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Entries in Signs (4)


Jesus Reveals the Future II

Luke 21:8-11-  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 11, 2015.

As we look at this prophetic section, we should do so with the knowledge that revealing the future is a signature characteristic of God.  He is not like some giant computer that can crunch an infinite amount of data in order to predict what will happen.  Rather, as the Creator of the space-time continuum, all of time (past, present, and future) is laid out before Him.  Thus the things in the Bible are not mere educated guesses.  But, instead they are God letting us know what He already sees.  When God does reveal the future, He does so in a way that sheds light and yet still requires us to trust Him.  He never reveals in order to remove any need for faith.

The common attempt by scholars to fit all that is revealed into a timeline often relies on human reasoning that goes beyond what we are told.  Thus it should be expected that they will have areas that will be found to be in error.  I believe it is more important for believers to pay attention to the main points that such revelations emphasize rather than attempting to map out the future in great detail.  We need to heed those warnings and commands that our Lord gives to his disciples. 

In our passage today Jesus begins his answer to the questions his disciples asked him:  when will the temple be destroyed, and what will be the sign that it is about to happen and that you are going to come back and begin the new age of the Kingdom of God.  These questions clearly jumble together several important events that we now know would not be happening at the same time.  Jesus does not separate the questions or berate them.  Instead, he gives them a look at the future ahead along with certain warnings and commands.

The Things That Must Come To Pass First

In verses 8-11 Jesus describes many different things that must come to pass before the End of the Age.  Now in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 we have the parallel accounts of this same discussion.  They describes these very same things as being The Beginning of Sorrows.  This phrase, and the list that Jesus gives, makes it clear to his disciples that they are not entering into a time of peace.  The time ahead will be a time of sorrows.  Although the sorrows are not defined, two other places use this word of sorrow.  Acts 2:24 is a passage regarding the sorrows of death or dying.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:13, Paul reveals that the last days will come upon the world like the sorrows of labor coming upon a woman.  Thus this time ahead would be filled with things that involve physical and emotional sorrows.  Notice that Jesus makes it clear that he is not giving us a list of signs of the end.  Rather, that these things must come to pass first.  You could say that they are a sign of the times that we live in rather than a sign that the end of this age is at hand.  So what are these signs of the age?

False Christs.  Jesus first warns his disciples that many people will come in His name, which means they are claiming to be him.  He also reveals another claim they will make, the time (of the end) has drawn near.  It makes sense that in a time of sorrow deluded and deceiving men would step forward and claim to be able to bring it to an end.  Something that is implicit in this is to notice that in order for this to happen Jesus must be gone.  He had told his disciples that he was leaving.  This is why they were seeking a sign for when he would come back.  Thus the Beginning of Sorrows would start with the ascension of Jesus into heaven.  We could say that there has been an increase in people claiming to be Jesus in the last century compared to the centuries before.  However, our ability to hear about and catalog such claims is greatly increased.  Suffice it to say that Jesus doesn’t claim it will get worse.  He simply warns that this age of sorrows will be characterized by people claiming to be him. 

Now there is something flattering about the idea that Jesus has not only come back, but is also talking with me.  But Jesus clearly warns his followers, don’t be deceived.  Whether the person is deceived themselves, or they are intentionally trying to delude people is immaterial.  No matter how sincere they are we are not to believe them.  Imagine the situation the disciples were in.  They had lived with Jesus for over three years.  When they had questions they could ask him and receive a concrete answer.  But in the future they would have to learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit.  Jesus would not physically be there.  They would be susceptible to an inward pressure to leave the more difficult situation of discerning the will of God through His Word and Spirit, in order to go towards the easier situation of having a person tell us what it is.

