2011-12-11 Pointing People to Jesus (John 1:6-8, 19-28) Advent 3
- Continuing to consider the Advent or coming of Christ into our world
- We look again at John the Baptist in the Gospel of John
- Last week from the Gospel of Mark – Randy
- John’s mission as herald: in order to prepare people for the coming of Jesus and his Gospel, people must consider two things:
- The problem of their own sin
- That God alone can save them from sin
- This week: see that John the Baptist had a singular purpose of pointing people to Jesus through knowing
- Who he was
- Who sent him
- What he was to do
- Who he was not
- We will understand that we have that same singular purpose of pointing people to Jesus through knowing
- Who we are
- Who sent us
- What we are to do
- Who we are not
- John’s mission as herald: in order to prepare people for the coming of Jesus and his Gospel, people must consider two things:
- Stand for reading of Scripture
John 1:6-8 (ESV)
- 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
For John and for us, effectively pointing people to Jesus begins with
- Knowing who you are – John knew who he was: three things – a man, a voice, a slave
- He was a man
6 There was a man…whose name was John.
- Earlier verses of this chapter speak of Jesus as the Word. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus was in the beginning, Jesus was with God, Jesus was God.
- In contrast, this verse says of John that he was a man. “There was a man…whose name was John.” The implication is that he was merely a man, not a god or not God as Jesus was God.
- Similarly, in Acts 14 (vv 11-15) Paul insisted that he and Barnabas were mere men and not gods when the people of Lystra saw that they had healed a crippled man and began to worship them. He said,
- “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings– just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.
- The apostle Peter acknowledged that he was merely a man. When Cornelius began to worship him when Peter arrived at his house, (Act 10:26) But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”
- Jam 5:17 says, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…
- Jesus had both a divine and a human nature.
- We have a human nature only that is prone to sin in this life.
- In order to effectively point people to Jesus we should first acknowledge that we too are merely men and women, who likewise are prone to sin.
John was not only a mere man. Secondly,
- He was (merely) a voice
23 He (John) said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘
- When asked his identity by a delegation from the religious leaders of his day, he answered by quoting from Isaiah 40:3, A voice cries:1 b“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; cmake straight in the desert a highway for our God.
- This quote appears in all four Gospels
- As Randy said last week, John was like a herald who goes ahead of a king into a territory to announce the coming of the king.
- In that day, when a king visited a region of his realm heralds went ahead of him to announce his coming. Then the people would get busy straightening out the winding roads, filling in the low places and lowering the high places to make a smooth roadway for the king to travel. They wanted to please and honor the king.
- In our day, we roll out the red carpet for visiting dignitaries. We build platforms, etc to honor them. No one pays attention to the person that puts out the publicity about the visiting dignitary. They work in an office somewhere sending out PSA’s, hidden from view. They are just a voice.
- John the Baptist is saying of himself, “I am merely a voice announcing the coming king.” Don’t pay attention to me, pay attention to him.
- In chapter 3, John says of Jesus and himself, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
- In order to be effective in pointing people to Jesus, we must understand that we are merely a voice announcing Jesus’ first coming into the world to save us from our sins, and his second coming to bring salvation to the church and judgment to the world.
John was not only merely a man and merely a voice. Third, he
- He (merely) an unworthy slave
27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
- Leon Morris writes in his commentary “Loosing the sandal was the task of a slave; a disciple could not be expected to perform it….
- In ancient Palestine, disciples did not pay rabbis but performed various services in for their teachers in partial compensation.
- But they had to draw the line somewhere, and menial tasks like loosing a sandal thong came under this heading.
- There is a rabbinic saying from around 240AD, but probably is much older, that says, ‘every service which a slave performs for his master shall a disciple do for his teacher except the loosing of his sandal thong.’
- John selects the very task that this saying says is too menial for any disciple, and declares himself unworthy to perform it.”
- Jesus taught his disciples – and all of us…
- Mat 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.
- Joh 13:16 “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.
- Paul called him and us “slaves of Christ” because we have been bought with a price; we have been redeemed from slavery to sin by the blood of Christ; therefore we are now slaves not of sin and the world but of Christ.
- And if we are his slaves we are not greater than the master, nor equal with him; we are mere slaves serving a wonderful master
This leads us to the second main point. In order to be effective in pointing people to Jesus, you should
- Know who sent you
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
- John was a sent man. He was sent from God or sent by God.
- A herald is sent ahead of the king to announce the coming of the king.
- The prophets of old understood themselves as sent by God to deliver a particular message. Jonah, for example, was sent by God to Ninevah.
- The angel Gabriel was sent by God to deliver the good news to Zechariah and Elizabeth, that they would have a son in their old age – and that his name was to be John. He would become known as John the Baptist.
- The same angel delivered similar good news to Mary and to Joseph about the birth of a son that would be born to them who was to be called Jesus.
- Jesus said to his disciples in the upper room after his resurrection, “As the father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:20-21)
- Jesus said later at his ascension, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”
- We too are sent people. Sent by God to continue the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus began through his life, death and resurrection.
- Knowing that you are sent by God, gives you confidence that his presence and power and authority will accompany you to accomplish what you are sent to do.
- It’s comforting to know that we are sent out for a particular task – for example, on a mission trip – by a congregation. We know that their prayers and resources will be with us.
- It’s even more comforting and empowering to know that God has sent us to do something. We trust that his Spirit will enable us to do everything he has sent us to do.
- To be effective in pointing people to Jesus, it’s important to know that we are sent by God as John the Baptist was.
