SERMON on Luke 3:7-17

A Tale of Two Baptizers

Luke 3:7-17



  • The coming wrath … could be destruction of the Temple, the siege and the suffering caused by the siege.


  • fruit in keeping with repentance … behaviour resulting from a change of mind/thinking … trusting in Christ
  • “We have Abraham as our father” … behaviour resulting from trusting in heritage/genealogy/race
  • POINT … Trust in God’s grace, not in your race.
  • The issue in John’s era, among others, was that God’s people were relying on their heritage instead of acting like God’s people. Many times, John and Jesus remind the people of Israel that knowing God is a matter of heart, not heritage.


  • The axe has been laid to the root of the trees …  John is connecting them with the Israel narrative.
      • Isaiah 6:13   though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump. 
  • John, by linking to Isaiah, speaks to them of God’s judgment when Israel strays from him.  Cut down the mighty tree, in this case Israel, and the remnant remains.
  • The ax is at the root of the tree because the people had strayed from God and relied instead on their rituals and heritage.  God himself is on the move and about to come and set things straight — in person.


  • unproductive trees thrown into the fire … obviously a reference to some negative result of not repenting, but …


  • True repentance will bear the fruit of generosity toward the needy.
  • True repentance will bear the fruit of honesty without greed in business.
  • True repentance will bear the fruit of not abusing power for personal gain.


      • The inferiority of the baptism of John to Christian baptism is declared by the holy Baptist himself.
      • This difference (water…Holy Ghost) he alleges as the proof of his own inferiority to his Lord, and as resulting from it.
      • This difference our Lord also inculcated (Acts 1:11), when He instituted His own baptism.
      • The baptism of John was preparatory, the Baptism of Christ perfective;
      • the baptism of John invited to repentance, the Baptism of Christ gave grace upon repentance;
      • the baptism of John stood on the confines of the promised land, was allowed to see it, led men to the borders of it, guided them to it, but itself brought them not into it;
      • higher than the law, as he whose baptism it was, was greater than any born of the sons of men, yet less also than the least in the kingdom of heaven;
      • greater than the baptisms of the law, as being nearer to the Redeemer, but yet restrained within the precursorial office,
      • still a shadow of the good things to come, not the reality itself, though brought so near to the Sun of Righteousness as all but to be kindled with His beams, as all but to convey that which could only be conveyed by Him in whom alone, as being God as well as man, we could be reborn as sons of God; who alone shed His precious blood for the sins of the whole world, and in baptism washes and cleanser His Church with it.
  • “… baptize with the Holy Spirit ….”
      • See Acts 1:4-5   And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me.  For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.  
      • See Acts 2:1-3  …
      • See Acts 11:15-16  And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.  16 Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.  


  • “… and with fire ….”
      • What is the “fire” referring to? … Trials?Hell?.
  • Before you agree with either of those … Consider the following passages …
      • Verse 16 (Luke 3:16) … John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” 
      • Jesus will baptize with fire … Why? … To what end?
      • Luke 12:49  ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
      • Exodus 3:1-2 … Moses and the burning bush, which didn’t burn up
      • Exodus 13:21 … God was IN the pillar of fire by night
      • Leviticus 6:9-13 … fire in the tabernacle … “unquenchable” … to represent God’s power and presence
      • Deuteronomy 4:24 …For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God
      • Deuteronomy 9:3  But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire.  He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.
      • Isaiah 30:27  See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.  
      • Isaiah 33:14  The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless:  ‘Who of us can dwell with the consuming fireWho of us can dwell with everlasting burning?’  
      • Hebrews 12:28-29   Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.  
      • Malachi 3:2-3  But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?  For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver;  he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.  Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,
      • Psalm 66:10-12  For you, God, tested usyou refined us like silver.  11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.   12 You let people ride over our heads;  we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.  
      • 1 Peter 1:7   These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
      • What is the “These” referring to? …
      • 1 Peter 1:6  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
      • 1 Corinthians 3:10-15    By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13  their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.  




  • the wheat … the kernel that could be eaten or made into bread;
  • the chaff … the useless shell that needed to be thrown away.
  • In Jesus’ day, you had to separate the wheat from the chaff … and a threshing floor was used to do it. 
  • the threshing floor … was a packed dirt or rocky flat area where the wheat was laid out to dry.  Threshing floors were often on a hill so the wind could blow away the useless husks of chaff.  When the wheat was dry, the farmer would use a winnowing fork or fan to throw the wheat into the air.  The chaff would blow away and the heavier kernels would fall to the ground.
  • It was about separating, taking away the useless from the useful, the bad from the good.


We have to remember that this earthquake of images was God on the move.  The paradigm was shifting; the reality of God’s relationship with humanity was coming into focus. … This is how it can feel – earth-shattering, growing pains … because God was changing people.

Advent and Christmas are not just about comfort but transformation. Not only will you be immensely comforted and surrounded in love when you meet Jesus, but you will also never be the same. Everything changes.


Crazy John was insanely bold

look at who John the Baptist is talking to here … NOT the hypocritical and comfortable people … BUT people who felt a spiritual hunger and thirst … people who wanted to know what to do (v. 10) … people who were, for the most part, “good” people … people who would have seen that something new was happening … people whose hearts had, in some way, been tenderized by God.

