Paving The Way For Christ
“Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?””
Boy Scout Oath
As kids there are a lot of different organizations we can join and be a part of that shape our lives; Little league, junior actors, choirs, etc. For me, one of those was the Boy Scouts. I was a cub scout through my early school years and then worked my way up from there. We had our weekly den meetings and I know many times that we in the garage of someone’s house. One of the things we were required to do was our pledge. As a cub scout we had a 2 finger salute but as a Weblow or Boy Scout you had a 3 finger salute. Here’s how the salute went:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight
Do you know the boy scout motto?
Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared
What the scouts are all about is the idea of preparing young people for life. To be effective, responsible, diligent, productive adults. So we had fundraisers, activities, merit badges to earn, etc. I remember some of those; the balsa wood planes that we sold door-to-door, the scout-o-rama events, the carving of and the Halloween pumpkins. One of my favorite projects was when I built this cool catapult. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was about so big, had a huge arm, and we used these big rubber bands to spring the arm. I remember bringing it home and my mom saying, “That thing is not to be shot in the house.” So we took it outside and shot dirt clods against the garage door. She didn’t say that wasn’t okay. I remember my dad not liking that too much.
Well, back to being prepared. God prepared the way for His Son Jesus. Let’s read how in Luke 1:
Read Passage – Luke 1:57-80
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
This is the beginning of the Christmas story. Let me remind you how it unfolds. There is this priest, Zechariah, (equivalent to our modern day pastor) serving in the temple. He is chosen by lot to perform one of the highest honors of his day; to present the sacrifice for Israel in the Holy of Holies. While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. Now our idea of people in ministry, leaders, pastors, priests, etc. is that they kind of have everything together, maybe a few less problems, and they somehow have this special tap into God. So you kind of expect them to have this faith that is somewhat strong and unswerving. They shouldn’t doubt or question God, they get Him. But look at Zechariah’s response to the angel’s message that his wife is pregnant.
“Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18
So Zechariah has this disbelief at what the angel says so God does shuts his mouth. Closes it right up and this guy doesn’t say a word for probably somewhere around 9 months. (I know a few people who would probably die if that happen to them) We’re not sure exactly how he communicated, through grunts, hand motions, etc. but we do know that they had writing tablets to aid in their communication.
“His Name Is John”
So he is one quite guy and has a lot of time to think about his disbelief. But the time comes for his son to be born and when they ask his wife what his name should be, she answers, “John.” That didn’t make a lot of sense because they had 2 criteria for names:
- Based on the child’s character or attributes
- A family name
Well, John doesn’t fit wither of those criteria so they hand Zechariah a writing tablet and expect another answer from him. But in verse 63 it says:
“He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” vs. 63
At this point, his tongued is loosed and he can speak again. Interestingly enough his response is to praise God. He is moved from disbelief to belief. I guess all that time in silence made a big impact. Now put all these things together: a older lady getting pregnant, people had probably heard about Mary and Elizabeth’s greeting and the babies moving, the priest silenced for 9 months, a strange name being chosen for this baby, the priest writing his name and then being able to speak again, so this raises the people’s curiosity and they ask this question:
Question: What Then Is This Child Going To Be?
We, like John, are called to prepare the way for Christ.
To answer the question of verse 66, let’s go back to Luke 1:14-15 and look at what the angel told John’s father Zechariah what John’s character was going to be like. I think in many ways we are called to mirror that same character.
“He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:14-17
Preparing the Way
Did you catch the motto of John’s life: Prepare the way of the Lord. Let me just mention that John is born to imperfect parents who didn’t always do the right thing or respond the right way. God still used them. God using us is not dependant on our response but on His will through our lives. I think John’s motto can be our motto too! That motto is spoken of in this earlier passage, verse 17:
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah…” vs. 17
The key to being used by God is not how good of a person you are, it’s what God’s power can do through you. SO we learn from John what preparing the way for the Lord looks like thorugh John’s character.
- Exemplifies Joy
First, he exemplifies joy. He brings joy wherever he goes. Verse 14:
“He will be a joy and delight to you…” vs. 14
From the time of John’s birth until he is a man, we don’t hear much of anything of his life. But we know he ends up living in the dessert, clothed in camel’s hair, eats locust and honey, and proclaims the coming of the Messiah. His parents are nowhere to be found and many suspect hey are probably dead at this point. He’s a real ragamuffin but he brings joy.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
I like this because I want to be joyful and bring joy to people. I think we are drawn to people who are joyful and want more of them around. Proclaim God, being thankful, etc. brings joy not only to our life but to others.
Ex. “Joy To The World”
Ill. Doing things for others, our joy in giving to others less fortunate
- Exemplifies God’s Grace
Second, John exemplifies God’s grace. Verse 15:
“… for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” vs. 15
John was human and fallible as you and I are as well. But remember, it’s not our goodness that determines God using us, it’s His plan, and His grace. We are called to acknowledge our failings and the places we fall short and then live in His grace. That means we may not be much in our own sight or even in the sight of others around us but God loves us, values us, and in His sight, we can be great. That means we affirm others and who God has created them to be and bring God’s grace to them. Romans 3:23-24:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace…” Romans 3:23-24
We have all sinned, all fallen short, but we live in grace. Many of us still struggle to earn or approve our salvation and God is freely giving us his grace. Grace is receiving a gift we didn’t deserve or earn and something we cannot repay.
- Exemplifies Hope
The grace leads us to the reality that there is hope. John exemplifies hope and we can have that too! Verse 16:
“He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.” vs. 16
Remember where Israel is at this point in history. There has been 400 years of silence. They haven’t heard from God and with each passing generation they fall more and more away from God. They feel that God is gone. With the way things are in our times we might feel the same way. What the Israelites see is the Pharisees and Saducees abusing their authority and this oppressive need to adhere to rules and regulations. They don’t see God at work they see those claiming to be followers of God as abusive as the those in charge; the Romans. They feel they are without God. But remember that great verse in Matthew 1:23:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel- which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23
What great news. That is the news John brings. That is the news we can bring in this season.