What did you learn from last Sunday’s sermon “Truth or Consequences”?
Q1: Was John’s message clear?
Q2: What was John’s message?
Q3: Where was John when the word of God came to him?
Q4: What does John call the people that came to hear him in the wilderness?
Q5: As John asked, who warned the brood of vipers?
Q6: Why was John’s message offensive to the Jews?
Q7: What is repentance?
Sermon Summary & Answers
This Sunday’s sermon, “Truth or Consequences” looks at Luke 3:1-9. As in Mark 1:1 and Mark 1:4, Luke begins his record with the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ pointing to Luke 3 describing John, the forerunner. Matthew 3:1-2 does similarly. Luke chapters 1 and 2 established the context or history that lead up to this. If you look at all gospels, we’re now at the beginning of the gospel in Luke 3 with John. He is probably 31. John is six months older, and Jesus was 30. John’s message is clear. Matthew said John was preaching in the wilderness and says repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. This clear message is the same in Matthew and Mark, but Luke doesn’t begin with the words of John, he begins with context.
He tells us this took place in the 15th year, who was reigning etc. when the word of God came to John in the wilderness. Luke gives context with great detail and names characters that would have been on the front page of the newspaper or trending on twitter. We meet Tiberius, the emperor, stepson of Augustus, who was emperor when Jesus born. Then we meet Pontus, governor in Judea, and four other local individuals in authority like Herod (not the same one when Jesus was born, he died when Joseph brought Jesus back from Egypt). Luke shared that the kingdom is divided into four, a tetrarchy, and we meet Philip and Lysanias as well. We don’t meet the fourth who is also a Herod. Luke goes on to give the authority for the Jews too, the high priesthood. This should catch our attention because there are no such thing as high priests in Christianity. But Annas and Caiaphas appear together here and at trial in Egypt. The Jewish order is not so clear, and they have lost control. This is the picture Luke wants us to have. This is a dark time for Jews. They are under oppressive rule from Rome and Israel, excessive taxes, and the burden of religious commitment that exceeded what God expected from His people, and Jesus speaks on that in Matthew 23:4.
Luke says the word of God came to John! God’s word is pressed on him; this is John’s calling to the service he was born to do. John is a strange man, living in wilderness, not necessarily isolated from anyone but separate from the religious structure. John dressed and acted strangely and is now to become the spokesman. Luke 3:3, he came to all the districts around Jordan. All Judea came to hear this man. In the wilderness, surrounded by crowds, John’s message was plain and simple. His was a message of hope; a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But, this was not really the hope most people wanted to hear and was not what John’s crowd wanted to hear. To proclaim the hope of forgiveness of sins, John was saying the listeners were all sinners. That’s how Luke captures the message John was declaring; therefore, it’s a message that you’re a sinner. John arrives calling them sinners not elect or God’s chosen people, sinners in need of forgiveness. So, the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, begins with John’s message, which is you’re all sinners in desperate need for forgiveness. Luke doesn’t distinguish between Jews or Gentiles and says they are all sinners and all perishing. Israel by this time became disinterested in being doers of the law and were separated from God but thought they were justified because they were Jews. John says they are not special just because they are Jewish and must repent. Luke says John came preaching a baptism of repentance, an outward sign of inner intention. He is making straight the path, so Jesus can be received.
Repentance is the expression of the heart to intend to change, but repentance can’t save you. It’s only a path. Repentance is where we admit we need a savior and have been going in the wrong direction. Salvation is not about behavioral modification. That doesn’t offer real hope. John says there’s a starting place and the conscience informs us that we’re sinners, and in order to approach a holy God, something must change. Our disposition toward Him and His disposition toward us has to change. Luke assumes we know what a baptism of repentance means, certainly the Jews knew. What John was saying was actually extremely offensive. John didn’t introduce this idea of baptism. The Jews been doing it. It was one of the things they made up for Gentiles that wanted be Jews. The Gentiles needed to be cleansed first and not just handwashing like the Jews but full immersion. This was done for any Gentile interested in being a Jew. Peter referred to this as well when Jesus washed their feet, and Peter said wash all of me! So, this is super offensive. No Jew would ever undergo that baptism only someone not as good as them, but now John is asking them to do just that. They are sinners and need to be cleansed like everyone else.
Luke 3:4, we turn to the Old Testament as written in Isaiah 40:3 that John will make ready the way of the Lord to make His paths straight. This was John’s message and the beginning of the gospel. Luke says this is not new, and Matthew and Mark quote this too! John was promised all along and the path of repentance was promised all along. Isaiah 40:4 notes that every ravine, every mountain, all the crooked, all the rough roads, and Luke says it pushes out past Israel to everyone. He doubles down in Luke 3:6, which is Isaiah 40:5 all flesh will see salvation not just Jewish flesh – all flesh. When Luke points to Isaiah he deals a blow to the ethnic and racial pride. The Jews thought their flesh was a little better, but it isn’t and yours isn’t. Being a Jew won’t save any Jew and being American won’t save any American. Then Luke expands the kingdom to include everyone. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone needs forgiveness, and forgiveness available to anyone.
Then Luke 3:7 John says, you brood of vipers who warned you to come. In Greek, viper would’ve just been poisonous snake meaning they are part of the brood of poison whose bite causes death! They’re spreading death. John says, You, Israel are death spreaders the whole lot of you! They were called by God to spread the glory of God, and they’ve become poison spreaders. They are poison to anyone that dabbled in Jewish religion of John’s day. But they are there in the thousands, and John tells them the truth about who they are. Then he says, who warned you? John didn’t, that’s why he’s asking. John asks who warned you of your condition? Is there another prophet? No, just John, so who warned them? God did! God is doing this. So much of this truth is in them, and His spirit drives their conscience to repent. God is always the first mover in repentance. They were coming out to listen to John in the hundreds, and John says, snakes, who told y’all to come out here? They’re running from God’s wrath. John says you’ve run far enough now it is time to surrender. Instead of running from God, run to him, and here you are that is the work of God and only God can do that.
Why are we here at church this morning? Why are we ever here? If you’re a believer, you’re not here by accident or your own choosing. It is a divine appointment, and God brought you here and brings you week after week. John then says to the crowd in Luke 3:8 therefore, snakes/sinners fleeing wrath or running toward God, you need to bear fruit in keeping with repentance to prove to yourself it’s sincere. You need to do something. You need to be baptized. Don’t now begin to say to yourself it’s enough we just showed up or just being a Jew is enough. God could raise sons of Abraham from stone. Don’t imagine you brought the hope with you. It’s foreign to you. Then John says you need to wake up, there’s nothing special about you! You need to repent like everyone else and show some fruit! The root of repentance is God, and if repentance is genuine it will always bear fruit. John puts fruit on it called baptism. The first response of a repentant heart is baptism and accepting how you are ain’t good enough. It starts here. There is nothing special about you. What makes you special is God’s call. God has the ability to make you not yourself. He wants to do that for Israel and for us. So, repent or else. Believe truth or accept the consequences. Look at Luke 3:10 the crowds spoke then and said what shall we do?
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- In the wilderness.
- A brood of vipers.
- 1) it was a blow to ethnic and racial pride, John said all flesh is just flesh. The Jews didn’t believe that, they thought their flesh was a little better. 2) He expands the kingdom of heaven to include everyone meaning any flesh not just the Jews. Everyone is a sinner, everyone needs forgiveness, and forgiveness is available to anyone.
- Repentance is God’s call to us to admit that we are sinners going in the wrong direction and need a savior. Salvation is not behavior modification.