This leads to the second imperative regarding false Christs.  Don’t follow them.  Deception starts in the mind, but them moves into our life.  We are supposed to follow Jesus alone.  But when someone comes claiming to be Jesus we might be conflicted.  Jesus has already given us the right way we are to live and believe.  If another comes in his name he is false and only trying to lead us away from the path of Truth and onto the many paths of deception.  Christians need to stay the course that Jesus has put us on rather than being led off on side roads that promise an end of the age, but, in the end, lead to wickedness and a perversion of the truth.  Notice in verse 27 that Jesus helps us to understand why we should believe it.  Jesus says that when he does come back it will be on the clouds in power and great glory.  Matthew adds to this that it will be as visible to the whole world as lightening that flashes from the east to the west.  Jesus is basically telling us that when he comes back it will be seen by the whole world.  No one will have to tell you.  Jesus is not hiding on a mountain in Tibet waiting for the world to be open to his coming.  So don’t be deceived and follow those charlatans that make the claim he has come.

Wars and Turmoil.  Of course the world’s history is a series of wars with relatively few times of peace.  Jesus tells them that there are wars and commotions ahead.  Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom makes it clear that this is about more than just Israel and Rome.  The age of sorrows will be characterized by political turmoil.  This revelation is not meant to wow us.  Sure anyone could guess that there would be wars ahead because mankind has always been warring.  Yet, Jesus is not trying to wow us with this prediction.  Rather, he is trying to prepare us.  The times will not be peaceful religiously, spiritually, and politically.  This leads to the command to not be terrified.  This word has in its meaning “crying out and wailing.”  Many people throughout the world know what it is like to live in a war zone.  It is many things including terrifying.  The despair that comes from such fearful experiences can easily take over.  The chaotic effects of war and political turmoil threaten those who find themselves in such times.  Yet, Jesus lets us know that these are to be expected.  They are not catching God by surprise.  When the believer feels terror and mourning surging up within them, they must be quick to turn to God’s Word and to fellow believers for encouragement and strength.  Christians are called to be emotionally strong, and yet not in themselves.  Jesus is not telling us to never have an emotion.  Rather he is telling us not to let those emotions overwhelm us and define our life.

Great Earthquakes.   The next thing Jesus reveals is great earthquakes.  Earthquakes are always happening and can be very terrifying when they do.  Great earthquakes often have high death tolls and heavy destruction of buildings.  Just like war becomes a threat to our ability to follow Jesus, so natural disasters can paralyze us from following Christ, or can cause us to let self preservation become the rule that we live by.  This is not following Christ.  His disciples would need to experience many kinds of sorrow and yet continue to believe and follow Him alone.

Famines & Pestilences.  These two are often listed like partners in crime throughout the Bible.  Jesus warns that famines and pestilence would characterize the days ahead.  A famine is literally a scarcity of food for any reason.  Thus lack of rain, war, and devastation could all be a cause of famine.  Often following on the heels of famine are pests, plagues, and diseases that rule in the wake of these things.  We have seen the effects of war, famine and plagues upon the whole continent of Africa as well as elsewhere.

Fearful Sights & Great Heavenly Signs.  Lastly, for today, Jesus warns of fearful sights.  This is a very general phrase that can cover the eruptions of volcanoes (like Vesuvius) or horrible and destructive storms.  Along with this would come great, heavenly signs.  They would have understood this to be things like comets, solar eclipses, and lunar eclipses.  Great comets that are visible even in the day are not as common and were seen as a heavenly body that has left its orbit and threatens earth.  Thus comets are a symbol of Satan and those fallen angels who reject the path God has given them.

So, did all these things happen in the first century leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD?  The short answer is yes.  The first century believers over the next 40 years saw these kinds of things happening.  It was important for them to keep their heads and obey the commands of Christ.  They had to beware spiritual deception and they had to guard their hearts from giving into terror and fear.  In fact the Jewish historian Josephus (who was not a Christian and had no reason to support these things) recorded many different things that happened in Jerusalem and in the skies that were seen as evil portends for Jerusalem and its people.  However, the Christians who headed the words of Jesus were prepared for the events of 70AD and for everything after it.

