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Message from John the Baptist

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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May 22, 2022 12:01 am

Message from John the Baptist

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 22, 2022 12:01 am

As John the Baptist languished in prison for his allegiance to the kingdom of God, the prophet's confidence began to wane. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke by focusing on Jesus' words of assurance for John--and for us.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind… When last we looked at Luke's gospel, we considered the raising from the dead of the Son of the Widow of Nain, and we read at the end of that episode that the people have glorified God, saying, A great prophet has risen among us, and God has visited His people. And as a result of this astonishing act of raising one from the dead, the reputation of Jesus swelled throughout the land, and reports were carried everywhere. Obviously, one of the places where that report had been carried was to a dungeon five miles from the Dead Sea where John the Baptist had been incarcerated for daring to critique publicly the morality of the King. And John was languishing in prison at the same time.

The popularity of Jesus was on the rise among the populace. And obviously, John was confused. He's hearing all the great things that Jesus had done, and while Jesus is doing these great things, John is in prison.

And he's wondering about this. Now, there are those commentators who assume that the reason why John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus with the question, Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another, say that, well, John had not been shaken in his confidence. After all, he was a prophet, and he was simply having his disciples go and ask Jesus this question for their sakes, to confirm their faith, for John was going to transfer the allegiance of his disciples to Jesus. Well, I think that's a stretch of biblical interpretation.

I think we have to go with what the text says itself. It's John who asks the question, and the reply that Jesus gives is not simply for the benefit of his disciples, but Jesus says, You go and tell John. So, Jesus is obviously receiving this question as it comes from John, and He gives the response to John. Why should it be a strange thing for us to imagine that John might actually be having second thoughts? He had gone on public record proclaiming Jesus as the one who was to come, the Lamb of God who would take away their sins, the one who would be greater than John the Baptist, the one who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. He had made this public proclamation of the person of Jesus, and whatever his personal expectations were of Jesus, as of yet to this date, obviously they were not fulfilled. Is it impossible for a prophet of God to go through a dark night of the soul, a time of doubt? Not if we consider the prophets of the Old Testament like Jeremiah who was clearly ready to turn in his prophet's card when he had had enough of the derision heaped upon him by the people, saying, Your Word has become a reproach to me.

I am in derision daily. I will speak no more in Your name. Or Elijah crying out, I, I alone have left. Or if you consider Jonah who boarded a ship to escape the responsibilities of the word of prophecy that God had given to him, we could go on for a long period of time, citing examples of the real humanity of the prophets of God in the Old Testament who just like everybody else in times of distress and in times of trouble had moments of doubt and confusion. And John every day as he languishes in this horrible dungeon has to be wondering, Where's Jesus? Did I make a mistake? Did I proclaim the wrong one to be the Lamb of God? And so he can't stand it anymore. The more of these reports that he hears, and so finally he sends two of his disciples of Jesus to ask him, Tell us, Are you the one?

Or should we look for another? And before we look at Jesus' response to this, let me just have a word of application. Do you know how many millions of millions and millions of people who are on this planet today and even in our own country who are not persuaded that Jesus was the One? The whole Jewish nation is still waiting for the Messiah, having rejected Jesus and being convinced that He was not the One who was to come. Every Muslim on this planet believes that Jesus ultimately was not the One who was to come. And there are others who are looking for a hero there, a heroine there, a heroine there, anybody that could fulfill the role of the rescuer, the deliverer, the Savior, who are not satisfied with Jesus. And then there are many, many millions of people who believe that Jesus was one of the ones who was to come, but by no means the only one. They will acknowledge that Jesus is one way to God, but will shrink in horror at the suggestion that He's the only way to God. I can't think of any proclamation or profession more repugnant to a secular culture than the proclamation that there's only one way to God, and that one way is Jesus. I'm sure with the number of people that are in this room this morning, there must be many of us in this very room to stay who believe and have said, oh, I think there are many ways to God. If there are, then it's likely that Jesus isn't one of them, because Jesus said He was the only one. And the Word of God says He's the only one. The Word of God says one mediator between God and man. There's only one who's given an atonement. And if you think that God is stingy and lacking in grace by restricting it to one way, you need to ask yourself the question, why is there any way? What have we done that would merit God's being moved to provide any way of salvation? But in His glorious grace, He has given to us the monogenes, the only begotten of the Father. Let me say this. If you're not willing to stand for that, it may very well be that you're an unregenerate person.

