“A Burning and Shining Light…”

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John 1:19-51

“A Burning and Shining Light…”

Introduction:    He was a young boy born and raised in a rural town.  His parents had been involved in ministry all their lives.  They both died when the child was fairly young.  The boy separated himself from the world of his parents—took on the life of a hermit.

He never held a job.  He lived off of the land—ate what God’s creation provided—lived out in the elements.  This he did most of his life.  He never cut his hair, he never shaved his beard, he dressed in the crudest of clothing (having complete disregard for culture).  He never married and he had no friends.  Finally he began to come into contact with society.  But, this was short-lived.  He was arrested by the government and imprisoned as a political subversive—shortly thereafter he was executed. 

Most of us, if this were our son, would consider his life wasted, not at all well spent.  We’d be concerned about the hermit life-style.  We’d be distressed about the anti-social behavior and appearance. 

I wonder what God would think of this person?  We don’t have to wonder—Christ told us His evaluation (Luke 7:28), “Among those born of women, there is no one greater than John.” 

One of the most intriguing personalities to grace the pages of Scripture—John the Baptist. 

John 1: 19-51

19-24                   The man                                   Who he was

25-28                   The ministry                              What he did

29-37                   The message                            What he said


I.       Man (Jn. 1:19-24)

He was born into a godly home.  They were “righteous before God.”   Their daily walk reflected a deep commitment, yet, there was an ongoing sorrow in their home (Zach’s song).  No pitter-patter of little feet greeted Zach upon returning from his priestly service.  Elizabeth was barren.  “Disgrace of men” (frown of God) was upon her.  God used this sorrow to shape their lives so it created a deeper hunger for God. 

Zacharias was one of 20,000 priests in Judea at the time.  Twice a year he’d make his way to Jerusalem for 8 days (2 Sabbaths and 6 days).  One of the most sacred duties of the priest was to offer incense.  So honored was it that it was fixed by lot; no priest was allowed to perform this sacred duty twice.  Only once in a life time. 

Zacharias stands above in the Holy Place while the smoke of the sacrifices filled the room.  His assistant had withdrawn. The multitude was outside praying and waiting for Zacharias to return and share the benediction.

Luke 1:10-23 (read)

John was taught by his father and mother the faith of Israel.  He was shaped by his Nazarite vow.  (Nazar – people of the vow.)

Illustration:  “Why do I wear my hair so long mother?”  You must never cut it, you are a Nazarite.  You are separated unto God.

“When we die, if in those last seconds we call out for help, do not touch our dead bodies.  You are a Nazarite; You are set apart unto God.  Nothing must steal God’s power from your life.” 

The effect of this was excellent.  He knew direction and purpose. 

Luke 1:80  “And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” 

“Strong in spirit”

-          suffer injustice – quietly

-          strong passion – chaste

-          This earth held no chains on his soul.

Matthew 3:4 says he wore a leather undergarment and camel skin covering

                   He ate locusts:  remove wings and legs—broiled and eaten.

His life became a stinging rebuke to a self-indulgent, fickle, sinful, selfishly blinded world.  He was the spiritual antithesis of all that this world was. 

Illustration:  Luke 7:22-28

John (imprisoned) asked:  “Are you the expected one, or do we look for someone else?  After the disciples left, he’s not fickle, not a weathervane.  Christ did not evaluate on the passing emotion but the abiding tenor of his life. 

Christ speaks of his greatness and then gives a reservation. (v.28)

John proclaimed a state of blessedness of which he himself was not able to partake.  He proclaimed that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit—making us one with Christ. 

John was strong in spirit, rugged, could commune with God—yet in our Lord’s own perfect manhood there was a balance of quality.  He could also love, cry, play with children and bring holiness into society. 

(Turn to John 1:19-25)  Members of Sanhedrin (priests, Levites and Pharisees)

Verse 19:    “Who are you”  (silence)

                   I am not the Christ -  Luke 3:15  (the people hoped he was)

Verse 21:    “What then, are you Elijah?’

