Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 25-27-
Judean Wilderness
The Man and His Message
(Isaiah 40:3) Matthew 3:2-12, Mark 1:2-8, Luke 3:3-14

 

All four Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3, and they assign it to John the Baptist, therefore I will accept their testimony.  John the Baptist would fulfill this prophetic verse.

A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”  (Isaiah 40:3)

-Matthew-

 

And saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  (Matthew 3:2)

“Repent.”  The term “repent” is one that is important to non-believers and believers alike.  It has two ingredients. 

First, it involves a change of direction or a change of mind.  For the believer, repentance may involve turning to God from an attitude of cold, indifference.  That was the message that Jesus had for the churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2 and 3.  For the non-believer, the turning is to Jesus Christ.  Anytime you turn to something, you turn away from something else, and when you turn to Jesus Christ, you turn away from sin.  For the unbeliever, something must come before repentance, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.  Faith will cause a person to turn to Christ and to repent of his sins. 

Second, repentance should include genuine sorrow.  Confessing sin is more than just speaking words; it may involve a broken heart.  The mature Christian and those living close to God, recognize that their sin is degrading and offensive to a Holy God.  Deep sorrow will flow from the heart when sin is confessed and God is asked for forgiveness.

The expression “kingdom of heaven” means the rule of the heavens over the earth.  Jesus Christ is the king and we enter into His kingdom by faith.  We are translated into His kingdom at the moment of our salvation.  There is a very special relationship between this king and His subjects.  It is a love relationship that is expressed very well in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

John’s message was that the kingdom of heaven was close.  He knew that the Messiah was somewhere near.  John wanted to meet Him and his assignment was to prepare the way for Him.  You can prepare to meet Him by getting your life right with God.

This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”  (Matthew 3:3)

Isaiah 40:3 is the prophesy that is referred to.  All John ever wanted to be is a voice and all he ever wanted to do was “to prepare the way for the Lord.”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.  His food was locusts and wild honey. ( Matthew 3:4).

He was an odd-looking man, even for the time that he lived in.  He was a man with a mission.  He was an Old Testament prophet, that lived in the days of the New Testament.

People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.(Matthew 3:5). 

The only way you could see John the Baptist was to go to him.  It could only be the Spirit of God that drew people from all Israel to seek out this prophet, because he did not have a church and he was preaching sermons in the wilderness.

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:6).

This man and his simple message changed lives.  People turned from their sins and by submitting to be baptized, showed that they were changed.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  (Matthew 3:7-8).

This was a strong rebuke for this group, so when I read this I ask, what was it about these men that caused John to react in this manner toward them?  I believe that it was their hypocrisy and cold-heartedness.  The Sadducees and Pharisees depended upon performance for their salvation and there was a lot of show to their worship.  John says, “There must be some fruit in your life.  You just can’t go through the act of baptism.”  How do you think that those proud men reacted to being called “snakes?”

“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘‘We have Abraham as our father’.  I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”  (Matthew 3:9)

Here is another strong statement aimed at the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  They were very proud of the fact that Abraham was the father of their nation.  Abraham was a great man and John does not play down his greatness.  But instead, he declares that God, who created all things, could easily turn the stones that surround them into people just like them.  His words were not well received.

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  (Matthew 3:10)

If a fruit tree does not bear fruit, then it is no good.  It might as well be cut down and used for firewood.  This is for the nation Israel.  They were not obeying God and they did not love Him.  They had failed God and if they would not repent and turn back to Him, they would be cut down and replaced. 

I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  (Matthew 3:11)

John says that when he baptizes, he only uses water, but there is one that is coming that will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  We are living in the age of the Holy Spirit, so John’s statement has been true now for over 2000 years.  We receive the Holy Spirit when we are saved.  We are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, His church.  When Jesus comes the second time, He will baptize with the fire of judgement.

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  (Matthew 3:12)

John is talking about the Second Coming.  At that time the Lord will put down all rebellion and the “elect” will enter into His loving care and the chaff, which is all unbelievers, will face the fire of God’s judgement.  The only way to avoid God’s judgement is still found in John’s message, “Repent of your sins and turn to Christ.”

-Mark-

It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”  (Mark 1:2-3)

Once again, the quotation is from Isaiah 40:3.  This is John’s reference for being the one who will be the forerunner of Christ.  He was qualified and ordained by God for this purpose.

And so John came baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  (Mark 1:4)

John preached baptism and repentance for forgiveness for sins, not forgiveness of sins.  He was preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus is the only one who forgives sins.

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist and he ate locusts and wild honey.  (Mark 1:5-6)

John was an Israelite of the tribe of Levi and could have been a priest serving in the temple.  Instead, God called him to be a prophet.  His church was located in the desert and his message was simple and unchanging.

And this was the message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”  (Mark 1:7)

This shows that john was a humble man.  But his message brought many out to see him and many turned back to God.

“I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.  (Mark 1:8)

Baptism is very important.  Water baptism identifies the believer with Jesus Christ.  Jesus was baptized so that He could be identified with humanity.  Believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.

-Luke-

He went into all the country around Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  (Luke 3:3)

John was the last of the prophets.  He will have the same end as many of the other prophets-he will be put to death.  Today a prophet would be one who speaks against the philosophy of modern religion.  He would be very unpopular, because the world doesn’t want a voice that speaks of judgement.  John’s message was very strong.

As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.  The crocked roads shall be made straight and rough ways smooth.  And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”  John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  (Luke 3:4-7)

Religious men did not receive John’s words, well.  This would not be a popular message today either.

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children to Abraham.”  (Luke 3:8)

Repentance is not the message that is being preached today.  The message for today is the love of God, and that message moves men to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you must have turned from your sins.  If you have not repented of your sins, you have not found God.  Repentance is

involved in salvation, but today God’s message is, “…..Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…..”  (Acts 16:31)

“The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  (Luke 3:9)

John never preached about God’s love.  His message was one of judgement.  His message to Israel was that they would be replaced if they did not repent and turn back to God.  This message also applies to us today.  If you will not have Jesus as your Savior, you will stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ.  Remember that God is never unjust.  From Him you will either get mercy or justice.  I need mercy, not justice, because I am a sinner and so are you.

“What should we do then?”  the crowd asked.  John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”  (Luke 3:10-11)

John tells them that they are selfish.  They need to share with others.  This is simple language.

Tax collectors also came to be baptized, “Teacher”, they asked, “What should we do?”  “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.  (Luke 3:12-13)

Tax collectors were hated because they were believed to be greedy and they cheated people by collecting more than they were required to.  Naturally, they kept the excess.  They also turned to God.

Then some solders asked him, “And what should we do?”  He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-be content with your pay.”  (Luke 3:14)

This is a practical message.  As a Christian, you will be known by your fruits.  Do everything to the best of your ability-like Jesus signs your paycheck.  Your actions reveal what you are.  “Thus, by their fruits, you will recognize them.”  (Matthew 7:20)

 

 

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