The Forerunner of Christmas
The Wonder of the Birth of John the Baptist
Luke 1:5-80

Introduction -

    1. Did you know that of all that is written about John the Baptist, half is about his BIRTH?
    2. Evidently, God thinks there is some pretty amazing stuff to learn from John the Baptist’s birth!
    3. It doesn’t outshine the Saviour’s birth, but it does get the fire going so-to-speak. Let’s see how the Lord started everything off 6 months prior to Mary hearing that she would have a baby boy named Jesus

II. Message -

    1. John’s Parents (1:5-7)
      1. Jewish Parents - They were a Jewish family – of the tribe of Levi
      2. Godly parents – loved God in both heart and life!
      3. His Father was Zacharias
        1. Here he is an old man
        2. Zacharias gave his life to serve God - to be busy doing something for God (1:6,8-10) instead of only being caught in the rat-race, and downward cycles - that's what God showed me to draw me to preach!

4. His Mother was Elisabeth

5. And they were childless – not that they didn’t want children, but that they couldn’t seem to have children. What was natural and normal for some couples, wasn’t happening with them!

B. God’s Provision (1:8-14)

      1. God here is going to use their lack, their loneliness, their need, to bless and meet another greater need in their nation
      2. Every year, it was Zacharias’ job to lead prayer at the temple for 15 days straight
      3. He would burn incense in the Temple, while the people came and went and held prayer meetings outside the Temple
      4. Suddenly an angel appears right in front of him in the Temple
      5. Instantly Zacharias freezes in fear! Any of us would!
        1. I can’t believe how easily I startle people, no matter what I do
        2. Think about being alone is a big huge Temple – you are humming along, and working away, excited about the turn-out for prayer meeting, and you look up and this BIG guy is standing over you!

6. “Fear Not!” (Lk 1:13). Wonderful words throughout Scripture!

        1. An angel told Mary to not fear God’s will for her life – to bear the Son of God
        2. An angel told Joseph to not fear to go ahead and take Mary as his wife, even though she was pregnant by the Holy Ghost (Mat 1:20)
        3. The Shepherds were told not to fear such an overwhelming sight of millions of angels rejoicing and singing about the Saviour’s birth right before their eyes!
        4. Jesus tells us to not fear people who can kill our bodies – only fear God (Matt 10)
        5. Jesus told his disciples to not fear leaving their fishing nets, and to just follow Him in Luke 5
        6. Jesus told the man whose daughter had just died to not fear, simply because HE was there (Luke 8:50)
        7. An angel tells the women at the tomb to not fear the empty tomb
        8. Paul was told not to fear, even though he and 250 other men were caught in a two week long hurricane at sea (Act 27:24)
        9. Such comforting words – you don’t have to run and hide – Jesus is here!

7. It has been 400 years since a prophet heard from God – since an angel had spoken from heaven! And here it was happening right before john’s eyes!

8. And it’s all in answer to both Zacharias’ and Elisabeth’s prayers for a son!

9. ILLUS: How long have YOU been praying for something you so needed?

10. The angel tells Zacharias to name the boy, “John”:

        1. The Grace of the Lord, or, The Lord is Gracious
        2. Probably one of the most common boys name since then: Johann, Hannes, Sean, Jonathan, Johnny
        3. But this boy will be anything but common – so many people will be called by that name because of two Johns in the Bible: John the Baptist, and the Apostle John, known as John the Beloved!

C. John’s Purpose (1:14-17) – Little John had a big job!

      1. He shall be great – but not the greatest (Lk 7:28; 3:16)
      2. He shall be a Nazarene
        1. It means he is specially dedicated to God to accomplish a great purpose – was keeping a vow, a promise to God - Sampson was a Nazarene
        2. It means he has to be very different that everyone else:
          1. No wine or grapes even
          2. No cutting of the hair – easily spotted that he was a Nazarene
          3. Until the vow was complete

c. Every married couple is keeping a vow

d. Every single person who is staying clean and pure from sex before marriage is keeping a vow – and are easily noticed by the world

3. He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb (cd 1:39-41)

4. He would have the same spirit that Elijah had back in 1 and 2 Kings (Elisha knew the awesomeness of that spirit, and wanted DOUBLE the spirit that Elijah had) – and here was John with that same spirit!

5. He shall turn Israel back to God

        1. Like trying to turn around a huge ship that is headed for destruction on the rocky shores ahead
        2. But only a single guy doing it – in the power of the Spirit of God!
        3. His job was to plough and prepare the people’s hearts and lives for the coming Messiah – so that Jesus could easily save this nation!
        4. The promised Messiah was coming right after John!

6. What a purpose and plan God had for this little boy! Not for his own pleasure, but for the great plan and purpose of God!