So I ask you a question.  Did these things stop in 70 AD?  Did we leave behind an age of sorrows at that time and enter into something that cannot be described as sorrows?  I would say that we are still in the time of sorrows.  Jesus has not come back yet and the end of the age has not occurred.  Yes, Jerusalem and Israel as a nation were destroyed.  But the followers of Jesus have still needed these instructions for the last 2,000 years.  We must beware deceivers who come claiming to be Jesus.  We need to guard our hearts from being tossed to and fro from terror and fear.  Let us take these things to heart today as we experience them in our own day.  God has not been caught by surprise and He has revealed these things to us in advance so that we may not be either.

Jesus Reveals Future II audio


Of Angels And Shepherds

Today we look at Luke 2:1-20, which shares the birth of Jesus, our Lord.  It is appropriate to spend this week of Christmas thinking about these events and the meaning they have for our lives today.

It would be easy to discount all that the Bible tells us under the heading of “pure myth.”  However, if you really are a Truth-seeker, you know that it would be an intellectually dishonest thing.  The Bible is not a collection of myths, but a recollection of what God did in the lives of real people.  These things were written down within the life spans of people who could prove or disprove the veracity of the documents.  Also these things were often written down by people who had no gain in writing such things.  In fact, they were often killed for their “views.”  Let’s look at the story.

God’s Unseen Hand

In these first seven verses we see something that is evident throughout all of the Bible and it is this.  God often works in ways that are not obvious to us as humans.  Much like the story of Esther, we can go through life and think that God isn’t involved at all and yet He is.  Part of the problem is that when we imagine what we would do if we were God, we think of all kinds of fantastic things we would do.  Yet, in the Bible we see a God who can do the fantastic thing, but most of what He does is invisible to those who don’t know what to look for.  Just remember this, the unseen hand of God is always at work, whether we recognize it or not.

 These verses give us the timing of the birth of Jesus.  Galatians 4:4 says, “when the fullness of time had come God sent forth His Son.”  So from God’s perspective this was the perfect timing.  When it mentions Caesar Augustus it gives us a historical reference point.  It was the right time because Rome is the 4th Beast-Kingdom prophesied by Daniel and it has just entered its imperial stage.  Next to this was the fact that there was a relative, military peace that would open the door for the gospel to be preached and spread throughout the then known world.  It was also a time in which Israel had great need for a deliverer and yet very little hope in those promises that God had given her.

God’s hand is also shown to be at work through the prophecies that are fulfilled here.  It is in Micah 5:2 that we are told the messiah would come out of Bethlehem Ephrathah.  Yet, this happens, seemingly, at the whim of an earthly emperor.  Yes, the home town of Jesus would be Nazareth, but the birth place would be Bethlehem.  These are things Jesus could not have plotted to accomplish.  Also recognize that the name of Bethlehem itself promises to be a place of bread.  So there is a further enrichment of the prophecy in the fact that the Messiah would be the bread from heaven as symbolized by the manna in the desert.  Another interesting fact is that there are two cities of David.  Bethlehem is the City of David because it is where he was born.  But the other City of David is a reference to the initial beginning of Jerusalem.  David took the stronghold of Jebus and it became the City of David.  Thus the place and timing of the birth point to the prophetic significance of his first coming.  He comes to be a sustainer of life and yet he is also destined for conquest.  All of these things are coming to past at a time when it looks like God is doing nothing.

The details that point to the lowly circumstances of the birth of Jesus help us to see why God’s activity often goes unrecognized by most.  God loves to work through the lowly things of this world.  When Paul says, “When I am weak then I am strong,” he does so after pointing out that God’s strength comes into our lives through our weaknesses.  So when he says, “I am strong,” he is literally saying that God is strong through me.  Could it be that the Greatest Being of all the Universe would have a penchant to showing His strength through those who would be weak in the world’s eyes?  This is the contention of the apostles.  The King of Israel and the Lord of all the Earth is born away from his home, in a stable, under the tyranny of an Emporer, and under threat of death from a power-hungry king.  Can you imagine King David seeing such a condition?  He who had conquered all the kingdoms around him and amassed all the wealth needed for his son to build the temple, would have moved heaven and earth to give the ultimate Son of David a better birth.  Yet, David would have understood because he too had learned that God’s strength was perfected in our weaknesses.  Of all people, David would understand that God was at work especially at the times that we think He is not.

