How Do I Please God With My Life?
By Accepting My Place in His Universe
John the Baptist: Part 2
While in seminary a friend of mine asked me to drive him to a doctor’s appointment. He was having headaches and so we went to have a MRI of his brain. We went and on the return trip from one part of Raleigh, NC to across town we got lost on the outer loop. These were the days before GPS, so around and around we went for about an hour.
In the meantime the hospital had called his wife and told her that my friend needed to return immediately that they had found a mass and needed to do further imaging. It was discovered that he had a brain tumor. We were in our twenties, so with prayer and chemo he would be fine, so I thought. Who dies of a brain tumor in their twenties?
Now adding to this was the fact that they were seminary students who lived in a very bad part of town, on purpose – so that they could minister and do Bible studies in this impoverished and crime ridden neighborhood. Months went by, chemo treatment after chemo treatment and my former college wrestler and bulked up man, slowly began to waste away to a living skeleton. I went and setup their Christmas tree because he was too weak to move from his laziboy chair. Eventually, he passed away leaving behind a widow. Doesn’t God answer prayer? Why would God take someone who was serving Him with such passion?
If you live long enough, you will have to endure God doing something that makes no sense to you. You will have some hard questions, you will doubt, and you will not understand. That’s what we will look at this morning.
Lord thank you for your word, because without it we would be lost. This world is so confusing, and filled with malevolence. You have not left us without a witness of your love and compassion. Help us to trust you more today as we lean in to your character and unchanging presence. Amen.
I Can Please God With My Life By Asking Him the Hard Questions (vv. 18-23)
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”
Luke doesn’t tell us where John the Baptist is when he receives the report from his disciples or sends two of his disciples to talk with Jesus, but Matthew 11:2 tells us that he was in prison.
John the Baptist was there at Jesus’ baptism and heard the voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (John 3:22)
John’s disciples reported to John what the people of Judea were saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” John clearly understood his role as the person who would prepare the people’s hearts for the coming Messiah. But he was confused about Jesus and what He was doing. John says, ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus did not fit his expectations.
While John preached and baptized, people began to think maybe he was the Messiah. Luke 3:16 “As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So far there was no Holy Spirit appearing, no fire, no winnowing fork, no burning the chaff. John’s expectation of what the Christ would do, and what Jesus was actually doing didn’t match up.
The Romans showed no signs of going anywhere, Herod and the Herodians were living it up, and the religious leaders (Sadducees and Pharisees) were just as self-righteous and arrogant as ever.
Jesus is focused on mercy, grace, forgiveness – where is the judgement and fire? John seems to feel that he is running out of time – “shall we look for another?” before its’ too late.
John the Baptist has doubts about Jesus.
In May 2020, Jon Steingard, the front-man for the very popular Christian band Hawk Nelson said that he no longer believed in God. Steingard said there were things in the Bible that didn’t make sense to him. There were things in Christian culture that made him feel uncomfortable. He had questions, “Why is there evil in the world?”, “Why doesn’t God do anything about it?”
This year, Kevin Max of the band DC Talk said that he was an “exvanglical.” And there are several others like Joshua Harris of “I kissed dating goodbye,” and the comedians and Air Biscuits podcast hosts Rhett & Link. Many very famous and popular people are deconstructing their faith.
Deconstruction is a movement among those inside Christianity that are seriously struggling with their faith. 67% of young adults are praying more and thinking more than before the pandemic. They want to know how the church is dealing and reacting to racial injustice and sexuality.
Is it wrong to ask questions and to have doubts? Let’s see how Jesus deals with John’s doubt.
21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus responds to John the Baptist’s question with empirical and Scriptural evidence that he was the Messiah.
John 4:17-19 “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” In Jesus’ response to John the Baptist, He references four different texts from Isaiah. Jesus points to Scripture, and then shows how He is living out the Scripture.
Jesus also doesn’t demand belief, he presents the facts and lets John make up his own mind. Jesus’ asks John’s two disciples to simple state what they have seen and experienced, and from that John can draw his own conclusions. God gives dignity to man by slowing down long enough to allow us to put the pieces together, on our own. God doesn’t become angry when we question, he addresses our questions with facts.
Jesus does not tell John that he would be delivered from prison and he doesn’t say anything about the winnowing fork, or burning chaff, or unquenchable fire. But He does give evidence that He was the Messiah, the Christ. Jesus deals with John the Baptist’s doubts by showing him that He is the Messiah.
Jesus doesn’t promise us that he will take the pain away, cure the disease, or follow the plan that we want to see happen. He just keeps pointing people to Himself. Jesus is who he said He was and in that we have hope.