                   Mal. 4:5 – he was not literally Elijah

Verse 21:    Are you the prophet?

                   Deut. 18:15 – A prophet like Moses - Their mission was in trouble

Verse 22:    What do you say?

Verse 23:    (answer) I am a voice

Illustration:  Announcing King’s coming

Illustration:  President’s state of the union address announced “ladies and gentlemen, the President of the U.S.”

                   We seek to be famous and are nobody. Seek to be nobody for Christ’s sake—famous for eternity.  John is a classic example of this.

John knew his place.  He was not the light; He bore witness to the light (the One that could light all men).  He could not say  “Come unto me…rest!”

  Verse 25:  Why are you baptizing?  (answer 26 & 27)  I am sent to baptize…to prepare for one coming.

II.     Ministry (Jn. 1:25-28)

          Who he was and what he said made its impact on society. From everywhere they began to come to this prophet.  His words pierced their inner being.  He saw right through them.

It was his task to bind these people to a new life of obedience—symbolized by immersion in water.          They’d confess their sin and (the baptism symbolized cleansing). 

John the Baptist—A burning Light

John 5:35—“He was the lamp that was burning and shining.”

“If you would have a vast ministry, set your own heart aflame with the word of God and people will come to see you burn.  If you would shine, you must burn.”

-Spurgeon to his students

John was one who was burning within and holds out eternal light—to this generation, this group, this day—and whoever catches the burning can be a part of the shinning.

The light from John’s burning:    Focused on the coming Messiah

                                                Illumined Christ’s ministry

For thirty years Jesus had waited in Nazareth, faithfully performing the simple duties of the home and of the carpenter’s shop.  All the time He knew that a world was waiting for Him.  All the time he was increasingly conscious of His waiting task.  The success of any undertaking is determined by the wisdom with which the moment to embark upon it is chosen.  Jesus must have waited for the hour to strike, for the moment to come, for the summons to sound.  And when John emerged He knew that the time had arrived.


Why should that be so?  There was one very simple and very vital reason.  It is the simple fact that never in all history before this had any Jew submitted to being baptized .  The Jews knew and used baptism, but only for proselytes who came into Judaism from some other faith.  It was natural that the sin-stained, polluted proselyte should be baptized, but no Jew had ever conceived that he, a member of the chosen people, a son of Abraham, assured of God’s salvation, could ever need baptism.  Baptism was for sinners, and no Jew ever conceived of himself as a sinner shut out from God, for was he not a son of Abraham and therefore safe for eternity.    For the first time in their national history the Jews realized their own sin and their own clamant need of God.  Never in all history had there been such a unique national movement of penitence and of search for God.


This was the very moment for which Jesus had been waiting.  Men were conscious of their sin and conscious of their need of God as never before.  This was His opportunity, and in His baptism He identified Himself with the search of men for god.  When Jesus went to be baptized, he was identifying Himself with the men He cam to save, in the hour of their new consciousness of their own sin, and of their search for God.  –William Barclay

John ministry was the key to bringing Jesus out of obscurity.

F.B. Meyer—“John has a ministry with all men.  In other words, he represents a phase of teaching and influence through which we must need pass if we are properly to discover and appreciate the grace of Christ.  With us, too, a preparatory work has to be done.  There are mountains and hills of pride and self-will that have to be leveled; crooked and devious way that have to be straightened; ruggedness that have to be smoothed—before we can fully behold the glory of god in the face of Jesus Christ.   In proportion to the thoroughness and permanence of our repentance will be our glad realization of the fullness and glory of the lands.”

III.    The Message

Preaching—heralding in the wilderness of Judea:  Barren land of sand, rock, caves, little vegetation, S & E of Jerusalem.

          John’s message was like a spark falling on dry timber.  There had been 400 years without a prophetic voice (God’s Word).  Word spread about a man whose burning eloquence was like that of Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel.