God Announces His Activity In Advance

Verses 8-14 move to a scene in the outskirts of Bethlehem.  For over a thousand years God had been pointing to the birth of the Christ and Savior through his prophets and angels.  So it continues as the child is born that prophets and angels are very busy in this account.  Yet, this story is strange in that it is lowly shepherds who receive the revelation of the birth of Messiah.  Why to shepherds?  I am sure that many received their news with wonder in Bethlehem, but what about other places?  This would be the equivalent of a group of loggers from Idaho saying that angels had told them who the next president of the United States should be.  That may be received in the logging towns of Idaho.  But Washington D.C. would be another matter.  Why didn’t the angels tell the great princes of the land or a contingent of priests?  Most likely because both of these groups had proven to be cutthroats to God: Herod, Annas, and Caiaphus.  Now we must recognize that false prophecies and false angel sightings are not new things.  Just because someone says they heard from an angel doesn’t mean you blindly believe everything they say.  However, do you blindly resist everything they say?  The Bible warns us to not let the false prophecies cause us to despise true prophecy.  This is a real tension within man.  We tend to be gullible or cynical because it takes too much work to test everything against Scripture and wait upon the Lord for better understanding.  Truth will always prevail in the end and God did not do these things in secret.  He announced them and did them in the open.

The angels also announced that this was a day of Great Joy!  Not all of God’s messages are about good things.  But it was this day.  “Don’t fear.”  This message to the shepherds is the comfort that they are not there for judgment, but rather, for a message of grace and mercy.  All mankind should be quaking in its boots before a holy, and righteous God.  It is not to our credit that we “ho-hum” when He is mentioned.  Yet, His ultimate desire is not for a relationship of fear, but one of joy and love. 

A savior has been born today in the city of David!  This word savior sounds like a Christian term.  But it actually ties back to the Judges of old.  Before Israel had kings God would raise up deliverers who would save Israel from tyranny.  The term translated as deliverer is literally “savior Lord” or “saving Lord.”  Thus at a time when Israel, once again, was without a Jewish King and were under the tyranny of foreign lords, God raised up from among Israel a “saving Lord,” a deliverer.  The terms used of him are more not just titles, but also descriptive of what He was and would do.  He is Messiah the one anointed by God to deliver Israel.  He would have God’s Spirit and blessing.  He is Lord, the king and sovereign of Israel and, in fact, all creation.

God often gives signs to confirm that the prophecy was really from Him.  Now the angels would be a pretty strong sign already.  But we are warned against deceiving angels in Scripture.  So a sign is given to the shepherds that they would find a baby laying in an animal’s feed trough.  A baby in Bethlehem would be no great wonder.  But one being in a manger on that very same night would be one chance in a million.

Now consider this sign because the Scripture also warns against false signs and wonders in the last days.  The angel’s message that day of peace and great joy is a message that false prophets love to preach.  They did so in Jeremiah’s day and they will do so in the end of times.  But the sign is one that is done in God’s signature style, humility.  Now I know that even humility can be faked.  But in the end Satan is not humble.  God chooses to work through the lowly.  Satan only works through the lowly when he is forced to do so.  Thus be careful that you are not wowed by great promises and amazing, powerful signs.  God is often working in the hidden, humble, unseen ways to the power hungry hearts of mankind.

Come And See!

In verses 15-20 the shepherds are invited to be a part of the Messiah’s welcoming committee.  How fitting for one who is the Son of David to be welcomed by shepherds.  The shepherds become the ones who verify the details of what God was doing.  They witness these things with their eyes and then they tell others.

