You know, good parents are a wonderful thing to have. I think about Jacob being dedicated today. Jacob has good parents. Godly parents are a treasure. Do you know that? They are. Parents who love Jesus Christ are a wonderful asset to a child.
Young John the Baptist was born of godly parents. You can read that in Luke 1:11-17. Before his birth an angel told his elderly father that he would be a great preacher. As a boy, John sat on his elderly fathers knee and heard how he would be a servant of God. He would be a great worker for God. He would introduce the kingdom. John's father did not believe God, and you remember what happened to him? He was stricken speechless until he went to name John the Baptist: he had to write the name on a tablet because he doubted God.
Can doubt be inherited? His father doubted and John would also have serious doubts about Jesus. Do you doubt Jesus? I hope you don't.
John grew up, and I imagine the townspeople would say, "You know, that's the miracle boy. See, there goes John. He's going to be a great preacher some day." And they would talk about him.
John was the kid of a priest, a priest's kid, a PK. Our children were that. But, John did not become a priest, himself, did he. Often our children don't become what we are. And we have to think , "Is my child doing something that's honorable. If it's honoring Jesus Christ, then it's okay that they aren't exactly what we are.
John's elderly parents had surely died by the time John the Baptist started his ministry. They never saw their son's success.
After their death, maybe they lost their home, but somehow John ended up living in the dessert. Turn to Matthew 3:4. John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. He had a strange diet. He ate wild honey. Why did he do that? In verse 3 it says, A voice of one calling in the desert,..., in the wilderness. That's where he lived. He was like a Bedouin nomad, a Gypsy. He ate wild honey. He had to fight the bees off to get any sweetness out there in that desert in his life. Maybe he poured the some of the honey over those locusts (I think they were locust bees) in order for them to get some taste. Many a day he must have longed for his mothers home cooking.
So far life his father's prediction had not turned out like his father said it would. He was still a strict Nazarite. Luke 7:33 (NLT) For John the Baptist didn't drink wine and he often fasted. He had very high health standards. he did not drink alcoholic beverages. I think we as Christians shouldn't do that either. John should have lived a long life because he had good health habits. But his life was cut short.
Folks almost forgot about John. He was out there in the Judean Desert for twenty five or thirty years. But God never forgets His children. And God doesn't forget you, either. John was poor. He was dressed in rough clothing made of camel hide and he tied it together with a single leather belt.
On rare occasions, maybe people would spot John out there in the desert sort of like a wild man or something in the way he was dressed and what he ate. And thin, "Now there is one kid that just didn't turn out like his parents thought!" I wish adults would stop judging our youth. You know, it's not over till it's over. Always have faith in young people. They need that.
One day God said: "The time is at hand for you to prepare the way for the Messiah." Come over here to Isaiah 40 in the King James Version and I want you to notice verse 3 because here is the job description for John the Baptist. And it says, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord... And who is that referring to? To Jesus Christ. His job was to prepare the way for Jesus. And how long did that take? It was almost thirty years before God came to him inthe desert and said, "It's time for you to start your work."
We humans are so impatient. We just want instant answers to our prayers. John had to wait almost 30 years to begin his work, the work that he was anxious to do. We need patience, don't we. Oh for the patience of the saints! And John used that used that thirty years out in the desert university to prepare for his work.
So, John began preaching, and Imagine his preaching was like a desert storm. You know, when a storm comes up, people run out on their porches to see what going to happen. People flocked out of the cities to hear Wild outspoken John preach about Jesus. Mark 1, and I want you to notice the tremendous success that John the Baptist had. Mark 1:5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. How many people from Jerusalem went out? All of the people of Jerusalem went out to hear John the Baptist way out there in the Judean desert way over near the Dead Sea. They had to go a ways to hear this man.
What do you think he preached about that drew such a crowd? You can read some excerpts from his sermons in Luke 3:7-20, and I will give you several excerpts from it. He called sinners a brood of vipers! Can you imagine someone doing that today? He said Israel had almost severed their ties with God. He called for repentance. He called for fruit production in the lives of his people. He said Israel had rejected God and as a nation were about to be burned with fire. He said the axes were about to strike at the root. He called for change. He called religious leaders snakes. He said, "Stop your cheating and lying. Live a clean life. Repent and be baptized." And I know that was baptism by immersion.
Do you know what happened when John was preaching? He had a great revival. The crowds grew. So many were baptized that they started calling him John the Baptist. He was in the river Jordan all day long baptizing the people. A band of devoted disciples began following John.
