ON A RATHER INSIGNIFICANT SPHERE
A senior angel is showing a very young angel around the splendors of the universe. They view whirling galaxies and blazing suns, and then flit across the infinite distances of space until at last they enter one particular galaxy of 500 billion stars.
As the two of them draw near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis ball to the angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.
“I want you to watch that one particularly,” said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.
“Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” said the little angel. “What’s special about that one?”
To the little angel, earth did not seem so impressive. He listened in stunned disbelief as the senior angel told him that this planet, small and insignificant and not overly clean, was the renowned Visited Planet.
“Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince … went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?” …
The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”
“I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”
The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
(SOURCE: From Phillip Yancey, “The Jesus I Never Knew,” p. 43-44, quoting JB Phillips.)
We have been focusing on God sending the Light. We have been focusing on how God provides the sacrifice for our sins. Over the past few weeks we have looked at how way back in Genesis 3:15 God prophesied that He, being Jesus, will strike a fatal blow to the devil. This shows that when humanity first sinned, God was already declaring redemption. Salvation comes from the Lord. Then, last week we looked at Genesis 22 and how God provided a sacrifice for Abraham. This shows that God will also provide a sacrifice for us. In this we see the prophesies of old fulfilled in the New Testament that God would become a man to die for our sins. God loves us that much.
Today, let’s talk about John the Baptizer preparing the way for the Messiah, for Jesus. Today, we look at the New Testament.
Today’s Great Idea is that John the Baptizer Prepares the Way for the Light of the World. Today’s application is because Jesus Is the Light, we do not walk in darkness. So, walk in the Light. (Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:4-8)
Let’s read Mark 1:1-8:
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
4And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The 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. 6John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
I. Mark 1:1-8 is about John the Baptizer preparing the way for Jesus.
1. This passage actually quotes from the Old Testament, specifically, Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 about the one who prepares the way.
2. Since we are in the Chritmas season, how do you prepare for Christmas morning?
1. Okay, let’s pretend that you have people coming over for dinner, or lunch or a Christmas get together, how do you prepare? Do you have to get things ready in the house?
2. Less than a few months ago many of you hosted a few Judson University students for the night. How did you prepare? Did you get their beds ready? Did you clean the house? Did you get a camper out and get it ready? Then, when they came over did you drive them home and give them something to eat?
3. Prior to your Christmas celebratin do you decorate? Do you think, “I am having my grandchildren over and I want things to be right? So, you bake some cookies, you set up the Christmas tree, maybe you light a fire in the fireplace, maybe you light some candles. You are preparing the place for your family Christmas get together. When you do this you are preparing everything for the important people, your family.
3. Way back in the Old Testament God declared that someone will prepare the way for Jesus. Someone will prepare the way for the Light of the World.
4. John the Baptist was the forerunner. This passage is about John and his ministry.
5. However, I want to look at another prophetic passage.
II. In Luke 1:67-79 we see John the Baptizer’s father prophesy about John. Let’s read that passage as well.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
68“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant,
73the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
1. So, we see an amazing prophesy and I only want to talk about a couple of verses.
2. First, in context John the Baptizer has just been born and they name him John. If you read the beginning of the chapter, verses 5-25 you can read about the angel of the Lord visiting Zecheriah to share that he and his wife, Elizabeth, will have a child in their old age.
3. Verse 67 says that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Wow! Understand that there has not been a prophet in 400 years. They have not seen anything like this.
4. In verses 67-75 are prophesies concerning Jesus.
5. As I look at these I see that they all are in a worshipful way. Verse 68: Praise the Lord, God of Israel because He has come to His people and redeemed them.
6. This is worship of God. Amen!
7. Realize that Zechariah and his wife are likely older than sixty years and they just had a child.
1. Raise your hand if you are under sixty years old.
2. Understand that the parents of John the Baptizer were older than you are, maybe older than your parents and they conceived and gave birth.
3. Now, raise your hand if you are over sixty years old.
4. Understand that Zechariah and Elizabeth might have been your age as new parents.
5. I have been a new parent and I am not eager to have that responsibility, pressure and time commitment in my sixties.
6. I do not want to miss stating that some of you take on great responsibilities for children when you are over sixty and praise God for your commitment.
8. Verses 76-80 are about John the Baptizer preparing the way for Jesus, the Light of the world.
9. Verse 76: John will be called a prophet of the most High. Do you know that Jesus said that no one born of women was greater than John the baptizer? (Matthew 11:11) Verse 76 also says that John will prepare His ways.