Yet, they are also encouraging Mary and Joseph who were also witnesses to what God had said and done.  That night must have been a unique moment as Joseph and Mary share stories with the shepherds in wonder.  Their faith must have been enormously strengthened at that time.  Now, no matter how much we want to be the one who hears, sees, and verifies, the truth is that no one gets everything.  We all have to take some things on faith.  And, to all who had ears to hear that day, it was quite believable that the Messiah had come in the person of this little baby.

Let me close by reminding us that this call to come and see is still happening today.  This is a hallmark of God that He loves to show us.  He rewards faith with the joy of discovery.  Psalm 34:8, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him.”  Today we do not see these angels or shepherds because God is not doing that right now.  But He is working all over this world and it can be seen for those with eyes to see.  Today He is calling you to come to His Word (the Bible) and hear the Truth that has been hidden from you.  “Come and see My Wisdom,” He says.  Today He is calling for us to come to His Son by faith and find release from the guilt of our sins.  “Come and see My salvation.”  Today He calls us to come to His people and create an environment of loving help within His Church.  “Come and see (be) My people.”  Yes, you may want God to do something more spectacular, but that is only because you define spectacular by the world’s standards.  I challenge you to read this Gospel and let God change your standards of what is spectacular.

Of Angels and Shepherds mp3


The Prophecy of Zecharias

Today we will pick up the Christmas story in Luke 1:57.  Here we are told that Elizabeth had come to full term and birthed John.  Now Mary had stayed with Elizabeth during these 3 months and then, at some point after John’s birth, had gone back to Nazareth.

A Sign

Now we saw how Zecharias had become mute after the angel talked to him in the temple.  The angel had told him that he would not be able to speak until all these things were fulfilled.  That is over 9 months of being unable to speak.  So people obviously knew something happened to Zecharias.  In fact, most likely they believed he was being punished by God.  Zecharias had been given the hope that he would speak again but there was no specific time.  Thus he probably wondered on the day of John’s birth whether he would be able to speak.  Nope.  As the days go by he is being tested further and further.  Why can’t I speak yet?  It is interesting that his speech returns when he confirms that the baby’s name is to be John.  The miracle of speech was connected to this act of faith.  “No, we will not name the baby after me.  We will give it the name that the angel said.”  This faith is a demonstration that Zecharias is surrendered to the will of God in this situation. 

Now this sign of being unable to speak for so long and then suddenly speaking at the naming of the child, caused the people to marvel.  It pointed out something special about this baby in God’s plan.  Yes, Zecharias muteness was a sign, but it also was a discipline.  God’s discipline is not simply about punishment, but rather about teaching us and helping us to become what we really want.  Zecharias wanted to be faithful to God.  Now he had his own personal sign and experience that God will do what He says He will do.  Zecharias will have much stronger faith from now on.

God’s Salvation Has Come

In verses 67-70 he begins to praise God for the salvation that has come.  Now let me just say up front that in all prophetic declarations, it is the Holy Spirit who is actually prophesying.  The person is simply yielding the Spirit.   This first theme of salvation is something that Israel had been waiting to receive for centuries.  Zecharias says that “he has visited.”  God visits His people to deliver and to judge.  Sometimes it is one and sometimes it is the other.  In fact the prophecies about the Messiah point to it as both deliverance and judgment; salvation to those who believe and judgment to those who do not.  Notice that he speaks of it as if it has already happened, or is done.  This can be understood in the context of waiting for a millennium plus.  To have angels declaring that it has begun is to rejoice that it is as good as done.  Will God start something and not complete it?  Rejoice!  The Messiah is here and we are as good as saved!