The high point of his life was when he baptized Jesus. After that, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness and started His own ministry. What happened to John's ministry? The crowds began to dwindle and became fewer and fewer And he thought, "What's happening to me?" John's disciples became worried. John had said in John 3:30 (KJV) "He must increase, but I must decrease." John's remark has great spiritual significance. There is no way for others to see more of Jesus in our lives without them seeing less of us. So, when you are around people, let them see Jesus in you.
One day as John was preaching, he came down hard against adultery. I think we as churches need to speak out against adultery. We need to speak out against homosexuality and all of these sins. One of his sermon illustrations was about... "Are you aware of what's happening in the palace over here? Are you aware of Herod and Herodias. He took his half brother's wife and married her and they're living in the palace. And nobody dared criticize Herod for fear of this wild woman, Herodias that he married. Other preachers were silent because they didn't want to lose their official standing, but the recent scandal in the palace. Herod had an affair with his half brothers wife Herodias and took her for his wife.
No one dare criticize Herod for fear of this wild woman, Herodias. Other preachers were silent about this sin for fear of losing their official standing. But John didn't have any job to lose. He didn't have any official standing. He had nothing to lose. So John came down hard against this sin.
I imagine the Jerusalem Times published these big bold headlines which says, Fiery Desert Preacher Condemns King Herod. And he was in trouble. Immediately Herod had John arrested and thrown into the dungeon at Fort Machaerus, near the Dead Sea. Now John's career had ended in failure. No more preaching. No more what he did. His disciples were about to leave him. He was forced to spend terrible endless days in a dark dank dungeon. John was like a wild animal pacing back and forth in a small dark underground cage.
His punishment could not have been worse. You see, John the Baptist loved the great outdoors. He would have loved the Appalachian trail. He was an outdoors person. He savored the fresh smell of the pure air as it blew over his camel hair clothing. He slept outdoors with the star studded sky for his blanket. John ate wild honey and locusts. His strong ruddy arms baptized many a soul. He was an outdoor man. His strong voice echoed across the desert calling for repentance. And now the bars of iron had silenced John the Baptist. He couldn't preach any more.
You've heard the story that in Carlisle Castle there is a small underground dungeon. A man was incarcerated there for many long years. A small window way up high was the only source of light. The interesting thing is that on the window ledge there are two depressions worn away in the stone made by the hands of that prisoner. Day after day he jumped up and caught the window sill and hung there as his eyes looked out on the green hills upon which he would never again place his feet.
That's what happened to John the Baptist. Those iron bars also incarcerated John's faith. I'll tell you that suffering is an incubator of fear. When you suffer, when you have pain... have you ever taken pain pills? Do you ever have back pain? Terrible things happen to you? That incubates fear and doubt. It'll do it. And that's what happened to John. Days melted into months. He began to doubt in Jesus. Do you know why he doubted in Jesus? "If my cousin is the Messiah, why doesn't He get me out of this place. Isn't the Messiah supposed to set the captives free?" Right? That's one of the job descriptions that Isaiah said. He probably thought, "I am a captive. Jesus is my cousin. Why can't He get me out of jail?" That's a good question. "He might not be the Messiah."
Undoubtedly John quizzed his disciples about Jesus. They have access to Him. They may have said, "Jesus is doing well. We've been out and heard Him preach. He's performing all kinds of miracles. He has big crowds, but Jesus is different than you are. Jesus is preaching a message of mercy, forgiveness and love instead of the judgment hour message you that did. We fast every week and His disciples never fast. And Herod has not even bothered Jesus. He threw you in jail, and, in fact, Jesus dresses in a fine seamless linen robe and goes to lunch with tax collectors and other sinners. Prostitutes sit at His feet at banquets. He's not like you."
So, John got to thinking. Finally he said, "Well, Go and ask Jesus if indeed He is the one we expected. Here's the question." Turn to Matthew 11:3 for the question. "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
What John had preached as a living exclamation mark at the Jordan River had now become a question mark. He was doubting. Trials and troubles are like caustic acid; they eat away our faith in God if you let them do that. Depression and despondency dropped John deep down in the dumps.
I really like Jesus' answer to John. And of course when we study the Bible, we study the Bible to learn how Jesus was, something about Jesus. That's our purpose as Christians. And I like Jesus' answer to John. Jesus did not say, "I'm very ashamed of you John. You should never have doubted like that." No. Or, "You disappoint me." No. Notice that Jesus didn't even send John a Gospel tract on how to be joyful in jail. He didn't do any of that.
When someone sends a delegation to you, it usually means trouble. How did Jesus react to this critical skeptical remark? Jesus turned the other cheek and praised John as being the greatest Prophet in the history of the world! Matthew 11:11. When someone criticizes and questions you, it's so easy to lash out at them. But how much finer to love them like Jesus loved John.
