A Voice in the Wilderness

John 1:19-23

Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  And he answered, “No.” 

Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”  He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

A voice in the wilderness

  • What kind of voice? – Loud, clear and commanding
  • To whom is the voice speaking? –  He that has an ear
  • What was the message?  –  Repent, turn to Jesus
  • What was the character of the voice? –  Recognized his purpose was to draw attention to Jesus, not himself.  “I must decrease, He must increase.”

Isaiah 40:3-5 – The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

We are also called to be a voice in the wilderness

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.

  • What is our voice?  Are we speaking without fear of man, are we clear in our message?
  • To whom are we speaking?  Are we really to speak to all we meet, to all who show an open heart?
  • What is our message?  Are we promoting our church, our doctrine, or Jesus Christ?
  • What is our character?  Are we trying to be noticed, to have our self-admired or looked up to?  Are we lifting up Jesus, not our self?

Sharing the “True” Light

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

One of the great themes of the Gospel of John is “light.” 

John 1:4 – In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 8:12 – Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Matthew 4:14-16 – You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

John 3:19 – And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Jesus is the true light.  While others talk about enlightment, we know and believe that Jesus IS the Light of the World.  Even though the true light has come, yet much of our world remains in darkness.

1 John 1:5-7 – This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

The darkness is great

  • Darkness by birth
  • The sins of our “first parents – Adam and Eve” passed down to all of us.

The Psalmist David states Psalm 51:5 – “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”

  • None of us chose our parents, and one of us chose to be born in sin, but we do have a choice as to whether or not we will continue to live in that state of sinfulness.

Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

  • Darkness by choice

John 3:19 tells us, “…men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.”

  • Much of the evil done in the world today is done as a matter of choice.
  • The Burnhams, missionaries in the Philippines, were held captive by a terrorist group for ransom money to fight a war of their own choosing.
  • The terrorists who flew into the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11 did so as a matter of choice.
  • The man/woman who kills their spouse or abuses their own children have made a choice.
  • The man who rejects Jesus is also making a choice to live in darkness.
  • Darkness by neglect
  • Even after Jesus told His disciples to “Go into all the world,” they wanted to stay in Jerusalem
  • It took the persecution found in Acts 8:1 to get the church moving out of Jerusalem with the Gospel.
  • The Church has had the Gospel for 2000 years and yet the majority of our world is still not evangelized.

What will it take for us to truly get serious about carrying the Gospel to the whole world?

The light is needed in our world

Matthew 5:14-16 – You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Light, life and freedom are found in Jesus

John 14:46 – I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

Acts 4:12 – Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Romans 10:13-17 – For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

2 Corinthians 4:6 – For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Price God Paid for Christmas

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

A mountaineer got lost while climbing in the Alps – or so the story goes.  After days of stumbling around in a blizzard, he found a mountain pass that led to a valley that no one from the outside world had visited in centuries.  In this valley he discovered a community of people who had survived for generations with no eyesight.

When he tried to describe to these people the beauty of the night sky, the color of a sunset, and the joy of seeing someone smile, the valley people were first confused, then convinced that he was insane.  Because no one they knew could see, the experience was beyond their understanding.  They did not even have the vocabulary to understand what he described.

Then the mountaineer met a young woman of the valley, and they fell in love.  When they told the villagers that they wanted to be married, the leaders foresaw that the mountaineer’s descriptions of the joys of seeing and of the outside world would disrupt their community.  They told him that he could stay and be married only if he agreed to have his eyes blinded so he would be like everyone else.  Torn between his appreciation of his sight and his love for the young woman, the mountaineer finally agreed to meet their condition.

The night before the wedding and the ceremony that would blind him, the mountaineer took a walk to enjoy the night sky one last time.  He climbed higher and higher on the mountain that rose above the community.  Eventually he noticed that he had come to the mountain pass through which he had entered the valley.  Keeping his sight would be a simple matter of climbing through the pass and returning to the outside world.

The conflict between his love for his fiancée and his love of sight raged fierce within him.  But finally his love for the woman won out.  He returned to the valley and to the community where he would be married – and where he would be blinded for the rest of his life.

What a conflict!  What a decision!  What love the mountaineer had!

