The texts for this lesson are Luke 3:1–20; John 1:19–34
- Oh, the riches of God’s love, which He pours out for me by sending His Son, Jesus, who took my sins upon Himself and washed them away.
- Law: God is always faithful, appointing men to preach His Word to the world. But the world hates the Word that God sends these men to preach.
- Gospel: God is not deterred. He knows I need to hear the Gospel. He sends that Word to me in mercy, even though I am not worthy of hearing it, so that I will hear and believe that His Son, Jesus, is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
- Every biblical prophet proclaimed his message in order to point to Christ. In John 5 and Luke 24, Jesus reminds us that all
the Scriptures testify concerning Him. Much of this testimony was given through the word of the prophets. When John begins his ministry, Jesus is still in Nazareth, perhaps helping His father as a carpenter. John’s message is simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Like every prophet, John prepares the way for Jesus by calling people to repentance. That is the only prophetic message worth preaching.
- John the Baptist was a relative of Jesus through Mary and was about six months older than Jesus. John’s conception and birth were natural, but still miraculous. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were very old. Though we know even less about John’s early life than we do about Jesus’, many suggest that his parents, because of their advanced age, may have died when John was young.
The John we meet in John 1 and Luke 3 is exactly what the Israelites would have expected to see in a prophet. He is bold and unequivocal in his proclamation of the Law. He never yields. He is willing to preach the truth, though it will
eventually lead to his death.
Matthew gives us some additional detail that can flesh out the picture in Luke and John: “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).
Matthew includes these details so that his Jewish hearers will be reminded of the prophet Elijah, who was recognizable by his clothing (2 Kings 1:8). It was also promised that Elijah would come again before the day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5).
John held Elijah’s prophetic office. John’s public rebuke of Herod Antipas for marrying his sister-in-law (Luke 3:19) is reminiscent of Elijah’s prophetic ministry during the reign of King Ahab. But John’s rebukes were not aimed only at those in public authority. He called the crowds who came to be baptized by him a “brood of vipers” (v. 7).
But John’s ministry was a ministry of both Law and Gospel. He proclaimed a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (v. 3). John baptized the very same people he had called a brood of vipers. They were precisely the people who needed and received the gift of Baptism.
John also made it clear that he was not the one in whom they should place their trust. Like all Old Testament prophets, John points forward to Christ as the one greater than he (John 1:30), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (v. 29), and the one on whom the Spirit would descend and remain (v. 33).
By calling Jesus the Lamb of God, John identifies Jesus as the Passover Lamb who will be sacrificed for the sins of God’s family. The word in verse 29 normally translated “takes away” means to take away in the sense of “carry” or “bear.” John is proclaiming that Jesus is taking up the sins of the world in His Baptism. He will carry those very same sins to the cross, suffer for them, and win salvation for the whole world. With the words “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” John becomes the first preacher during our Lord’s earthly ministry to proclaim the cross.