What John points out to the tax collectors, the soldiers, and the ordinary citizens are the everyday sins. These are the “understood” sins, the little sleight-of-hand, “everybody does that” kind of sins.  He’s pointing out that your food and goods surplus belongs to the poor, and the “accepted” evils of the tax collector culture – skimming some off the top – is unacceptable. He points out that the “accepted” evils of the soldiers’ world – extorting people for extra cash, skimming off the top, too – is also unacceptable ,,, that Jesus was coming … to take sin out by the roots … NOT to remodel the building … BUT to demolish it … so that He could rebuild it from the ground up.

We have such “accepted sins” in our own culture; sins that go against God’s design for our lives and our happiness. Being dishonest on our taxes, stealing small items from work, emotional infidelity, cohabiting, mistreating others. They are sins that go against sharing God’s love and purpose for our lives, but sins that our culture often looks on with a helpless shrug – that’s just the way things are. Plenty of good and moral people are in these circumstances.

John points out here that no sin, even the culturally acceptable ones, will work in God’s eyes. That’s not living in our true identity. He is pointing out that we don’t just need a slight modification of behavior or a refreshing of our perspective, but we need a new heart and soul. We need Jesus to take down our old concepts of righteousness and goodness and build the real thing in its place.

As we’ve pointed out above, Crazy John takes aim at the stock answer that many gave in those days: We have Abraham as our father (v. 8). Because they are ethnically Hebrew, God’s chosen people, many believed they would be excluded from God’s judgment. A word of judgment, from John the Baptist to them, would be unnecessary – even insulting – in their eyes.

That’s the other thing about Crazy John that upset the establishment – the kind of people he was baptizing. Baptism at the time was a ritual for the conversion of Gentiles into Jews. If someone didn’t grow up in the heritage, but wanted to join the Jewish faith, they used the water ritual of baptism to symbolize that.

But here John is baptizing Jewish people! This is like us telling Billy Graham he needs to come forward for an altar call or offering to dunk our denominational leaders in the closest river!

Crazy John was insanely bold. He was causing not just a stir, but a revolution. Do we see that in our own lives – someone pressing us back on the Lord, reminding us again that we are incomplete without Jesus?

Think of all the humbling circumstances in life, of which there are many, and how they cause us to trust again in the one who created life. Think of even great evangelists like Ravi Zacharias who made such an impact for the kingdom and yet was helpless in front of his own addictions and secret sins.

We all need a Savior, we are all on our knees before him, brought there by life itself. We all need the healing waters of Crazy John, no matter who we think we are.

Crazy John lived upside down

But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. (Luke 3:16 ESV)

A century and a half before John, a Jewish revolutionary had started a successful revolution against the Seleucid Empire, who was the occupying power of the time. He’d started the movement by gathering the people in the wilderness to rally against the empire. Crazy John looked like he was doing the same thing again, this time against Rome.

Here he was, out in the desert, gathering the people. Needless to say, the people picked up his signals quickly and headed out to see what was going on. Crazy John caused a stir, even though this was not his ultimate plan. If he was like the rest of us, he might be tempted to cash in on the fame this offered him, however short-lived.

But Crazy John was just the right kind of crazy.

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16 ESV)

Elsewhere, John had said:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30 ESV)

Crazy John lived upside down. He didn’t want to see his name in lights; he didn’t want to grasp onto the unsatisfying fruit of fame. His greatest dream was to be part of God’s movement, and to disappear as soon as Jesus arrived.

Probably John’s most famous verse is “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23 ESV). These are the words of the prophet Isaiah, preparing for God himself to come through. Just after Crazy John quotes these words, Jesus arrives. John was announcing the arrival of God, and then almost immediately he disappears from the Gospels.

Crazy John was just the right kind of crazy. He lived outside of our expectations, he spoke bold truth to those in power, even to Herod, who eventually had him killed, and he lay it all down as soon as Jesus arrived on the scene.

What can we learn from Crazy John?

  • He spoke in riddles. Crazy John’s words talked about God’s judgment – the fact that we need a Savior because we can’t make it on our own. This is a riddle to us, who sometimes think we’ve got it figured out or at least that someone does. John’s punchline is that we don’t need a tune-up, we need an overhaul, we need to learn to live life from the One who created it.
  • He was insanely bold. John was a kind of free agent who spoke truth to all levels of society and even told the “professionally” religious people that they needed to meet God again. How do we live with this kind of boldness, standing up for those without a voice, living outside of the popularity contests and status seeking that run our world?
  • He lived upside down. Do we step off the stage when Jesus arrives? Or do we steal the spotlight and make it all about ourselves? It’s far too tempting, especially when we have a listening audience, to forget that we are only the opening act. But when we remember this, we live in freedom! We are freed from our insatiable egos to step back and watch what God will do.

Are we the right kind of crazy? There is a lot we can learn from the wild-eyed prophet who walked out of the desert one day wearing camel hair and eating bugs to become the herald of the King himself.

Blessed Are You! w/ Mako Nagasawa W2

Blessed Are You! w/ Mako Nagasawa
December 12 – Advent 3
Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV) “What Should We Do?”

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Small Group Discussion Questions

Questions for Sermon: “Just the Right Kind of Crazy”

  • Have you ever known a person who is a little like John the Baptist? Maybe someone who might seem out of sync with the world and culture and yet has a depth of insight that others don’t have?
  • John had walked away from the status-seeking and popularity contests of our world. How can we walk away from these things and find our true self – loved and accepted by God – again?
  • John lived upside down, ready to walk off stage when Jesus arrived. Do we live this way? How do we know when he’s arrived?



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