7. You should trust that God has great plans for you too – not the same, but always great!

D. Zacharias’ Problem (1:18-19)

      1. Zacharias was clearly afraid of what was going on (1:12,13). All this talk about having children, and seeing angels was too much for him. He had had a nice, consistent "faith" that he didn't want anyone messing with!
      2. Zacharias struggles to decide whether he will believe this is possible or not (1:18). In all his years, he has never really had answered prayer, and all of a sudden God says now it is happening. But, can it? With everything that is against Zacharias (age, impotency, etc).
        1. He questions God without any faith - just figures it is impossible
        2. He rejects the promises of God as being for someone else - someone who was more likely to actually experience it "normally!"
        3. This is what modern religious "christianity" is like (2Tim 3:1,5)!

3. Zacharias’ problem was unbeliefthat is our worst sin!

4. Faith is never easy. Nor does it just "flow" naturally - there is always a struggle with doubt, and experience, and the mind.

5. Real Faith just finally settles that if God said it, that settles it!

6. Have you come to that place yet?

E. God’s Penalty (1:20-23)

      1. Do you know what is wonderful? God is at always work, and He is going to accomplish His will, with our without our faith. He would like to use you, but we must decide:
        1. Whether we are going to trust Him, or hinder Him.
        2. Whether we are going to look backwards, or forwards!
        3. What will it be with YOU?

2. Zacharias is rewarded with silence (1:19,20). He has to struggle to be noticed for the next 9 months - can't make a sound!

        1. For some men, that is the norm – not noticed anyway
        2. But when your ability to speak is taken away, you will find yourself very crippled – very humbled

3. Let’s see how bad this penalty was:

        1. Zacharias has just seen and heard from an angel from heaven
        2. He has been promised a son
        3. That son will turn Israel back to God
        4. The Messiah is following right after
        5. And it all is going to be because of some half-hearted prayers of an old man, and an old woman

4. I know far too many Christians who are suffering for their unbelief. I am no judge, but you know when you last really trusted God, or when you last resisted trusting God. It is the worst sin – ignoring God!

F. Elisabeth’s Prize (1:24,25) – Somebody is going to get the blessing, and it is Elisabeth!

      1. God give her conception – she joins the ranks of Sarah, and Hannah – rare examples of God’s grace!
      2. yet she is so shocked that she doesn’t tell anyone for 5 whole months – can’t believe it herself! After 5 months, you can’t hide it any longer!
      3. Zacharias also is surprised it happens just like God said it would.
        1. He didn't go around announcing what God had promised him
        2. Even after Elisabeth got pregnant, they didn't dare live like God was "actually" going to fulfil His promise to them! That would be just "too much"!
        3. Notice later that when John is born in 1:57,58, it is only THEN that all the neighbours hear about the baby - they really are surprised!

4. You know, I really think there will be a lot of surprised people in heaven!

        1. People should live in suspense, looking forward to the fulfilment of God's promises,
        2. Yet they live in confusion, and anxiety! It should come as no surprise to Christians when God answers prayer, or calls them to serve Him
        3. Christians should be delighted to trust God for the impossible
        4. I hate negativity – I hate backward looking – I hate defeatism
        5. I love the promises of God (2Cor 1:20) – they are only positive!

G. John’s Place in History (1:64-80)

      1. NOW Zacharias praises God – had learned his lesson! So sad we wait till the last minute to trust and praise God!
      2. John took his place as the herald, the forerunner of the Messiah
        1. Jesus is the fulfilment of so much of the Old Testament prophecies
        2. Jesus would save not only Israel, but all people from the punishment of their sins

3. According to Luke 1:80, John spent about 30 years preparing for only 10 months of work, before he died in Herod’s prison

4. But during those 10 months…

        1. He turned Israel upside-down and inside out
        2. He brought families back together – especially the fathers to their children
        3. He made all the people thirsty for God again
        4. He made it easy for Jesus to save us
        5. All without miracles, or the writing of some Scriptures – only preaching repentance towards the holiness of God, and faith towards the Lamb of God!

III. Conclusion

    1. Isn’t it amazing how little Zacharias could see of God’s plan
    2. Yet shouldn’t we expect great things from our God?
    3. John’s Parents were just like us – not super-heros, but following a super God
    4. God’s Provision is always more than we need – it is for more than just us
    5. John’s Purpose shows us a bit of what each of our purpose is – to prepare people for the Lord!
    6. Zacharias’ Problem is most people’s problem – unbelief (about the promises of God, the coming wrath of God, heaven, hell)!
    7. God’s Penalty for unbelief was silence – with each of us it may be something else. I would rather have the PLEASURE of belief, instead of any troubles because of my stinking unbelief! Amen!
    8. Elisabeth’s Prize was a baby – just as promised. What has God promised you
    9. John’s Place in History – the be the forerunner of the first coming of the Messiah. We need to live like the forerunners of His second coming!
    10. Have you heard John the Baptist’s message?
      1. We are all a mess – sinners before an all holy God
      2. We can’t save ourselves – we need a Saviour
      3. Only Jesus saves
      4. He waits to save YOU today!
      5. But you must go to Him in surrendered prayer AS lost, and IN trouble, and ASK to be forgiven, and saved from your sins!
      6. He promises to come in, and save you and change you!

Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland