The message John the Baptist preached and the message he received
Matthew 11: 2-15
Lutherans are very firm on teaching Law and Gospel and emphasizing the correct
distinction between the two. We need them both, Law and Gospel, God’s Law, rules
duties and precepts, and God’s Gospel of grace and forgiveness of sin. Both are in
every book in the Bible John the Baptist preached God’s Law and the need for
everyone to repent, and the message he received was God’s Gospel, the Good News of
who Jesus was and what He said and what He did.
With regard to John the Baptist’s preaching of Law, most people like to be popular, so
they say and do things inclined to endear them to others, but John was not someone
who was prepared to tickle people’s ears so they would join his fan club.
He believed God had called him to be an Elijah, a preparer of the way for the Messiah,
Someone (with a capital S) greater than him, who would come after him; and at the right
time according to God’s plan Jesus came, also preaching the need for repentance, but
also healing the lame, lepers, and deaf people and also raising people from the dead.
Saying and doing what God made His Son incarnate, in the flesh,to say and do.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews defined ‘faith’ as the ‘evidence of things not
seen’ but John’s disciples, who came to Jesus, asking Him Who He really was, and
what He was all about, were given evidence in the form of people they could see, touch
and talk to, whose lives had been made much better by their encounter with Jesus.
There are many religions in the world, but they all boil down to one of two types,
religions of law and religions of grace. A religion of law produces a fearful, uncertain
clinging, to the proposition that if a person’s good deeds outweigh his bad, God, or the
gods, will look upon him with favor, so the emphasis is on ”I do this GOOD” or “I try not
to do that BAD” whereas a religion of grace recognizes one’s personal helplessness
and inability to EARN or MERIT favour with God, so the emphasis is on “what God
The wonderful good news is that God for Christ’s sake rescues us from our sin and from
our helplessness. The Bible says we are dead in our sins. A dead person cannot bring
themselves back to life. Like Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter or the widow of Nain’s son,
it took Jesus to bring them back to life. Similarly there is nothing we can do about being
dead in OUR sins; we need Jesus to give us life, eternal life. In spite of our lack of merit
whereby we could expect or even demand something,
Who was John the Baptist? John was born of special parents. He was of the priestly
race by both parents, for his father Zacharias was himself a priest who was offering
incense in the Temple at the very time when a son was promised to him; and Elizabeth
was of the daughters of Aaron. Both were devout persons, walking in the
commandments of God, and waiting for the fulfillment of his promise to Israel.
Elizabeth’s son, John was a special child because he was called to a mission
decided by God long before his birth. His mission to proclaim the coming of the
Messiah. Came with a message of both law and the need for repentance, and a
message of grace because God had revealed to him that Someone would come after
him who would have the power and authority to forgive people’s sins. John’s job was to
make people ready for that coming by proclaiming that everyone, every single human
being, including us, needs to repent and turn to the Lord, for there is no salvation by any
That word repent is simple to understand but more difficult to put into practice, because
of human nature, and of course, the devil, who does not want to lose anyone.
Repentance, is a complete reversal of one’s attitude and values, a turning toward God,
a great experiencing of regret for past conduct which causes a change one’s mind
regarding it; a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition or guilt for one’s
sins, trespasses, or debts.
John preached the message of repentance, and change, but his message of ‘Law’ was,
and still is, difficult for many people, because most people do not believe or like to admit
that they have anything to repent from. It is human nature to say to ourselves, “I’m not
so bad; maybe not perfect, but better than most people, and certainly better than so-
and-so”. John knew that for the people to get ready for the coming of the Messiah,
they had to admit that they were sinners and that they needed the forgiveness that the
Messiah would bring through his life, death and resurrection. John told the people over
2000 years ago to repent, to get ready for the Savior, and through the gospels he tells
people today the same thing:“Get ready, acknowledge your sinfulness, repent
and the forgiveness brought by the Babe born in the manger will be yours.”
Someone once said, “Most people repent their sins by thanking God that they aren’t as
wicked as their neighbors.” He was right because it is easy to see the speck in our
neighbor’s eye but we don’t like to admit we have a log in our own.