In order to effectively point people to Jesus, it’s important not only to know who you are and to know who sent you, but also to
- Know what you are to do – John told others about Jesus so that they might believe in Him
7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
- There are two parts to this: understanding your part; and understanding God’s part
- Look first at
- Understanding your part
- Verse 7, John came as a witness, to bear witness – about the light – that is, Christ
- A witness – for example in a trial – does two things: he tells the truth as he experienced it or understands it; and he commits himself to his story
- John came, it says, “to bear witness” to the tell the truth as he experienced it or understood it
- John said of himself that he was “a voice crying out in the wilderness… He was committed to that truth. He was passionate about telling it so that he was like one who cried out his message.
- ?How many have taken part in a trial either as a witness or on a jury?
- When a person is sworn in in an American court he is asked, do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
- You are being directed to tell the truth as you experienced it or understand it yourself, and to commit yourself to that truth – not to waffle around on your story.
- John told the truth as he understood it – he came to bear witness about the light.
- John was committed to the story – he cried out in the wilderness.
- Jesus instructed his disciples and us in Acts 1:8, “…when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.”
- Similarly, we are called to be witnesses of what Christ has done in our lives and in the lives of others – to tell the truth as we have experienced it or understand it.
- But this can’t be done half-heartedly. It can be dangerous out there. John was beheaded. Jesus told his disciples, “Because they persecuted me they will persecute you. Because they hated me they will hate you.” You must commit yourself to your message.
- In order to effectively point people to Jesus, we must bear witness to what he has done in our lives and do so courageously, trusting that he we will be with us no matter what happens.
- But we must also understand the second part of the equation. We must
- Understand God’s part
7 He (John) came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
- God’s part is found at the end of the sentence, “that all might believe through Him.”
- That is through the light – Jesus – not John the messenger.
- John’s responsibility was to deliver the message, to tell the truth as he understood it.
- God’s responsibility was to cause people to believe through Jesus – through his life, death and resurrection.
- Paul wrote of the ministries of Apollos and himself, to the Corinthians, (1 Co. 3:5-6 (NIV)) “Who then is Apollos? Who is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each his task. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
- Paul and Apollos preached the message – they planted the message and watered the message.
- But God caused them to believe – “God gave the increase.”
- Just as a farmer plants the field, applies fertilizer, and even some water by means of irrigation, yet he cannot make the crops to grow. Somehow, mysteriously, God causes them to grow.
- Similarly, we are to do our part of bearing witness to the Gospel – the truth as we have experienced it or understand it, and trust God to do his part – to cause people to believe through Christ.
- Only the Spirit of God can finally convince people both of their own sin and the truth of the Gospel. We can only witness to the truth, only God can cause people to believe it.
- 1 Co. 2:1-5 (NIV) “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
- Effectively pointing people to Jesus includes knowing what you are to do – what is your part, and what is God’s part and not confusing the two
In order to effectively point people to Jesus, it’s important not only to know who you are, to know who sent you, and to know what you are to do, but also finally to
- Know who you are not
8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
- John had quite a following of his own disciples before Jesus emerged on the scene.
- Yet John was clear not only about who we was, but also about who he was not
- His interrogators wanted to know by what authority he was baptizing because he was baptizing in a way that was offensive especially to the Jewish leaders
- According to Morris (p.123), “Baptism was not a new practice in Judaism. It was the regular rite in the admission of converts from other religions. When such conversions took place, the males of the family were circumcised and all, of both sexes, were baptized. This was seen as the ceremonial removal of all the pollutions contracted in the Gentile world. The novelty in John’s case and the sting in his practice was that he applied to the Jews the ceremony that was held to be appropriate in the case of Gentiles coming into the faith. All Jews were prepared to accept the view that Gentinles were defiled and needed cleansing. But to put Jews in the same class was horrifying. The Jews were God’s people already.”
- So the Jewish leaders sent a delegation to question John as they later would do to Jesus – not to really learn anything, but to try to trap him and find fault with him or find some guilt in him or find some way to discredit him
- Since there was an air of expectancy about, they asked first if he was the Messiah, which he denied.
- He knew that whatever he was, he was not Messiah.
- They asked second if he was Elijah who had not died, but was taken up alive to heaven, who was expected to precede the Messiah, which he denied as well.
- John knew he hadn’t previously lived on earth as Elijah, been taken up to heaven and come back from heaven.
- Side note: Jesus would later say of John as recorded in Matt 11:14 that he was Elijah. There was a sense that he was and a sense that he was not. He served the function of Elijah by serving as the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah, yet he was not the person Elijah come back from the dead.
- But John may not have known that he was functioning as Elijah. Remember that later while in prison he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was Messiah.
- Morris writes (p. 119) “No man is what he is in his own eyes; he really is only as he is known to God.”
- Finally, they asked him if he was the prophet? By this could have meant either Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah or some of the other prophets who were expected to emerge at the appearance of the Messiah. He denied this as well with a curt “No.”
- Many a religious leader has not been clear on who they are not, causing them to have false visions of grandeur, a false sense that they will not be held accountable for misdeeds, and has caused their followers to be led astray
- When religious leaders assume a Messiah or prophet complex, they believe they are the salvation for everyone’s problems, the answer to everyone’s questions, the enforcer of religious law yet immune from detection or prosecution for breaking the same law, and are owed undying allegiance by their duped followers.
- The wise religious leader, like John the Baptist is self-effacing and humble. He is like Billy Graham who when asked what he would like written on his epitaph said. “I would like it to be written, ‘He was faithful.’”
- Whether you are currently a leader or not, you may be a leader in the Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy, (1 Tim. 4:12 (NIV)) “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
- Leaders are more tempted in this way because often they have some following, but all Christians, in order to effectively point others to Jesus should be aware not only of who they are but also who they are not, lest they inadvertently or intentionally point to themselves instead of pointing to Christ.
In summary: In order to effectively point to Jesus as John did we should:
-Know who we are
-Know who sent us
-Know what we are to do – and what we should leave to God
-Know who we are not