According To Luke: A Day Before Jesus



According To Luke: A Day Before Jesus

The Gospel According To Luke is Historical and Helpful!

Point:
The Gospel according to Luke is a interesting perspective of the life of Jesus Christ.  I will explain that in a moment.  From the very beginning of Luke we see the setting in which Jesus lived.  It was a brutal time.  A difficult time if you were a Jew.  Luke’s account is also helpful.  Luke gives a unique insight into the life of Jesus.  Specifically we see how Jesus interacted with people. We know that Jesus had dealings with the common man.  He also had interaction with the religious elite and politicians. Jesus was a common man living a very uncommon life.  

Transition Statement:
This morning, open your Bibles to Luke 3:1-14.  This morning I am reading from the English Standard Version.

Scripture:
Luke 3:1-6 ESV
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 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.
5 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,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Background
Luke is one of my favorite Gospels.  Perhaps I like Luke so much because of his life and background.  Luke of course wrote two books of the Bible.  He wrote the Gospel according to Luke which we are starting today.  He also wrote the book of Acts.  Oddly enough, both books were written to a man named Theophilus. Theophilus actually means “lover of God” taken from “theos” which is Greek for God and “phileo” meaning love. Now I believe that Theophilus was a real person.  However, some scholars believe that Theophilus is a general term for anyone that might love God and follow Jesus.  Let’s operate this morning that Theophilus was a real person receiving these words from Luke.

Luke himself is a very interesting character.  Luke was not an original apostle.  Meaning he was not a member of the original twelve.  He was a contemporary of Jesus. Perhaps he had seen Jesus, heard His teachings and witnessed His miracles.  I imagine that Luke was captivated by Jesus because of what Jesus could do.  Jesus was a healer.  A great healer.  Jesus made the sick well.  This fascinated Luke because Luke was a doctor.  As a physician, Luke writes many stories of Jesus’ ability to take the broken and mend it in an instant.  

Luke also spend more time dealing with Jesus’ humanity.  More than any other Gospel, Luke focuses on Jesus’ humanity.  Jesus was indeed deity wrapped in flesh. Luke records that Jesus had feelings like a human.  He records that Jesus bled like a human.  He walked and talked and had emotions like a human.  However Luke also records the mysterious birth of Jesus and chronicles the fact that the angels sang at His coming.  He also writes the fascinating details of Jesus’ execution and subsequent resurrection.  

Luke’s Gospel account may be the most complete picture of who Jesus really was, human and God, living with men.  Jesus was, according to Luke, a friend of sinners.  

One last point about Luke.  Luke was a Gentile observer.  He was not, at least blood connected, to the Hebrew people.  However, Luke is a part of God’s family. I think that it is great that our Bible’s include Luke’s Gentile account of Christ symbolizing that God has extended salvation to all sinners.

A Day Before Jesus…  

Point:
Can you imagine a day before Jesus?  What must have life been like without Jesus in the world? For me, I imagine that it would be a pretty hopeless environment.  Well, following the Christmas narrative, Luke tells us exactly what life was like.  

I. The World vs. 1-2
Luke 3:1-2 ESV
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 

Point:
When we arrive at Luke 3, Luke tells us just how bad things really are.  The fact that Luke lists these names at the beginning of the chapter is no mistake.  These names, although unfamiliar to you, would have been widely known during the time of Christ. They would have been infamous in the ears of the ancient Jews.  Let’s start with the very first name.

1. Tiberius Cesar: Tiberius ruled Rom from A.D. 14 to 37 B.C.. Tiberius excelled as a military commander and governmental administrator. Tiberous was a conquerer.  He was a great general known for his ability to make surrounding areas submit to Roman authority by any means necessary. He was also known for crushing rebellions and maintaining rule.  Tiberius is often remembered by historians as a somber man shrouded in darkness.  He was reclusive.  

2. Pontius Pilate: Now we know quite a bit about Pilate.  Of course he was the infamous Roman goveneror of Judea who washed his hands of Jesus’ brutal execution having found no wrong in Jesus but cowardly submitting to the bloodthirsty mob. Pilate was not a pleasant person.  Pilate hated the Jews.  He hated being the governor of Judea and was often heard complaining about having to govern the Jews.  Historians of the day record that Pilate had no respect for Judism.  He cared nothing for the God of the Jews and often sought out ways to enrage the religious leaders. Pilate was also known to steal money given to the temple.  This money was given to maintain the temple and help feed and cloth the poor.  Pilate, according to one historian, stole the money to build an aqueduct. Pilate was a brutal man.  At the very hint of insurrection against Rome, Pilate would have soldiers beat and kill those whom he felt were guilty.  