Jesus is God who put on human skin, fulfilled prophecy in his birth and life, preformed miracles to prove his identity as the Christ, taught and explained how his kingdom was different from all the earthly pharaohs, and would eventually rise from the dead. He reaffirms in John’s life that he is who he said he was.
Jesus closes his remarks to John by saying, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Or blessed is the one who does not fall away because of the way I do things. John was convinced that the Messiah was going to free Israel from Roman oppression, get rid of the religious phonies, and execute judgement – But Jesus wasn’t doing any of those things. If we are not careful, our preconceived notions of how God acts, and beliefs about what He should do, will keep us from being apart of what he is actually doing.
God is God and He will run His universe the way He sees fit, but if we stay the course then we will be blessed. Life still happens, even to those who believe in Christ.
But God’s Word never changes and God never changes. There was a time when the Catholic Church punished Galileo because he believed that the earth revolved around the sun – does the Bible teach that the sun revolves around the earth, no it does not. So, while God’s word does not change, some interpretations of it do change. Our humbleness to admit that we don’t know or may get some things wrong is important to a watching world.
I Can Please God With My Life When I Humble Myself Before Him (vv. 24-36)
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Jesus asks the crowds, “why did you go out to the wilderness?” Were you looking for a trend leader (someone moving back and forth), a fancy dresser (soft clothing), yes they were going out to see a prophet.
Jesus recognizes John the Baptist as the pre-runner of the Messiah, John fulfilled the Scriptures referencing him and his ministry of preaching “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here.” Jesus also praises John in v. 28 saying “none is greater than John.”
But a new day has arrived, and Jesus says, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” John is the last prophet from the Old Testament, and Jesus is beginning a New Testament where those of this new day are apart of the kingdom of heaven. Both are God’s Word, and both are needed to understand God’s message to mankind. The OT is needed to understand the context of the NT.
There are two ways of doing ministry, John representing the Old and bridging the gap into the New, and Jesus representing the New.
29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
Luke in parentheses compares those who humbled themselves, repented, confessed their sin, and were baptized by John. He even singles out tax collectors, even those horrible sinners – they declared God just in pointing out their sin.
The Pharisees and the lawyers did not believe that they had any need to repent, confess their sins, or humble themselves to be baptized by John the Baptist. They rejected the purpose of God for their lives, which is to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
“31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
Jesus uses a child’s song to make a point. One group of children are trying to get another group of children to play. There were “people of this generation” who rejected both John’s and Jesus’ ministries. John’s message of “repent and be baptized” was ignored (no weeping), and Jesus’ ministry of good news of salvation was ignored (no dancing or rejoicing).
John’s not eating certain foods (bread) or drinking certain drinks was an outward expression of his mourning and message of repentance. He is literally living what he is preaching. They even called him a demon for living this way. Jesus’ eating and drinking was an expression of his celebration that the king of heaven was here, and Jesus was called a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners.
Both Jesus and John’s message was the same, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here.” But their presentations were different. The people rejected both. There will be people, that no matter how eloquent or humble the presenter, they will not respond to the gospel. No matter how well laid out the facts may be, they refuse to humble themselves before the Lord.
The religious people who refused to repent, confess their sins, and were not baptized are missing the fact that “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” John’s whole message was for people to prepare their hearts, so that they would not miss the appearing of the Christ. And here we see a group of people who refused to humble themselves and they don’t know what to do with John or Jesus’ message. They are missing the kingdom of heaven that is literally staring them in the face.
“Yet wisdom is justified by all her children” Those that follow the religious leaders (rejection of the need for repentance, and the rejection of the coming of the kingdom of heaven) and those that follow Jesus and John’s message of repentance of sin – one group will be shown to be right, one group will be justified.
God can handle any questions you may have, and He will provide the facts you need, but at the end of the we all have to make a decision to choose Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross or have faith in ourselves and our own abilities to save ourselves. Both can’t be right, and at the end of time one way will be justified. Which do you think is right?
 Week One: Matthew 3, By Repenting of Sin and Drawing Close to Him.
 Robert H. Stein, The New American Commentary, Luke (Broadman Press; Nashville, Tennessee, 1992) 226.
 Kent Hughes, Luke, That You May Know the Truth (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2015) 275.
 Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Inter-Varsity Press, 1990) 156.
 26:19, 29:18ff, 35:5ff, 61:1 (referenced above)
 Clifton J. Allen, Gen. Ed., The Broadman Bible Commentary, Luke-John (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1070) 67.
 “The verb rendered takes offense is picturesque. It derives from the trapping of birds, an refers to the action that depresses the bait-stick and so triggers off the trap. It is a colorful way of referring to the cause of trouble.” Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Intervarsity Press, 1990) 156.
 Craig A. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, Luke (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers, 1990) 119.