If you’ve ever been exposed to youth sports, you’ve probably experienced the inevitable…a child going the wrong way.
You’ve seen it, a little tike picks up a fumble on the football field and starts running towards his own end-zone. Or the one where the ball is hit off the “T” and the batter begins to head towards third instead of first. I’ve even seen adults in a basketball game get confused and tip the rebound back into their own net!
Typically in those situations all the parents just stand around and applaud the valiant effort of the child…NO! Sometimes the most animated time on the sideline is trying to convince the kid they’re GOING THE WRONG WAY!
This was exactly what John’s ministry was all about! He was moving throughout the region surrounding the Jordan River proclaiming to everyone… YOUR GOING THE WRONG WAY!
Now, you need to remember that it was four hundred years since a prophet proclaimed the Messiah was coming. So in this area, people were very excited to hear what John had to say, even though he would typically emerge from the wilderness covered in camel hair and eating locus for food. But John never lost his focus, he was bound and determined to call people to repentance and prepare the way for the Messiah, the King.
It wasn’t uncommon during this time for kings to send messengers ahead of them to prepare the people for their arrival in a town or region. This is exactly what John was doing for Jesus. John was born to “prepare the way.”
If you remember your reading from Luke 1 we learned a lot about what John would do to prepare the way for Jesus.
Luke 1:16-17 (NLT) 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
Zechariah prophesied about his son even before his birth:
Luke 1:76-79 (NLT) 76 “And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”
It’s here in John 3 we begin, for the first time, to hear foundational language that will be commonly taught by Jesus.
Here are the highlights to consider:
- v. 8 Pharisees and Sadducees can’t rely on their ancestry to save them
- v. 8 Repent of your sins and turn to God
- v. 9 Every tree that doesn’t produce fruit will be thrown into the fire
- v. 10 Give to the poor
- v. 11 Feed the hungry
One of the most powerful messages John proclaimed was the difference between the way he and Jesus would baptize. While John baptized with water, an outward expression of an inward decision of repentance, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John’s baptism didn’t give salvation; it prepared a person to receive Jesus’ message and Jesus’ baptism of the Holy Spirit. I’m reminded of the words of Joel that proclaimed that when the Messiah came, He would bring a Spirit of Baptism for all people, both Jew and Gentile.
Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) 28 “Then, after doing all those things,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants—men and women alike.
Like John, we also have an opportunity to prepare the way for the Messiah today. John was bold in his proclamation of what Jesus would do in people’s lives, and as a result, many people in common jobs asked what they should do to live properly. The greatest message we can proclaim today is to help people realize there’s nothing God can’t do in their lives. For when Jesus inhabits a person’s life,“5 The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level. The curves will be straightened, and the rough places made smooth. 6 And then all people will see the salvation sent from God (Luke 3:5-6, NLT).’”
As a believer today, the key is to, “8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God (Luke 3:8, NLT).