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where your loyalty to Christ comes to the test. Are you going to please men and bow to political correctness in a pluralistic and relativistic culture, or are you really persuaded that Jesus Christ is God's only Son, the only one to have provided an atonement for our sins, the only one whom God raised from the dead, the one whom God has appointed Him as judge and has appointed a day by which He will judge the whole world by Jesus, not by Mohammed, not by Confucius, not by Gautama Buddha. Buddha's dead. Mohammed's dead.

Confucius is dead. And only Jesus has been raised and elevated to the right hand of God the Father, where He sits right now as the King of the kings and the Lord of the lords. But maybe you're thinking, God hasn't done enough, sending His Son to pay the price for every sin that you've ever committed, that God hasn't done enough to raise His Son for your justification and raise Him as the firstborn from the dead, that because of Him, if you put your trust in Him, you will live forever. And if you put your trust in Him, you will live forever. And ever and ever without a tear, without a pain, it's not enough for you?

If that's not enough, then I do suggest to you that you look for another. But such a suggestion is to suggest that you go on a fool's errand, because there isn't another who can do what Jesus has done for you. And this is where you need to be able to be prepared to stand in the face of all the hostility of the world out of loyalty to your Savior. Consider Polycarp in his late eighties when he was arrested and taken into the arena, the Colosseum, where the lions were waiting to feast upon his body.

And even the Emperor did not want to be so harsh on this man in his old age. And he said, you don't have to die, Polycarp. All you have to do is say, away with the atheists, meaning the Christians, and you will live. And so he said, for over 80 years, my Lord has sustained me. You think I'm going to deny Him now, but if all you want me to say is, away with the atheists, I'll do that.

And he looked to the crowd, to the Romans, and he said, away with the atheists, if they were the atheists. Is there a Polycarp in the room today? Are those here willing to say, yea, he is the one, the only one, and the one I will die for? But the question came from John the Baptist of all people. Jesus, are you the one?

Or should we look for another? Now Jesus is not angry at that question. He's patient with that question, but I love the way He answers that question. Jesus said to them, go tell John the things that you have seen and heard. Go tell John that the blind see, the lame are walking, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.

And don't forget to tell him this, above all else, the poor are having the gospel preached to them. Why was it so important? The thing that would create such a marvel in the land was to see people who had been blind from their birth having their eyes open and they could see, the lame leaping for joy, the deaf hearing, the dead raised. That's a big deal. He says, go tell John what you've seen, but don't forget to tell him the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Why was that included? I think it's clear it's no mystery. Is not the agenda set in Isaiah 61, for the Lord's anointed, the Messiah? Behold, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach good news to the poor, deliverance to the captives, and so on. The job description for the Lord's anointed, for the Messiah set forth in ancient prophecy. Jesus is saying, John, go read your Bible.

Go read Isaiah 61, and you'll get the answer to your question whether you should look for somebody else because nobody else was fulfilling the prophetic description of the Messiah like Jesus. Jesus added, and blessed is He who's not offended because of Me. Don't want to leave that out.

That's a very important beatitude. Why is it that professing Christians are so reluctant to say Jesus is the only way? We know how the world thinks about that. We know they can't stand to hear that. We know that that is utterly offensive to them.

And so what do we do? We want to flee from the offense, and we want to say to them, well, Christianity is right for me, but whatever you believe, whatever you believe, that's fine for you. You pray to your God, and I'll pray to mine, and we'll all be happy together in hell. Jesus pronounces benediction on the believer who's not offended by Him. What a strange thing that our Lord would have to give a benediction on people who say they believe in Him who are not offended by Him. How can you be offended by your Savior? How can you be offended by the incarnate Word of God? People come to me all the time with things that they read in the Scriptures that they don't like, and I say, it's wonderful for you if you can find things in the Bible that you don't like. If when you're reading something in the Bible and you don't like it, put a big mark next to it and go through and just wait for a minute, keep reading through the whole Bible, and every time you see something you don't like, put a mark next to it, and then go back and concentrate your study on the places where you've placed the marks. Because if you want a quick way to sanctification, that's it. Because if you find something in the Bible you don't like, it means one of two things. Either A, you don't understand the text and you need to study it more thoroughly until the problem is resolved, or B, if after you study it more thoroughly and you come to the conclusion, yes, your interpretation is what the text is and I still don't like it, then B, you have a wonderful mirror that shows you where you need to change your life. Because if you don't like what's in this Word, either you're wrong or God's wrong.