10. Verse 77: John will give people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.
1. John went out and preached that people need to repent. (Matthew 3:1-11; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:2-16; John 1:19-39; 3:22-36)
2. In John 1:23 John said that he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. John recognized that he was fulfilling prophesies from the Old Testament. He knew the prophesies in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 which he fulfilled. He knew who he was.
3. What is really awesome is that here when he was just born his father prophesies this ministry regarding his son. We must be careful of this. But this was accrurate.
The eighteenth-century Anglican clergyman George Whitefield was one of the spearheads of the Great Awakening, a period of massive renewal of interest in Christianity across Western societies and a time of significant church growth. Whitefield was a riveting orator and is considered one of the greatest preachers in church history. In late 1743 his first child, a son, was born to he and his wife, Elizabeth. Whitefield had a strong impression that God was telling him the child would grow up to also be a “preacher of the everlasting Gospel.” In view of this divine assurance, he gave his son the name John, after John the Baptist, whose mother was also named Elizabeth. When John Whitefield was born, George baptized his son before a large crowd and preached a sermon on the great works that God would do through his son. He knew that cynics were sneering at his prophecies, but he ignored them. Then, at just four months old, his son died suddenly of a seizure. The Whitefields were of course grief-stricken, but George was particularly convicted about how wrong he had been to count his inward impulses and intuitions as being essentially equal to God’s Word. He realized he had led his congregation into the same disillusioning mistake . Whitefield had interpreted his own feelings— his understandable and powerful fatherly pride and joy in his son, and his hopes for him—as God speaking to his heart. Not long afterward, he wrote a wrenching prayer for himself, that God would “render this mistaken parent more cautious, more sober-minded, more experienced in Satan’s devices, and consequently more useful in his future labors to the church of God.” The lesson here is not that God never guides our thoughts or prompts us to choose wise courses of action, but that we cannot be sure he is speaking to us unless we read it in the Scripture.
Keller, Timothy (2014-11-04). Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (p. 63). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
4. So, that is today, but Zechariah was letting God speak through him, how do we know? One way is that this was fulfilled.
11. In verse 79: Zechariah prophesies that John will: to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
1. Another translation says that he will give light to those who sit in darkness.
2. Would you be in darkness without Jesus?
3. Whether we realize it or not, we would be in darkness without Jesus.
4. In John 8:12 Jesus is speaking and He says: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
5. So, where you at? Do you have the Light of the world?
6. Ephesians 5:8-11: turn there with me:
7. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
8. Isaiah 60:1: Arise Shine for your Light has come.
9. Jesus has come and He was and is the Light of the world. John the baptizer prepared the way for Jesus, the Light of the World. Now, what is so awesome is that this verse has been fulfilled on multiple levels:
1. John the baptizer grew up as verse 80 says and he prepared the way for the Lord who would shine the light on those that walk in darkness.
2. Then, today, Jesus has come, died on the cross for us and risen again !
3. We have heard, we have seen the Light.
4. But others still have not.
5. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 that we are the light of the world.
6. Go, spread your light.
On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry
by Charles Coffin, 1676-1749
Translated by John Chandler, 1806-1876 (Stanzas 1-3)
Translated by unknown author, (Stanzas 4-5)
1. On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Awake and listen for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings.
2. Let every heart be cleansed from sin
Make straight the way for God within,
And so prepare to be the home
where such a mighty guest may come.
3. For You are our Salvation, Lord,
Our Refuge, and our great Reward.
Without Your grace our we waste away
Like flowers that wither and decay.
4. To heal the sick, stretch out Your hand
And make the fallen sinner stand;
Shine out, and let Your light
restore earth’s own true loveliness once more.
5. To You, O Christ, all praises be,
Whose advent sets Your people free,
Whom, with the Father, we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore!
1. John the baptizer prepared the way. Zechariah prophesied that he would prepare the way for Jesus. You may not be a prophet like him, but you can still point people to Jesus as he did. Shine your light.
2. What better season than this season to shine your light and point people to Jesus.
Do you ever plug in your Christmas lights and only one bulb works on a strand? That would not be that pretty would it? No, the tree is pretty because of all the lights. The lights expose the darkness of that tree.
In like manner…
I am going to light a candle right now and ask that the lights will be turned off. This room can get really dark, especially at night. Just look at it. We just have the alter candles lit and this one. This does not brighten it up much. But suppose that it was just like Christmas Eve and you all had a candle, one by one this room would light up. Your candle light would expose the darkness in this room.
The Truth is, we all have the Light, if you know Jesus Christ. When you go about your daily lives you walk into rooms that are dark like this and you bring the light, which is Jesus within you.
Go be light.
Do you have the Light of the world that the Old Testament prophesied about? Do you have the Light of the world that John the Baptizer prophesies about?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)