Matthew 11:4. Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see?" On the same day that John threw mud at Jesus, Jesus gave John a bouquet of roses. He turned the other cheek. He did not fight back. And when somebody criticizes you, it's very easy for you to lash out at them and call your attorney. Don't do that. Turn the other cheek. That's Jesus' way.
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor."
You see, Jesus knew that John knew the Word. And He knew that John knew Isaiah 61, which says in verse 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted... Jesus said that this is His job description. His job description was not to lash out at Herod.
Jesus said, "you go tell John what I am doing. Don't tell John what I am claiming, but what I am doing. Jesus was the only person Who could ask to be judged by what He did and not just by what He said. Jesus followed this by a personal message just for John. It is actually another BEATITUDE.
Matthew 11:6 "Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
What Jesus is saying is: "Blessed is he whomsoever shall not get upset by the strange way that I run my business. You tell John not to throw in the towel in just because I am not doing it the way he expected. Just Tell John to trust in Me." And I think John did. I believe we will see John the Baptist in Heaven. Winners refuse to let fear take charge.
Does Jesus always handle the concerns of your life the way you think they ought to be handled? Are you jilted and jailed like John? Are you in the clutches of doubt and about to give up? Don't give up.
You can know that John had similar feelings.
If these are your circumstances of your life, then you can understand John. John thought, "If Jesus can raise the dead, why can't He get me out of Jail? I could be a real asset to His work. Why don't they want me? I could join Jesus and be out there preaching and helping Him. Why? There's no need for me to be in this jail."
(Matthew 14:6-12) Things got worse for John. Herod had a party. It was a birthday party. The daughter of Herodias danced and he thought she was so pretty he said, "I'll give you half of my kingdom. What do you want? Anything you want." She ran to her mother. Her mother said, "I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter." So she asked for it and Herod about died. he didn't want to do that. he hadn't done it yet in eighteen months. But he did. John the Baptist died in jail. He never, ever, got out. It didn't happen.
Friends, I don't understand that. John tasted the cup, the same cup which Jesus drank all the rest of the contents clear to it's emptiness.
Friends, we are not called to understand all of God's ways but we are called today to trust God. I don't understand why my Jesus delivered Peter out of Jail. And how long did Peter languish in jail? Just a few hours. I don't understand why He did that and he let John the Baptist stay in Jail for months and months and he lost his life in jail and never ever got out. I don't understand that.
Suffering is a gift, and I will tell you that.
Did you know that of all the gifts that Heaven can bestow upon men, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor.
It bothers me when some Christians get out their neat charts and diagrams to categorize all of God's dealings. They can give you a pat answer to any question. I don't think they have been far. When I was in my thirties, I knew all the answers. Can you believe that I used to preach sermons on how to raise teenagers! But now I have very few answers. I have learned that my job is to surrender my all to Jesus, and to do my best, and then just trust Him. That's all we can do.
God's great timetable is on a different system than ours. His expectations are not the same as I might think. His workings rarely add up on our computers. Life just doesn't work out like we might think. As a child I often wondered why God put more vitamins in the spinach than He did in the potato chips. When we all get to heaven, do you know what will have the highest concentration of vitamins? The Ice Cream!
The great apostle, Paul, learned to trust in Jesus. Acts 20:22 (KJV). "I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there." Verse 23 (NIV) "I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." Verse 24 (KJV). "But none of these things move me."
Why was John left in Jail for months till he lost his head and later Peter was rescued from Jail within just a few hours? I believe that John needed the Jail. For the sake of thousands of martyrs who would die in the future, John was to drink the cup of martyrdom. Sometimes we need the blessing of Suffering. Despite his suffering, Satan had failed in conquering John.
Elder Bill Ostman was a member of this church. He used to be a pastor. Bill had a terrible lung disease and had to have a tracheotomy. Eventually he had to be suctioned four times a day. They put a tube down into his lungs and sucked that liquid out of there. He lost weight and looked like skin and bones. It was horrible. He could hardly breathe. He told me that he felt like he was suffocating. Finally, he was on oxygen for months and months. This continued for 11 years from start to the day he died. He told me an incredible thing. This dying pastor said: "It is God's will that I have this disease. It is best for me." And I thought, "I need to grow a lot." I don't understand that statement. But I've come to understand it more and more.
I believe that God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of His purpose. Our job is to trust Jesus. Now I want you, as you have come to this Christian church today, to trust Jesus. Trust your baby into Jesus' arms. Trust your disease into Jesus' hands. Trust your life into Jesus' hands. He'll never let you down. Follow where He leads you.
Hymn of Praise: #227, Jesus Shall Reign Scripture: Matthew 11:11-14 Hymn of Response: #619, Lead On, O King Eternal 010609Gettys#77
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last updated 6/12/2001 by Bob Beckett.