Of course, it is only a story – and an unlikely one at that.  But I know a similar story that is true, a story in which the hero accepts a handicap that will restrict him through eternity – all for love!

Divine and human

Supposed that 2,000 years ago God the Son looked at the sacrifice He would have to make to be born in a manger and die on a cross and had decided that the price was too high.  Imagine the consequences to you and me if, at the mountain pass of His decision, Christ had turned His back on us and returned to the glories of heaven that He was so familiar with.

Fortunately, He did not consider the price too high.  So Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who was 100 percent God and became 100 percent human.  Do we really understand what that means – what it meant for God, and what it means to us?

God’s problem

Consider God’s problem.  During the thousands of years people had been exposed to sin, their view of him had become distorted.  Every deviate interpretation of His character had been made the object of worship.  Some of those who believed Him to be an overbearing tyrant had come to believe they must appease Him by sacrificing their own children in their worship rites.  Others, who viewed Him as a weak, permissive being interested only in a good time, worshipped Him with acts of prostitution, bestiality, or gluttony.

In the names of their gods, the strong overwhelmed the weak, and the rich dominated the poor.  Apathy and greed flourished, and love and generosity withered away.

God realized that to salvage the situation, He could not simply speak to people in overpowering tones, as He did from Mount Sinai.  No, to teach human beings what He was really like in a way they would not soon forget, He would have to give a living example of His character in terms people would understand.  In a world where God was an unfocused reflection of humanity’s own selfish desires.  He would have to be focused into a being who was the essence of both humanity and divinity.  He would be as man without all the sin, selfish desires.  How could He be man, yet at the same time be God?

The community of blind people in that legendary Alpine valley could never understand what the mountaineer’s loss of his sight meant to him or how that loss demonstrated the profound love he held.  Similarly, our limited experience keeps us from fully comprehending the price Jesus paid to become human.  Because of that, we tend to trivialize the love His sacrifice reveals.

Christmas, the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, offers us the opportunity to take another look at His incredible history-changing life, a chance to recapture the sense of awe that many of us have lost.  It reminds us of His death and the hope of life that sacrifice provided for us.

The difference it makes

We recognize that Christ’s death on the cross made heaven possible for us.  But what of Christ’s life?  What differences did it make? 

By living on earth as a human being, Jesus challenged the conventional judgment and even the moral values of the time. 

Greed, selfishness, and lust for power influence our judgment more than we realize.  The concern for others that Jesus’ life reflect was just as disturbing to the status quo at His time as it would be for you and me to reveal to a community of blind people what it is like to see.  Jesus’ example turned conventional judgment on its ear.

Jesus taught us that motive rather than performance is what counts. 

Remember the story about the emperor’s new clothes?  They were “sewn” by a clever tailor who, aware of the King’s vanity, claimed that fools would not be able to see them.  Afraid of being recognized for the fools they were, everyone, including the king, went along with the charade.  It took a young boy to state the obvious and draw attention to the king’s lack of both britches and good sense.  Living in sin is like that.  We are all inadequate; we all have selfish motives.  Yet we go through our lives desperately seeking to ignore the obvious.  Let a little honesty creep in, and we are suddenly presented to the rest of the world as the emperor without his clothes, no longer regal but in desperate need of something to cover us up.  Jesus exposes our dishonesty, our spiritual nakedness. 

Jesus showed us that a positive approach is most effective at bringing out the best in people. 

Jesus did not need to condemn men and women as miserable sinners.  His mere presence revealed to them their moral shortcomings.  When we stand openly and honestly in the presence of Almighty God, He does not condemn; our sin condemns us.  Then He called them to look at the world from a different perspective, to center their lives on God instead of on things or on themselves.  This message led some people to seek spiritual wholeness.  Others, in turning from it, headed down a path of anger and resentment that eventually led them out of His presence and even into conspiring to get rid of Him. 

Imagine a cluster of flowers struggling to grow in a deep, junk-strewn ravine in which trees hide the sun.  Then a landscaping crew cleans out the ravine and thins the trees, allowing brilliant sunshine to pour down on the plants.

