Luke 3:1-14: The Ministry of John the Baptist
On the big screen at the moment is the latest instalment in the Downton Abbey world. The latest movie revolves around the King and Queen coming for a one day visit to the Crawley family estate. The movie opens up for us a little window into what an event a royal visit really was. Back in the day the whole town would have to prepare for the coming royalty, things would get freshly painted, roads would be repaired, and uniforms would be remade all in preparation of the visit. On the Island of St Helena they painted a giant welcome message on the side of the mountain above Jamestown ‘Welcome Prince Andrew’ in the 1980s which can still be seen today.
In Downton Abbey, the royal butler, or The Page of the Backstairs with his entourage goes ahead of the royals to prepare the way. John the Baptist is a very different sort of one who prepares the way for a different sort of King. If royalty were coming to our town we would be paying attention to external things like slapping on a fresh coat of paint and making sure all the garden’s presented well. How do you prepare for the King of the universe to come and visit you? This was the role given to John the Baptist, and it is to him that we turn our attention this morning.
John we know is a prophet, and He is preparing the way for the holy God to come to visit His people. However, a visitation from God is never what we think it is because we always forget who God is. If God comes down to be among us, He comes in the purity of His holiness, He comes to judge the wicked and bless His people. We forget how serious sin is and how sinful we really are, and so John prepares Israel for the coming Messiah with a particular message, 3:3 says,
‘And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’
Verses 4-6 are a quote from Is. 40:3-5 calling for people to ready themselves to meet with God who is coming as Savior,
‘As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’’’
Today as we look at John the Baptist we want to consider the three aspects of his message, baptism, forgiveness and repentance.