He also points out that the Messiah will ransom His people.  To redeem or ransom is to buy back in order to free someone.  Thus the picture is that Israel is held ransom by her sins and by Satan.  She cannot be set free without a price being paid.  Jesus points this out in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  It has become common today to diminish the concept of ransom.  It makes God seem less loving.  Yet, if we get rid of this idea of ransom we do so at the expense of diminishing God’s Truthfulness and the badness of our own sin.  If I “make God more loving” by removing the concept of the blood of Jesus being shed to pay the price for my sin, then I am saying that sin is not that big of a deal.  Sin is not nearly as sinful as previous generations thought.  O really?  Where do you suppose they got that idea?  They got it from God Himself.  Here Jesus says that the heart of what he is doing is paying a ransom.  Can we really save God’s reputation from Himself?  No, we will both end up in the ditch.  God doesn’t need us to rescue His reputation from what the Scriptures say.

He also points out that this salvation has come through David’s line.  God had specifically promised David that the Messiah would come through his line.  The reference to a “horn of salvation” was a picture of the dangerous and prominent horn that sticks out from the head of an animal.  This metaphor was used for a strong leader of a people.  This leader, this Messiah would use His strength in order to accomplish salvation in the same way that the Judges of old did.  Or, I should say, in a far better way. 

This is the salvation that all the prophets had spoken about in every generation all the way back to God Himself in the Garden.  It was there that he prophesied that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent.  In every age prophets had spoken of this coming salvation and yet, in every age, were those who were cynical, mocked, and scoffed at such foolishness.  Salvation comes to those who make it happen!  Many today, even in the Church, are scoffing and mocking at the things promised by Scripture.  Here Zecharias is rejoicing that in the midst of such scoffing has come the very day that the faithful had waited for.

Salvation From Our Enemies

Verse 71 points out that this is a salvation from our enemies.  It is literally “out from” our enemies.  The picture is more than God coming between us and our enemies.  But, rather we have been surrounded and taken captive.  He comes into the enemy’s camp and rescues us out from our enemy.

Now Israel had many natural enemies.  In fact some of these were even within Israel- King Herod being but one example.  And, of course, the Romans themselves would be high on this list.  Yet, Jesus did not come to lead a revolt against Herod or Caesar.  God was concerned first with the spiritual enemies of His people.  This starts with Satan, but also includes the world system that he has built up in every nation on earth.  It also includes sins hold within our own flesh.  Like a triple-barbed hook, sin cannot be removed without pain in the life of a human.  It is an “enemy within” that we find treacherous over and over again.

A Performance of Mercy

In verses 72 and 73 he speaks of God’s mercy.  Yes, God had made an unconditional promise to Abraham.  Yet, we can lose sight of the fact that God didn’t have to do that.  He chose to do so by His mercy and grace.  So the Promises of Abraham and even the Law of Moses itself stand upon a foundation of the grace and mercy of God.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning!  Great is Thy faithfulness!  The coming of Jesus is something greater than God keeping up His side of a bargain.  No!  It is pure, unadulterated mercy flowing down from the throne of God.  “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”  This is the cry of a person and a people who are captured by a sin sickness, within themselves and without, pleading for deliverance.  God does not owe us salvation.  But His mercy and grace has brought it to us. 

Zecharias reminds them that God didn’t just make a promise, but also swore an oath to Abram and David.  Though God doesn’t need to swear, He swore by Himself.  So that we could understand that even though He cannot lie, He swears by Himself that He will do what He has promised.  This makes our hopes doubly sure.  Like Jesus saying, “verily, verily,” it underlines and puts in bold the reliability of such statements.  God will not go back on this, nor has He.  Rather He has fulfilled it.

Delivered To Serve God

In verses 74-75 he declares that God has granted our deliverance so that we can serve Him.  Now some might disdain the idea of being saved so that we can serve God.  But, think about who this God has proven Himself to be.  To serve God is not to peel His grapes and wash His feet.  To serve God is to serve on behalf of the Greatest Servant.  You can’t out serve God.  He in fact sends us to serve others on His behalf, not wash His feet.

He wants us to be able to serve without fear.  He has dealt with our sins and our enemy.  We need not be afraid again.  However, that does not mean that He ceases to be God and that rebellion ceases to be scary stuff.  We should be afraid to turn our back on so great a salvation and usurp His position as God and the only source of Truth.  To the degree that our heart is towards God is the degree to which we can walk without fear.  But to the degree that we walk away from Him, is to the degree that we ought to have a fear of God rise up in our heart and turn us back to His righteous path.