3. Herod, or Herod Antipas.  Herod was indeed a ruler and even called himself a King. His royalty was only in title, not position. Herod was a murderer.  It was Herod that called for all the boy infants born at the time of Christ to be murdered and aborted out of fear that he would lose his title to an upstart Hebrew. Thousands of innocent children were butchered at the hands of this man. Herod, as you may remember, also had John the Baptist executed. Many historians believe that Herod also killed his Father so that he could be given power it the area.

4. Annas and Caiaphas are also mentioned.  Were these men rulers or kings?  Actually no.  Luke does a great job of setting up the political climate of the day but in mentioning these two men, he sets up the religious climate of the day. Like the political rulers of the day, these two men hungered for power and authority. Annas was the father in law of Calaphas. If you remember, when Jesus was captured, he was brought first to Annas and then Calaphas. Calaphas was the ruling High Priest during the time of Christ.  Together, these two men hated John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples of Christ.  They saw all of them as a threat to their rule and their authority.  It was Calaphas that wrongly accused Jesus of blasphemy and it was Calaphas that eventually had Jesus led to the gallows. These men cared nothing for the people.  They only cared about themselves.  In order to keep their power, they embraced murdering an innocent man. 

Point:
So, after reviewing all these names, what can we learn?  First, we learn that the world was a dark and depressing place. It was a place filled with despair.  The Jews were oppressed at every corner.  They were oppressed politically.  They could not rule themselves. They were oppressed by corrupt religious leaders that did not care anything for the truth.  

Point:
A noted historians had this to say about the ancient Roman world.

We're talking about a time where slavery was the norm, religious freedom was dead, autocracy was the popular form of government and an overall more brutal society with fewer human rights, with features few today would approve of.”

The Good News is that Jesus would bring light into the world.

John 8:12 NLT
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

Next we see that the world was a dangerous place. Living in the ancient world at the time of Christ meant that everyday could be your last.  We see that several of Jesus’ miracles involved drink and food.  The people, for the most part, had no idea where their next meal would come from. The people were seen as insignificant in the eyes of the Roman government. They could be killed or executed without a trial or without cause. Everyday was a guessing game for them.  Would they make it?

The Good New is that Jesus came to protect and provide. 

Psalm 91:1-6 (MSG)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you—under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.

The world was depressing, dangerous, and discouraging.  Remember, before the birth of Christ, the Jewish people had not heard from God in some 500 years.  All they had was the teachings of the corrupt Pharisees.  Their teachings were not about repentance but repeating the acts of the law.  This led to tremendous frustration because the law could not be kept.  However, the Pharisees maintained that perfection was in reach.  John came preaching a different message.  A message of repentance and salvation. 

The Good News is that Jesus was coming to deliver the truth to the people.

John 14:6 ESV
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father unless he comes through me.

The World Was…

A. Dark 
John 8:12 NLT
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

B. Dangerous
Psalm 91:1-6 (MSG)
You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you—under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, Not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon.

C. Discouraging 
John 14:6 ESV
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father unless he comes through me.

A Day Before Jesus…  

I. The World 
II. The Word vs. 2
…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Illustration: Power in a Word
A woman died and went to heaven but when she arrived at the "Pearly Gates," she found Peter. "Before you can come in, you have to spell a word," he said.

"What word?" she asked.

"Any word?"

"L-O-V-E. Love," she said.

"Come on in. But I was wondering if you'd do me a quick favor. Stand here for a few moments. I'll be right back. If anyone comes, just follow the same procedure."

Peter left and behold here comes her ex-husband. "What are you doing here?"

"I just had a heart attack. Did I really make it?" he asked.

"Not yet. You have to spell a word," she said.

"What word?"

After a few moments she said, "Czechoslovakia." 

Point:
You know, I have read the Bible from cover to cover.  Probably more times that I can count.  It never fails that when I read the Bible, even a verse that I have read several times, it speaks to me in a new way.  That happened the other day as I was studying for today’s message.  I ran across Luke 3:2. The word of God came to John in the wilderness.  Consider the first point.  Life was pretty horrible.  John was living in the desert. It was in that moment that the word of God came to John.  

Point:
What I love about this verse is that it proves the active nature of Scripture.  Scripture, the word of God moves. It is active.  John was living in desolation and the Word of God came to him.  Astonishing! The word of God sought out John in the desert of life and found him.  Of all the millions of people on earth, the word of God came to him, spoke to him, and guided him.  

