The Life of Jesus - week 2 - Jesus: the one with purpose
Sermon date: Jan 20th
Reading: Luke 3:1-23a
A little background information – please use as appropriate:
Although Rome had ruled the area for about 100 years, it was only since 6AD that there was a Roman governor resident in the area. He lived at Caesarea (by the sea) but also kept a base in Jerusalem. The first Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar died in 14AD and was replaced by Tiberius who was already being worshipped as a god in some parts of the Empire. Two of Herod the Great’s sons (Herod Antipas and Philip) were ruling in the north but under Roman permission. However Rome had taken direct control in the south, including Jerusalem. Herod’s sons were not regarded by most Jews as real rulers since they, like Rome, ruled by fear and oppression. The high priests, who ran the Temple, were not much better. Change had to come!
Many devout Jews longed for the day when God would renew his age-old covenant, bringing Israel out of slavery into a new freedom, so when a fiery young prophet (John the Baptist) came out of the Judaean wilderness telling people the time had come then they were ready to listen.
Please do not feel you have to follow these notes line by line, but seek to make them relevant to the needs of your group.
What do we know about John the Baptist?
Born to aged Jewish parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth; dressed in a rough fabric woven from camel’s hair secured by a leather belt, and his diet was locusts and wild honey; reminded people of the prophet Elijah; preaching influenced many who were then baptized as a sign of their repentance; prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah; message one of impending judgement; executed by Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great) for criticizing his marriage to Herodias who was married to Philip, his half-brother …
Please read together Luke 3 verses 1-9
John’s agenda was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Baptism was part of the ritual Gentiles had to undergo if they wanted to convert to Judaism.
Q.1 So why did John summon Jews to submit to baptism?
Israel was in deep trouble politically and spiritually. John would not be satisfied with a mere outward ritual – important though that was – but required a change of heart which, in turn, would lead to a change in society. When the Messiah came his message would not be, “You are Abraham’s children therefore everything will be alright.” Spiritual growth only begins when we turn away (repent) from what is hindering our obedience.
Q.2 If John were to come to Ashtead, what do you think his message would be today?
Please read again verses 7-9.
Q.3 Is there a place for such preaching today?
Q.4 How would you respond to such a message in next week’s sermon?
Please read Luke 3 verses 10-20
When people asked, “What should we do?” (10) John’s response was: “Change the way you do what you do. There is no need to change your occupation. Your job may be difficult, but still do it with a spirit of honesty, love and respect.”
Q.5 Is this a message that Christians in the workplace need to hear?
John did not tell people to pray more or believe differently but to act more fairly towards those they encountered in their daily occupations.
Q.6 How do you feel about the picture of the slave and the sandals?
Untying sandals that had trodden through dust and dung was a smelly job, one carried out by a captured slave. If the slave was a Jew he would not have to do this for it was believed the Jewish race was too dignified for such a lowly task.
Q.7 So why do you think John cast himself with the foreigner and the lowest of the low?
Please read verses 21-23a
DO MAKE SURE THAT YOU ALLOW SUFFICIENT TIME TO CONSIDER THESE FINAL VERSES, EVEN IF IT MEANS LEAVING OUT SOME OF THE ABOVE QUESTIONS.
Q.8 Do you think there is anything significant about Jesus praying as he was baptized?
Can you suggest what it might have been that Jesus was praying about?
Some suggest that baptism was the moment Jesus fully understood his messianic calling. Others suggest this is incorrect and that the voice from heaven confirms and gives direction to what has been true all along. The Spirit and the word together give Jesus the encouragement and the strength he will need for his public ministry.
The baptism of Jesus is John’s final act of ministry in Luke’s Gospel. People have responded to John’s call for people to repent and be baptized. John’s hopes are fulfilled as Jesus himself receives baptism. Luke then, very briefly, describes the nature of Jesus, his relationship with God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Try to unpack the significance of what happened.
DOVE – in the story of the Ark the dove is a symbol of promise and the hope of new life. Mary and Joseph brought a pair of doves as their sacrificial offering (2.24).
VOICE – taken from Psalm 2 verse 7 and Isaiah 42 verse 1 which describe God’s servant.
AFFIRMATION - is part of being loved. At his baptism Jesus hears God’s affirmation.
“Affirmation does not deceive with false words of praise. It speaks of the value of the person and the relationship rather than the work or the worthiness of the other.”
Q. 9 How good are you at affirming others?
Jesus now takes centre stage. John is imprisoned. His public ministry has ended.
Q.10 How do you think John would have been feeling?
Put yourself in John’s place
Q.11 How would you feel about stepping aside from a work you have faithfully fulfilled?
Can you leave that work confidently in the hands of someone else?
Would you feel anxious that in the future people might only remember the work of those who came after you?
How good are you at affirming others? Make a commitment in the coming week to be more affirming at home, in the workplace and among friends – and perhaps even strangers!
There are a lot of issues that can be raised about the place of BAPTISM in the Church of England. This study will not have been the place to raise them, but do pray for parents and godparents of those who have been baptized in the past year – and those who will be baptized in the year to come.
Pray too for those from our church who are involved in baptism preparation.