looker. She's gorgeous. "I want her as my wife." So he seduced her away from Philip to become his wife. Now, to do this he had to divorce his first wife. The problem was his first wife was the daughter of a guy named Aretas the king of Syria, who when Herod Antipas divorced her was so ticked off that he destroyed almost all of Herod's army, and would have completely destroyed them had not Rome itself intervened.

So that's the intrigue behind this. Herodias, by the way, this chick, this wife of Philip and then Herod Antipas is one of the most wicked women who ever lived, as I see it, second only to Jezebel. She hated John the Baptist and it was her influence that got John the Baptist's head cut off. She prompted her sixteen-year-old daughter to dance a seductive, sensual dance before Herod in what is called the "Dance of the Veils" to get him all riled up sexually. And then he said, "You know what? I'll give you anything you want, up to half my kingdom." "Okay, I want the head of John the Baptist." Why would she say that? She didn't care, mom wanted that, a wicked woman. Enough about it. John was put up in prison until he was eventually decapitated.

"When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while he prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven which said, 'You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.'" Why was Jesus baptized if he's indeed the Son of God, if he's indeed Deity in human flesh? If he is the Savior, the Messiah, why does he need to be baptized? I'll give you three reasons that he did, I believe. Number one, to identify with us. Here is Jesus the sinless One identifying with you and I, sinners. Isn't that wonderful that he identifies with us? Hebrews, chapter 4, the writer says, "We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted like as we, yet without sin."

He fully identified with those of us who need to express repentance by baptism, to identify with us. So number one, to identify. Number two, to verify, especially for John the Baptist. If you remember anything about John the Baptist, he was, he said what he said, but he comes to a crisis in his faith wondering is Jesus really the One or not. "Are you the One that is to come, or shall we look for another?" That's what he asked. So there's times in his walk where he's a little sketchy about who Jesus is. So, for John's benefit, to verify that this was the Messiah, this was done. Isaiah, chapter 11, predicts this that "A Rod will come out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch will come out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him." And here we see the fulfillment of the Spirit of God resting upon Jesus.

So, to verify for the people, and especially John. So, to identify, to verify; and the third reason, I believe, is to prophesy, to prefigure the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, because baptism was done by immersion. Somebody was brought under the water and brought out of the water. And Paul will say that speaks of death, burial, and resurrection in the book of Romans. So, to identify, to verify, and then to prophesy his death and his resurrection. Notice the Trinity is represented here, all three members: God the Father who speaks about the Son who is being baptized and the Holy Spirit emblematically coming into the scene; the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the triune God, three persons in one God represented here. And just as the three members of the Trinity are active in this baptism, they are active in our salvation.

God the Father sent Jesus the Son. Jesus the Son sent the Holy Spirit. "And when he has come," Jesus said, "He will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me..." You know the rest of it, if not, you should. And so the Father sent the Son; the Son sent the Spirit. All three are active in our salvation, just as all three were active here. So the heavens were opened, and you know what happens when the heavens are open? Hell gets opened. Every action brings an equal and opposite, what?, reaction. It's true in the spiritual realm as well. Heaven is opened. God the Father speaks. The Holy Spirit comes. And in chapter 4 you'll see hell opened. Satan will tempt Jesus in the wilderness immediately after this event.

But now we have in the rest of the chapter a hard name after hard name, after hard name; it is a genealogy. We have five minutes. Will you permit me to read through it? Okay. "Now Jesus himself began his ministry at about thirty years of age, being", watch this, "(as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli." Now before we read the other names, notice "as was supposed." Was Jesus biologically the son of Joseph? Not at all. He was born of a virgin. Mary was impregnated by an act of the Holy Spirit supernaturally. "As was supposed," then we have the name of Heli. Now what we have here is a genealogy that is completely different from the one in Matthew. Matthew is clearly Joseph's genealogy. We now come to this one with different names and we wonder, "Well, whose genealogy is this?"

Answer: We believe it is Mary's genealogy. Joseph is included because, honestly, women weren't really included much in genealogies. They weren't considered important enough to keep on the roster. It was always dynastically through the male where a genealogy was written down. But Joseph is included next to Heli because he's in the family of David. He's from that tribe of Judah, as is Mary. But she is married to Joseph, so Joseph is included "as was supposed." And now Heli, we believe, is not the father of Joseph, but the father of Mary. We believe that for a number of reasons. We believe that because we know Joseph's dad was named Jacob. The genealogy in Matthew says that's his dad's name. So we have a different genealogy.

We believe it's Mary because (a) there is already a genealogy for Joseph; (b) Luke seems to emphasize Mary more than any of the gospel writers at the beginning of his discourse. And so we believe this is Mary's genealogy and there are several other reasons, but I'm looking at the time and I'm trying to go fast, so I can finish the chapter before the end. So, verse 24, I'll get back to that, don't worry. "The son of Matthat, the son of Levi," or Leví would be the correct pronunciation, "the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of [Nagge or] Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah", I should just say hard name, hard name, hard name, hard name.

"The son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam", if you're looking for Bible names for your kids, you got a bunch here. I say stay away from them. "This is my boy Zerubbabel." Okay, okay. A boy named Sue. "The son of Elmodam, the son of Er, the son of José," actually, it would be Jose, would be the Hebrew. "The son of Eliezer, the son of Jorím [or Jorim], the son of Matthat, the son of Leví, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmón," not salmon, Salmón.

"The son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Maha-Mahal, the son of" hard name, "the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. These names are so important. This genealogy, as opposed to Matthew, is so important that one was included and the other was included because it solves the oldest problem in the Old Testament that was never resolved until this genealogy. But I have to wait till next week to tell you what that is because it's, it would take too long and I don't want to violate the commitment to your children. I just love doing that. It's so mean, isn't it? We'll consider that probably as we take the Lord's Supper next week.

Father, thank you for a time spent over familiar text, much more to us than certain parts of the older covenant. We know these stories. These are Sunday school tales to us. But John was a very real person with a real commitment and deeply held, real convictions that drove him from the hill country of Judah to live out in the desert, knowing that he that he had a specific job to warn people and to announce to people that the King, the awaited Messiah is going to be here soon. And the roads must be prepared, the road inside their hearts and their lives, so that you could move freely in traffic easily upon. And, Father, we pray that we would also likewise prepare our hearts for the coming, the second coming of Jesus, his coming for the church, and the rapture, and then the second coming that will follow.

We pray, Father, that as you come to us day by day, our hearts would be ready and prepared for you to use us and move through us. Lord, I pray that if there hasn't been real genuine change or repentance in our lives that you would assure us that as we turn from those things that we turn to Jesus who is awaiting. As John pointed backwards to what they shouldn't do, and forward to the One who would come and be to them what they could never do for themselves or be on their own, Jesus, I pray that we too would be driven to Christ who is full of grace and mercy and acceptance if we give our lives to him, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.

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