Point:
When I think about this verse, I remember what the Gospel of John says about the word of God. 

John 1:1-5 ESV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Point:
Even before the ministry of Christ, God’s Word, was active in humanity, the word of God was actively pursing John in the desert.  The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, though the connectivity of God’s word was moving among men caught in despair and hopelessness.  

Point:
Friends this is a beautiful truth for us today. There has never been a more hopeless time for us.  Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by riots and racism.  We are surrounded by intolerance and ill will.  We see threats of war. We hear rumors of political unrest. We see news stories of terrorism and fear that our enemies could be approaching to harm us at any moment.  

Friends may I remind you that we worship a God whose word pursues us. May I remind you that we worship a God whose word splits time, pushes back darkness, and brings hope into our lives.  God’s living word is our strength, our hope, our trust, our everything. 

John found clarity in God’s Word.  John found courage in God’s Word. John found compassion in God’s Word. John found salvation in God’s Word.

The Word Delivered…

A. Clarity

B. Courage

C. Compassion

A Day Before Jesus…  

I. The World 
II. The Word 
III. The Witness vs. 3
3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Point:
Remember, Jesus’ ministry has yet to start but the Holy Spirit was moving. For the record, the Holy Spirit never stopped moving.  So, the days were dark.  However, in the dark moments of life, God’s word sought out John the Baptist. John The Baptist then takes the word to the streets.  Perhaps I should say that John took God’s Word to the paths being that he was in the desert. 

What was John’s message?  Repentance. Change.  Turning around.  Go a different direction.  



Point:
John The Baptist uses the word “repent”.  Repent is a classic word found in much of the New Testament. The Greek word John uses for “repent” is μετανοέω. It is a verb which of course speaks to the fact that Luke expects us to move, to act, to do something.  The word is transliterated metanoeó and is pronounced met-an-o-eh’-o. It of course means to “repent” but it also means to change one’s mind, or to change the inner man. The Greek word for “repent” is where we draw our English word for metamorphosis.  Metamorphosis is the process that a caterpillar engages in to become a butterfly.  The caterpillar to butterfly transformation is a wonderful picture of what repentance really looks like.  When we repent, change our mind, or change the inner man, we become a new creation.  We are completely different.  When we repent, we are no longer attached to the earth, rather we have wings.  We can fly.  We have a new purpose, a new mind, a new body, a new position in the grand scheme of things.  

Point:
Friend repentance is the key that opens the door of salvation. If repentance is the key, then Jesus is the door.  So, how important is the transformation?  The word is mentioned some 106 times in the New Testament. 

Quote:
Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.
-Ravi Zacharias

Point:
Luke also points out that John shared the witness of repentance and salvation to the region of the Jordan. 

1. Jews.  That’s right Jews lived in the region.  Sort of goes without saying I know.  However, the Jews were God’s chosen people. They were special in God’s sight.  Heirs to a large inheritance. Sons and daughters of Abraham.  

2. Romans.  Gentiles.  The Jews hated the Romans.  Yet, John the Baptist shared the message with them as well.  No where does it say in Luke that John The Baptist withheld his message of repentance from the Romans.  Nope.  There were a part of it.  John cast the seed of the early Gospel message to them as well.  

3. The Outcasts.  Make no mistake, John was not by himself in the desert.  Not by a long shot.  There were lost of fringe people living in the desert.  So, who were these people.  Shepherds. No one like shepherds.  Shepherds were thought to be thieves during this time. Political dissidents.  There were people who hated Rome so much they choose to live in the far out points of the region.  They banded together and planned the overthrow of the government. The sick and the diseased.  Levitical law commanded the Jews to send away from their camps and towns all those who were sick and diseased.  So you have people with all forms of injuries, physical and psychological, living in the desert. What about the everyday criminal?  Sure they were there to.  

Point?
My point is that John carried this early Gospel message to all of them.  Everyone had the chance to here, to believe, to be baptized and to be changed.  

This is a man who had a passion for people to come to salvation by any means necessary. 

Quote
“Let eloquence be flung to the dogs rather than souls be lost. What we want is to win souls. They are not won by flowery speeches.” 
Charles Spurgeon

Closing Point:
Friend, what about you?  Does the world that I described to you seem a lot like our world today? Did you know that God’s word is seeking you out?  Are you willing to repent, to change, to transform into a new creation with the help of Christ working through you? If that’s you, why wait? Embrace Christ today. 


The Good News Is That The Gospel Is For Everyone! 

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