The message John the Baptist preached and the message he received

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

does”.

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

other means.

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