Any takers on which one it is? But blessed is the one who's not offended by Jesus. And now the messengers leave, and Jesus has to give a commentary about the man who had just asked the question, are you the one to come? You can hear Jesus saying, it really irks me when I get questions like that, what's wrong with this John, how quick he is in vacillating from his faith, how weak he is, what's the matter with him? No, no, no.

No. What you get here is basically a hymn of praise for John the Baptist. And he said to the multitudes concerning John, to all those people who went flooding to the Jordan River, huge crowds that thronged along the river banks, that they might be baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist.

As I told you, at this point in Jewish history, John the Baptist was more famous than Jesus. And he said, all you people who went out there to see John, what were you looking for? What did you go out there to see? Did you go out there to see a reed shaking with every zephyr, with every breeze of wind falling apart?

No. You saw a towering tree filled with strength in John the Baptist. What did you go to see? A man clothed in soft garments? We're talking about John the Baptist. John the Baptist who came out of the wilderness, who lived on locusts and wild huntings, the toughest man in Israel. You didn't go out to see a soft guy dressed in opulent clothes, reclining on a couch. You wanted to see a man. You wanted to see a prophet. And before Pilate announced to the crowd of Jesus, echa homo, behold the man, Jesus announced to this crowd of John the Baptist, echa homo, behold the man. You went out to see a man, a man of God. What did you go to see? Did you go to see a prophet?

Yes. Of course you went out to see a prophet. That was the attraction, four hundred years of silence since Malachi. A prophet had not arisen in Israel, and all of a sudden out of nowhere, out of the traditional meeting place between God and His people, a new prophet comes proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling you to repent and to be baptized. That's what you went out to see, a prophet.

And what you saw was a prophet, yes, but more than a prophet. And then Jesus said, This is He of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. Here the Old Testament prophets not only prophesy about the coming Messiah, but they prophesy about the prophet who will be the herald of the Messiah. So John himself is not just a prophet. He's the subject of prophecy and the object of prophecy. He was himself prophesied by the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said, He's a prophet, yes, but He's more than a prophet.

He's the prophet, the herald of the Messiah, the one who would usher in the Messianic era. And then Jesus gives this astonishing comment, For I say to you, among those born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. I often fool my students in the seminary when I say, Who's the greatest prophet in the Old Testament? And they'll say, Well, it was Jeremiah or Isaiah or Ezekiel or Daniel or Amos or Moses. I say, No, the greatest prophet is John the Baptist. They say, Well, John the Baptist is in the New Testament, not in the Old Testament. I say, We read about him in the New Testament, but this is still the period of the Old Testament. The New Testament hasn't started yet, so John the Baptist still belongs in terms of redemptive history to the Old Covenant. And Jesus said, Of all of the prophets, there's none greater than John. That's easy enough to handle, but He who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than He. What?

How in the world can we understand that? There's only one way I know of, and that's to wait till next Sunday, because I told you I wasn't going to get through this whole thing. Well, I have to leave the answer to that and the rest, God willing, for next week. Oh, how great it is to hear Dr. Sproul's voice each Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. His love for the people of St. Andrew's Chapel, where he co-pastored for many years, is so evident as we wrap up that message from the Gospel of Luke. Thanks for listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Sunday. Each week we return to Dr. Sproul's verse-by-verse series from The Gospel of Luke. And to help your study as you join us each week, let me recommend that you request our resource offer. It's a digital download of R.C.

's commentary on Luke. With nearly 600 pages, it will help you understand the historical context and theological significance of each verse. Contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we will be glad to send you that digital download. You can reach us online at And if you're on Facebook and Twitter, we hope you'll follow us on both of those platforms. Every day you'll find links to articles, videos, and audio posts. On Facebook, search for Ligonier Ministries, and on Twitter, you'll find us by typing at Ligonier. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us, and we hope to see you right back here next Sunday. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-15 20:29:10 / 2023-04-15 20:37:01 / 8

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