Overwhelmed by the powerful sun, some plants wither and die – perhaps wishing that everything had gone on as it was before.  Others, still shaded by the trees that remain, continue on much as they had in the past.  But a few of the plants withstand the initial shock of their exposure to the full light of the sun.  Soon they are basking in its light and flourish and multiplying beyond all previous guesses as to what their potential was.

Such is our relationship with Christ.  As we spend time with Him, we realize that His power is overwhelming.  If we welcome it and let it change us, we will grow to a degree we never before thought possible.

Jesus teaches us a proper appreciation of the power of love

Jesus revealed that most of us love selfishly and limit our love to a chosen few.  He showed that the most important thing any of us can do in life is to reflect the love God has shown us, to reflect it by loving our fellow humans.

Modern society talks a great deal about love and how it can change the world – or one’s personal life.  But society’s attempts at loving have merely resulted in increases in divorce rates, child pornography, incest and homosexuality – making it obvious society does not have any idea what love is.

We can never truly understand love until we learn where it comes from.  It comes from God.  He did not create it; He is love.  When you read 1 Corinthians 13 – the Love Chapter – you are reading about God. 

1 Corinthians 13:1-10 – Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When we learn to show this kind of love to those around us, we will reflect the character of God.  

What it would be like

Imagine being not being limited in time or space, able to know everything, to be everywhere at once, with limitless power available to you at any time.  Imagine then giving all that up to be restricted to one place at a time in the body of a man.  Then you can see how being born in Bethlehem as Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, changed God the Son forever.  At His birth, Jesus took human nature upon Himself.  He willingly shared in our world – knowing what it was to be hungry, tired, to suffer pain and humiliation.

Before the Son became human, we could only hear about God.  When He became a man, we could actually see who God is.

John 14:9 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’

He’s Dead – or Is He?

The Gospel of Matthew as well as other Gospel writers presents the reality of Jesus’ death as an absolute certainty.

Those standing around the cross watched as Jesus “breathed his last.” – John 19:30 tells us He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

They heard him cry with a loud voice. – Mark 15:37 tells us Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed His last.

Roman authorities, acting on instructions from Pilate, broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus to hasten their death; but coming to Jesus, they discovered He had already died – John 19:33 says “But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

Having received confirmation of death from the Roman centurion, Pilate released the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for burial.

  • The callous Roman soldiers said “He is dead.”
  • The curious crowds, unconscious of the eternal significance, said “He is dead.’
  • Pilate got the word, “Jesus is dead.”
  • Mary, feeling the pain like a dagger in her heart, said, “My son is dead.”
  • His disciples, numb and stunned with the events of the last few hours said, “The Master is dead”

Everybody had written Jesus off – gone forever.

Dead.

Dead.

Dead.

Get on with the same routine.  He’s dead.  No one expected to see Him or hear His voice again.

It’s Friday….but Sunday’s coming.

What separates Christianity from all other religions is an empty tomb and the words of Christ who says “I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore.”

Comparison of the Four Gospels

   Matthew  Mark  Luke  John    
Portrait of Christ  Prophesied KingObedient ServantPerfect ManSon of God
Angelic ReminderRev. 4, Ezek. 1First Creature: LionlikeSecond Creature: OxlikeThird Creature: ManlikeFourth Creature: Eaglelike      
Genea-logical Record  Yes – a King must have one – It traces the kingly line of David through Solomon and leads to Joseph, the legal father of JesusNo – a servant needs noneYes – A man should have one – It traces the physical line of David through Nathan and leads to Mary, the physical mother of JesusNo – God has no beginning                
Written for  JewsRomansGreeksAll People
Key Word(s)  “fulfilled”“straightway”“Son of Man”“believe”
Key Verse  21:510:4519:1020:31
Emphasis by the Writer  SermonsMiraclesParablesTeachings
Style of the Writer  TeacherPreacherHistorianTheologian
Arrange-ment of Material  TopicalChronologicalChronologicalTopical
Tone  PropheticPracticalHistoricalSpiritual
Percent Spoken by Christ  60%42%50%50%        

Quota-tions  from Old Testa-ment  
53362520
Allusions to Old Testament  762742105
Main Action is Centered inGalileeGalileeGalileeJerusalem in Judea