We are continuing our series “True North,” examining Luke’s biography of Jesus and asking the question, “what does it look like to fix our eyes on Jesus?”
- Do you ever remember getting lost as a time as a child (or maybe an adult)–where you had no map, no cell service, and no idea where you were?
Context: The world that Jesus was born into was a world under tyranny. The Jewish population was under oppressive Roman rule and looking for a messiah that was going to come in and lead a rebellion out of oppression and into freedom and independence. John the Baptist comes on the scene and people begin to consider the possibility that he may be that messiah. However, John the Baptist denies this claim and tells the crowds that he is more like a compass, pointing people to the true messiah, Jesus.
READ LUKE 3:1-20
Context: This section has a number of images that we are not as familiar with (or that are completely lost on us) that would not have been an issue with the first century audience. As you read, rather than getting hung up on the images that seem foreign to our ears, picture yourself in the crowd—try to pick up on John’s tone, who he addresses, and his demeanor. As you listen, try to imagine what would be attractive or repelling about the situation.
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”[a]
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[b] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[c] 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 he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
- What do you notice about John? How would you describe him?
- Why do you think crowds would gather to hear such a man with such a message?
- How do you think this type of message would go over in today’s culture? Why do you say that?
- Thinking back on Johns demeanor and words, and especially verse 19, why do you think the crowds wondered if John was the messiah? (Remember, they were looking for a messiah that would lead a revolution to overthrow the government)
FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS
Intro: This week, Bret gave us two principles to remember if we want to fix our eyes on Jesus
- Know Who You Are And Know Who You Aren’t
- Appreciate the Good News and Understand the Bad News
John is at the height of his popularity, and the crowds are wondering if he is the messiah. In fact, first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote that King Herod feared he would lead a rebellion and that the crowds “seemed ready to do anything he would advise.” However, rather than cling to this rising popularity, John points the crowds elsewhere.
- Reread verses 15-16. How does John’s words point to the first principle for fixing your eyes on Jesus? What does that look like for us today? How do we live it out?
When you look back over John’s message in Luke 3, it does not necessarily give you a warm fuzzy feeling. Yet, Luke calls it good news. New Testament scholar Leon Morris said, “Judgment is not at first sight very good news; but it is an integral part of the gospel. Unless we can be sure that in the end evil will be decisively overthrown, there is no ultimate good news.”
- Was there a time in your life that the gospel did not see/feel like good news? If so, and you know view it as good news, what shift caused you to see it as good news?
Ravi Zacharias, a renowned apologist who recently passed away, said, “The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not just that we are immoral, but that a moral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God. Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’ offer to us. Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.”
- What are your thoughts about this quote in relation to good news? What is the difference between attempting to make bad people good and making dead people alive? How does one feel oppressive and the other freeing?
CLOSE IN PRAYER