Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Text: (John 1:6-8) There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:19-28) Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and evites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.'” Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
John the Baptist ——-Jesus said of him, “For I tell you, among those who are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptizer….” (Luke 7:28, WEB) And yet, this is the same man who says he’s not worthy to untie Jesus’ shoe, a lowly slave labor job So if there’s no greater prophet than John, who is worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal? The answer is “nobody”, including you and me. John’s message of repentance makes this very clear
And yet, in John’s message, we see that, at the same time, we have been given worthiness beyond our imagination . There came a person sent by God whose name was John. John was born by a miracle similar to Jesus’ miraculous birth (although his mother, Elizabeth, wasn’t a virgin) God, all according to His plan of salvation, sent John at just the right time. God had this plan of salvation before even the world began.
So before He created the world, and before He created you, He made sure He already had a plan in place to forgive your sin and give you eternal life with Him. Even though that plan involved the sacrifice of His Son. John came with the express intent to witness about the Light of the world, Jesus Christ that all might believe through him.
He came with two messages, Law and Gospel. First, to point out sin and lead people to repentance. This is done by communicating the Law. John’s main message was simply, “Repent!” Reject sin for the murderous poison that it is. And recognize that God’s Law condemns you to death and an eternity in hell. Then turn away from sin: reject it not only with your mouth, but with your life. But also, He witnesses to the reason for repentance. Because the Messiah is coming to save. And you’ll have no use for the Savior from sin if you think you have no sin to be saved from. Of course, whether you think so or not, you have sin. So that’s why you need to repent and receive that God has indeed sent Your Savior.
John was not the light, but [he came] in order to witness about the light. We honor God for sending John the Baptist. But John would be the first to tell us that God deserves all the glory—not John. That’s why, at funerals, we thank God for the faith He gave to our departed loved one, but we don’t glorify that person, knowing that any good done by that person was God acting through that person, and we ultimately need not concern ourselves with the righteousness of that person except that which was given by Christ. So, we remember to keep the focus on God and His Word, especially salvation in Christ.
And this is the witness of John when the Jews sent out of Jerusalem to him priests and Levites that they might ask him, “Who are you?” At this point, the Jewish leaders seemed to be honestly inquiring. John has an answer. He tells people the Good News. There’s no way people can know what this great message is without hearing it. And they’re not likely to get it from the news weeklies, so God has given His Word to us to share. So by His Word being shared, others may know and receive that eternal gift won for them on the cross. And he confessed and did not deny. He confessed that, “I am not the Christ.” John came to point others to Christ, not to point to Himself. He knew very well that Jesus alone deserved that honor
How different from us! Whenever you choose your own way over God’s way, you’re claiming to be wiser than Him. Whenever you take credit for the accomplishments that God has done through you, you’re claiming His glory. And they asked him, “What, then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we might give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” The world didn’t know what to make of John and they still don’t get it today. They’ll claim that “Jesus never claimed to be God”—when that’s why He was arrested in the first place. They think Jesus came to tell us how to live a good life. Or to give us 8 steps to perfect happiness. But the message of John was not, “What Would Jesus Do?” It was, “Repent because of what Jesus is doing for you.” It was, “Rejoice, because Jesus is doing it so you don’t have to.” He said, “I am ‘the voice crying in the wilderness: make level the way of the Lord,’ just as Isaiah the prophet said.”
How do you level the path of God? By being totally blunt and honest about sin. Most, if not all, of the famous TV evangelists and mega-church pastors avoid talking about sin. Confronting sin doesn’t make people feel good. And it’s not good for ratings to tell people that they can’t do it on their own and have failed miserably. Pretending sin isn’t serious does no good for anyone. Downplaying the seriousness of sin reduces the sinner’s knowledge of his need for a Savior from that sin. If you’ve ever said or thought the words, “I’m not that bad,” then you’ve been lied to, or you’re lying to yourself.
The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. And they questioned him and said to him, “Why are you baptizing if you are not the Christ nor Elijah nor the Prophet?” This is an excellent question! How could John do something that God alone can do? (That is, wash away sin) Because God works through means! So when I stand here today and tell you your sins are forgiven, it’s as effective in your forgiveness as if a voice boomed from the sky and told you the same. When we baptize a child of God, it is as if we were pouring the Holy Spirit Himself over the child, because we are —He is present through the water. When you receive the Body & Blood of Christ with the fellow members of the Body of Christ, your sins are forgiven through His presence in the bread and wine. And through His presence in the hearts of those who join you at the Lord’s Table. Whether you see Him or not, Jesus is here for you and working through normal, everyday means.
John answered them saying, “I baptize with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know.” And most of them, sadly, would never know Jesus, no matter how many times they’d meet Him and listen to Him because they rejected Him. They were too busy listening to their own wisdom. And since it conflicted with the grace of God in Christ, they would only listen long enough to try to find a way to trap Him.
We don’t deserve to be called God’s slaves. We don’t deserve God calling us sons. And yet He does. He earned that right for us. He who alone is worthy of all glory and honor took your unworthiness on Himself. And He faced the wrath of God for your rejection of God’s Law. And for His sacrifice on your behalf, God has given you His worthiness in exchange. He has removed your sin by becoming a Servant. He did more than just untie shoes—He washed the stinky feet. And through not only the Word and Sacraments, but through people like John the Baptist and people of God, He continues to bless and love us. And He will be with you to serve you, His beloved child, until the final resurrection and for all eternity in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
This message from Dale Critchley is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected] A Pass it On Project