People usually have a very high regard for themselves. Most people think they are
pretty good, and most can see the faults, the sins, the evil in another, that is human
nature, ever since the Fall. But John’s message was that all of us fall short of what God
expects of us.All of us sin, so all of us need to repent and accept the forgiveness of the
One born in the manger to die on the cross.
John knew we needed the two edged sword of law and gospel. The purpose of the Law
being to convict us of sin and the purpose of the gospel being to assure those who
repent and put their faith in Christ of God’s grace and forgiveness. If the devil and our
own thoughts can make us believe that we have no need for repentance, then we will
not feel any need for Jesus, and people who live without any relationship with Jesus
Christ will face a lost eternity when they die.
This is why the world, Arkansas, Mountain View, our households, need someone like
John the Baptist to point them to their need to repent, and to the one and only Messiah
who can bring salvation.
A newspaper story a few years ago told of a man who did repent and found joy in his
life. Al Johnson, a Kansas man came to faith in Jesus Christ, but what made his story
remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his new found faith in
Christ, He confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in many years earlier, when
he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out,
he could not be prosecuted for the offence, but he believed his relationship with Christ
demanded a confession,and he even voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money!
After doing this, the newspaper reported that he was able to sleep better
than he had done for many years.
Without repentance, people try to hide their guilt, or claim they have NEVER done
anything wrong. which is impossible, but the devil accuses them, torments them;
and nothing the world has to offer can bring lasting peace. This peace, the result of
knowing that we are loved by Almighty God is what motivated John’s preaching to the
crowds he encountered.
His message; calling people to repent might not sound much like love, but it is love
because John wanted to announce the coming of the Saviour and this would involve
confronting people about their sin, and their need to repent in order to receive the fruit of
repentance, which is forgiveness and peace of mind.
John the Baptist knew that most people don’t want to acknowledge their guilt before one
another, yet alone before God. Yet he knew that we all have much to be guilty about
and that we all deserve condemnation for our sins, and he knew that the only way we
can truly receive the Saviour is by recognizing our sin, repenting of that sin, and turning
to a new life made possible by the Lord Jesus who went to the cross to pay the penalty
for our guilt before God Almighty.
When John acted out his ministry of preparing the way for the Messiah it was because
he wanted people to know the joy and love of Christ and the forgiveness of sins and
assurance of eternal life, and he did this by preaching a hard message, calling some of
his listeners a “brood of vipers!” and telling them to “Produce fruit in keeping with
repentance, (and) every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.”
He did not come to deliberately offend them, but to help them. He DID set out to
confront them with their sin by preaching the Law; calling them to hear and respond to
the tough message of judgment For after preaching Law and the need to repent, he
then preached the Gospel, the loving message of salvation that he, John, by faith,
believed the Messiah who would follow him, would bring, So we can imagine how
happy he would be when his disciples returned to him to tell him about Jesus and what
He was saying and doing.
John the Baptist could not save anyone, and neither can we, no matter how much we
would like to save our relatives, friends and neighbors, but he did what God had called
him to do which was to get people ready for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, and
he, John, carried out his message faithfully, so faithfully, that it literally cost him his
head, his life, but he would not water down his message whether to a peasant or a king.
John knew in advance that God would give His one and only son to be born in our world
of sin. John knew in advance that the Son of God would shed His blood and give His life
on the cross so that the penalty of our sin would be paid so that we could receive God’s
grace and eternal salvation. John preached his message around the year 30AD
but his message is as applicable today as it was for the people of John’s day.
Everyone, everywhere, needs to repent, needs to know that they have fallen short
and cannot please God and demand eternal life by their own efforts.
And the message that his disciples brought back to him is also for the people of today,
so just as John the Baptist proclaimed it, so should we, and if it costs us our heads as it
did John, so be it; we go to a better place.
The message that this church stands upon and which we believe and confess or
proclaim is : that through Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour, everyone,
everywhere, can enter the Kingdom of God, and benefit from the promise that if they do,
the peace of God, the assurance of sins forgiven, the blessed assurance of eternal life
with God in glory, will be in them and remain with them for ever and forever, Amen and
may the peace of God be with us all.
This message from Rev. David Mcnally 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 , You can read more at Sermon Central