Out of spiritual hunger they came to hear his message.   “Repent, for the kindom of Heaven is near.” 

          “Kingdom” to the typical Jewish mind-set would mean reestablishment of the theocracy.  Daniel prophesied of the Kingdom of God.  John says it is near, but they had more misgivings about what John said.  They envisioned material glory and political freedom.   John proclaimed that the inward and spiritual took precedence over the external and material.

Jesus’ words, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Repent—a change in the attitude of the will.  Repentence—not emphasized and rarely understood.

          Illustration—Repentance and faith—two sides of one coin:

                   Repentance—desire and choice—to turn from sin

                   Faith—desire and choice—to turn toward God

          This message of repentance was embodied in John more than any other.

Matt. 3:7 – Pharisees and Sadducees came lacking repentance. You “brood of snakes”

Verse 8 – Fruit.  Anyone can do good acts; only one given to God can produce a crop of good acts. 

          Verse 9 & 10 – Don’t trust your nationality—“Israelite!”

          Illustration:  Axe is laying their ready to have energy exerted to it. 

          John’s ministry was a scathing rebuke to the religious world.  It is a timeless message.

          To the degree that we are comfortably tucked away in a material worldliness, we are in need of repentance.  Do you want God to shake you out of your callousness?

Repentance precedes refreshing.

          “Reformation precedes Revival”  --Schaeffer

          Reformation: to become changed for the better. 

Illustration:  David Brainerd—dripping wet with sweat on a cool day while praying for the Indians he worked with.

                   Illustration:  Wrath brought tears to Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards.

Illustration:  Livingston in the rain congratulated the people that rain alone was falling and not the fire of divine wrath.

Having received his ministry of preparation, John then began to expose the ministry of the Messiah  (amazing statements of insights).

The Speech (John 1: 29-34)

1. pre-existence (John 1:30)

          He was aware that his cousin Jesus born 6 months after he was born, had existed before him.  The pre-existent Messiah.

2.     Sacrificial aspect

John was unflappable, except for one moment.  When Christ came to be baptized of John, John hesitated….  He apparently knew something of Christ’s upright life.  In His presence John felt in need of repentance.  Christ insisted—was baptized.  Signs were given—this is the Christ, the one.  Then Jesus the Christ walked alone into the wilderness.  John waited for word of Jesus’ ministry.  1 week—2, 3, a month—6 weeks finally…(John 1: 29) “Behold the lamb of God.”

Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, Nathanael…

“Lamb”—understood as sacrifice—not political deliverer. 

3. Baptism of Holy Spirit

            —John 1:33

“Spirit Baptism makes believers one in the life of the Son of God himself, sharing His communion, salvation, hope and destiny.”  -Unger

·Highest privilege.  Old Testament the spirit had indwelt and “come upon” temporarily.  Now every believer would be placed in a spiritual unity.

4.     Divine Trinity

—first time revealed to man—father (voice)—Son (water)—Spirit (Dove).

5.    Divine Sonship of Christ

—John 1:33,34

 “I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God.” 

Why did he come for baptism?  Not to repent, He was purity incarnate, but to identify with understanding and knowledge the plan of God.

It was to identify—The sin problem of mankind is My sin problem.

It was to acknowledge—God was inaugurating a new spiritual program.   The inauguration was marked with certain phenomenon. 

John 1: 33,34—toward the end of the day…heavens opened.  John had been told that these signs would accompany the Messiah.

·Dove—John had a view toward a multi of wrath and judgement, etc.  He is set apart by a mild dove (meek bird).  Holy Spirit hovering as a dove…hovering over the waters.

·Voice—“This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

If we will become burning and shining lights for Him; He will provide the fuel.  The fuel is in the form of a person; the Holy Spirit.  As we grieve not…quench not….lie not to the holy spirit…we become the light of the world.

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