If you’ve ever spent time walking around the downtown area of a big city, you’ve probably seen them, maybe encountered one - a street preacher. Street preachers are loud, determined, they refuse to hide their light under a bushel (as we used to sing as kids). My first encounter was as a pre-teen on a trip to Indianapolis, very similar to what our teens experienced this week through Engage. Standing on a street corner carrying a sign “repent or prepare to meet thy maker…” He was serious, but just a little scary at the same time.
I think this is what many people thought about John the Baptist. Like today’s street preachers, John was a little bit “out there” – a scruffy, eccentric hippie dude who lived off the land by eating bugs and honey and wearing old clothes made out of camel’s hair. And his message to anyone who would listen? “Repent” (turn to God). “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Turn your heart toward home.
To most he appears to be a strange guy, but for some his message had a familiar ring to it. The prophets Isaiah and Malachi prophesied 500 years earlier of a man who would come saying: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3)(NIV).
John is that man. And his first assignment in Matthew Chapter 3, verse 13 is to baptize Jesus.
This is one of only a few times in the entire bible, that we see Father, Son and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity – appear at the same time. It’s a moment packed with meaning and definition for us today. So let’s make some observations together:
God reveals Jesus’ identity at His baptism, and my identity as a child of God is revealed in the same way. My baptism marks the beginning of my restored relationship with God.
As a baby Jewish boy Jesus was circumcised according to custom. He was brought to the temple and dedicated as a child according to his parent’s faith.
Yet at 30 years of age Jesus chooses to acknowledge his relationship with the Father and the Father acknowledged his relationship to His son and this was accomplished through immersion, baptism in a pool of water.
In baptism I acknowledge my relationship to the Father and the Father acknowledges our identity in Him.
Second, In his baptism, Jesus acknowledged God’s holiness and humanity’s sin.
Third, notice the Spirit of God descended on Jesus as He came up out of the water. In the same way the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, comes to reside in us at our baptism.
So let me ask you – have you personally acknowledged your commitment and love for God through Baptism?
In Chapter 4, verse 1 we read the right after Jesus baptism, the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness, where for 40 days and 40 nights he goes without food and He is tempted by the devil.
And here is what we observe: When I come home to a relationship with God, I am immediately faced with a choice – “when confronted by temptation, will I choose God or will I choose to surrender to my own desires?”
The name “devil” is from the word diablos, which comes from a verb meaning “to divide”. The Devil, Satan, is not a myth, but a very real being who wants to divide us from God and from one another. And it’s no accident that Jesus is placed right in the middle of where you and I find ourselves every day. The same place Adam and Eve found themselves. In fact, the bible refers to Jesus as the 2nd Adam… only this Adam, Jesus, didn’t give into sin and we don’t have to either.Right here in Matthew Chapter 4, Jesus exposes the scheme of satan.
But there is one more event I want to visit in the time we have together. It is in Chapter 11, verse 2 where we find John the Baptist now imprisoned because of his preaching. Knowing he is about to be executed for his bold proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, he sends word to Jesus asking this question: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
What is John saying? Does he doubt? Is there something about Jesus that causes him to question “is he really the son of God?”
What John is asking, all of us…. everyone one of us, asks at some point. Whether we say it out loud or keep it to ourselves, we all ask this question at some point in our life.
Look at the context. John is about to give his life and he wants to be sure. In verse 4, Jesus replied “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight; the lame walk, those who have disease are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
This is all John needs to hear. Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be… He is God in the flesh who has come to save us. And so John dies knowing that his unconventional life as a street preacher was not in vain. He dies certain of his belief.
As a young man it would have been easy for me to make fun of the guy standing on that downtown street with the sign in his hand “repent or prepare to meet thy maker”, but thankfully I didn’t. Instead, I saw his conviction, his willingness to give his life for what he believed. Since that time I have met many other like him. Maybe not dressed like a homeless man holding a sign, but I’ve seen people stricken with disease, not healed physically, but die knowing that the real life is yet to come. I’ve seen believing wives take a firm stand in their unbelieving husbands home and through her love and faithfulness to God stay the course and save her children. I’ve seen a building built, not on debt, but by the faith of everyday ordinary people who trust God and obey his command to give sacrificially.
The words we say at our baptism are important: “I believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God”, but the actions are what express the belief: “and I accept Him as Savior and Lord of My life.” True belief is accompanied by action.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Then surrender to his lordship, be buried with him in baptism, set out to faithful align your life with his will and be transformed by his very Spirit living inside of you.
I look forward to our time together this weekend. Don’t forget Saturday night we will have homemade ice-cream after worship while we hear some great tunes by Hush Harbor out on the back porch.