We are to serve in holiness and righteousness.  God has not changed this desire.  However, in the gospel we are shown that our holiness and righteousness without God is unworthy.  So our service must be marked with the foundational holiness and righteousness of Jesus as our ransom.  He is our legal righteousness and the only reason we can now stand in service to the King.  Secondly, our service should be marked with a growing ability to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, i.e. practical righteousness.  This is unworthy on its own merits, but if we are in Christ it is accepted as a sweet offering unto God.

The Task of John

In verses 76-80, Zecharias turns to his son John.  John would prepare the way for the Messiah.  He would call people to repentance.  Christ can only enter a heart by the path of repentance.  Until we see that our sins separate us from God and weep over that, we will never be able to ask the Lord to come and save us. 

John also would teach Israel the truth of God’s salvation.  It is not just winning wars and having lots of gold coming into the Treasury.  God’s salvation is one that will not overlook our sin, whether 2,000 years ago or today.  May God help us to go forth in the same spirit and ministry of John.  May we call out to people to “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  May we be a faithful servant to Jesus our King by turning people from their sin back towards Him.  Amen!

Prophecy Zecharias audio


Let the Spirit Descend

Today we are going to continue discovering the True Jesus as we look at His water baptism and the signs from God following it.  In Luke 3:21-22 we are given a very brief account of the baptism of Jesus.  Luke focuses on the signs that were given at the baptism.  However, in the other gospels we are able to pick up other important details of this event.

We Resist The Holy Spirit

In Matthew 3:14 we are told that when Jesus came to John in order to be baptized, John tried to prevent him.  Now it is obvious that the wicked will resist the Spirit of God and His leading.  And, we can see how even those who claim to know Him can resist where He is leading (i.e. Pharisees, and Sadducees).  Yet, here we see that even those who are closest to the Lord can let their own thoughts and flesh get in the way of where God is leading.  Yes, John means well.  And, yes, what He says is true.  Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized as a means of repentance.  And John is the one who needs baptized by Jesus.  However, his mistake is in his conclusion.  We often make the mistake of good intentions.  We use human reasoning that begins with biblical truths, but then we err in our conclusions.  If Jesus truly is the Messiah, and the one who is so intimately involved with God’s Spirit that He would baptize people in the Spirit, then we should listen to him and not vice versa.

Good intentions and biblical reasoning does not always choose best.  We see this with Peter as Jesus was approaching the cross.  Peter’s reasoning cannot accept that Jesus should be killed and so he tries to prevent Jesus from believing such a fate.  However, Jesus rebukes him and points out that he is concerned with selfish reasons and not concerned about what God wants.  The sooner we can discover that we simply need to follow Jesus rather than instructing Jesus the better we will be.  In fact immediately after telling Peter he was wrong, Jesus then told his disciples that if they wanted to follow Him they would have to pick up their own cross and follow him (i.e. not only am I going to die, but you need to also). 

John is falling into this same trap.  In fact it might even send the wrong message to have Jesus baptized.  Some may think he needs repentance.  Yet, the Father and Son had worked this out in eternity past.  Let’s look at the response to John Jesus gave in Matthew 3:15, “Permit it to be so now.  For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”    Jesus didn’t rebuke John, but he did correct him.  This was not a theological debate, it was the plan of God. Pause and think about that for a moment.  Don’t we often have theological debates with God when we don’t things are headed in the right direction?  But the issue is not really about theology, but rather what is God doing.  In fact our theology should have room for this: He is God and I am not.  Therefore He will do the planning and I will do the following.

Jesus used the term “fitting.”  The best illustration I can use of this is the difference between a schematic blue print and a painting of a cathedral.  God always has a blueprint that is exact and follows certain realities and Truth.  However, He is also an artist.  And, art is not so much about rules as it is about the character and imagination of the one doing it.  Jesus being baptized was not theologically necessary, but it was an artistic flourish that was “fitting” or perfect!  It was an act of beauty in which the Father determines to reveal the messiah in an act of humility.  It also is fitting for the one who would later say pick up your cross to lead his disciples.  So here Jesus walks the path that actually leads to himself and it begins with public humility and surrender to God’s way of salvation.  Jesus was less concerned with his reputation and more concerned with our need for him.

Thus as it is fitting for Jesus to embrace the Father’s plan of revealing who He was during a water baptism, so it is fitting for us to submit to Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our life.  We have to be careful of an attitude and mentality that only does what is necessary or fits the blueprint that we think God should be following.  It is a signature trait of God’s that he doesn’t just do what is right.  He often blows on past what is right and does what is jaw-dropping, amazingly, beautiful, fitting, and perfect!

John didn’t understand the why, but he did understand the who, and so he relents.  If we too will relent and trust God, He will reveal the beautiful things that He is doing in our lives as well.

Confirmed With Heavenly Signs

Now let’s look at what John the Disciple had to say about this event.  In John 1:33-34, we are given a look behind the curtain from John the Baptist.  John says that initially he didn’t know who the Messiah was for sure.  But God had told him to go forth baptizing and when he saw the Spirit descend on a man and remain with him that would be the Anointed One.  So Jesus is not just the Messiah who would save Israel, but He is also the One on whom the Spirit rests.  John was actually baptizing for two reasons.  First, he baptized to prepare people for the messiah.  Second, he baptized so that God could reveal who the Messiah was. 

John testifies that he saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove come down and land upon Jesus.  But then he recognized that the Spirit stayed upon Jesus.  Just in case John would miss this, God confirms the sign by a voice from heaven.  “You are My beloved Son.  In You I am well pleased.”  These two heavenly signs were enough for John to declare that Jesus was the messiah.  They are powerful signs by themselves.  But remember John was told in advance what he would see.  John was convinced and gave himself to convincing his followers that Jesus was the messiah. 

Yet, notice how John refers to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God.”  John knew the Scriptures and recognized that Jesus didn’t just come to deliver Israel from the Romans.  Rather He came to deal with their greater enemy: sin.  He was the lamb that God provided as prophesied by Abraham on the mount with Isaac.  He was here to take away the sins of the world.

The Spirit Rests On Jesus

Let’s end by focusing on the Spirit remaining or resting upon Jesus.  Isaiah spoke of the Messiah in these terms in Isaiah 11:2 when he said that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon Him.  Now we have several images operating here that symbolize something powerful.  So I will do my best to tie it all together.

First, notice the dove.  The dove is given as the symbol of the Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus.  Later Jesus connects the dove with innocence or purity.  “Be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”  The dove is also connected with the Great Flood and Noah.  After God had poured out His judgment upon the earth, the dove was sent out to see if there was any life, any place it could rest itself.  This image of a pure innocent dove flapping all over the earth looking for any sign of life on which it may rest is anchored in this account for a reason.  It demonstrates the heart of God.  Even in judgment His heart and hope is to find those upon whom he can land, and rest, and with whom He can commune and have relationship.  Just as the devil goes to and fro throughout the earth like a lion seeking whom he may devour, so the Holy Spirit goes to and fro throughout the earth like a dove seeking on whom He may rest.  This helps us to understand Jesus and His role.  He is that lone olive branch that was finally found by the Holy Spirit.  And, because Jesus has been given the Spirit without measure, He in turn immerses those who believe in Him within that same Spirit.  We can become a resting place of the Spirit, not because we had life in and of ourselves, but because we have come to Jesus and received life through Him.  In fact, the Spirit is life.  Let the Spirit descend in your life.  As poetic as it may sound, you will find the Life that created the universe residing in your soul and leading you in ways that won’t always make sense, but they will end in beauty.

Spirit Descend Audio