(To listen to the sermon, click here. Preached 9 December 2012 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.)
There’s a story of a pilot who was flying his airliner through some incredibly thick clouds. The ‘plane’ if you will was programmed to tell the pilot if something was coming should that pilot’s sight be impaired. Soon, the plane started steadily saying, “Pull up! Pull up! Pull up!” To which the pilot switched it off, saying “Shut up, Gringo!” Moments later, that plane crashed into the side of a mountain and killed the pilot and everyone else onboard.
While many may look at the foolishness of this pilot, we must remember that things like this happen to us all the time.
- The light on the dashboard of our car saying certain fluid is low can’t mean that—there must be a short.
- The pain that persists in our chest must simply be heartburn from the Reuben sandwich I had at corner bakery—it can’t be a heart attack, can it?
- My blown temper at my children or spouse cannot be something deeply wrong with my heart—it’s just the fact that they keep doing these things to trigger it.
Back in 2005 when we bought our van, we soon took a trip to North Carolina to visit my mom and dad. We would then head over to Emerald Isle, NC to stay at a place some friends of my parents let us use. On the way back, with our van only having 1500 miles on it, the check engine light came on. When we took it to a dealer, they said, “As new as the van is, it’s likely that you have air in the gas tank or that you did shut the gas cap tightly enough.” So, we drove another 600+ miles. When I took it to the dealer in Lexington. After they examined it, I was told that I would need a new torque converter, a major issue that kept my van for two weeks!
God provides signals every day and in every way to evidence of how things really are. The question is, will we be like that pilot who do not like what those signals say and shut them off or shut them out? Or will we listen to what those signals witness?
Jesus is having another encounter with the religious establishment, the Pharisees. They hated Jesus because he did not abide by their interpretations of the Law (even though he kept to God’s Law perfectly) and that he claimed not simply to be a servant of God, but that God was His Father, making him One with God—God the Son. They needed some evidence!
According to OT law, a truth needed to be verified by two or three witnesses. These Pharisees knew the word of the Lord so well (they memorized the entire OT), but in the midst of this, they did not recognize the witnesses and signals found in that Word itself. Along with this, they didn’t recognize the works that Jesus accomplished.
What about you? Do you recognize the signals? Do you pay attention to the witnesses of who Jesus is, what he has done, and what He aims to do in and through you? My prayer is that by seeing these witnesses and these signals, you would have ears to hear and eyes to see what God is showing you.
First, take a look at the workers of God—such as John the Baptist (John 5:30-35).
Look with me as John 5:31-35:
“If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (John 5:31-35).
The “John” to which Jesus refers is John the Baptist. Try not to confuse him with the writer of this gospel, who is the Apostle John. John the Baptist is a cousin of Jesus who was born of miraculous birth as well. His father was a priest and both he and his mother Elizabeth were faithful, but could not have children. God used them to do something special in bringing this boy into the world–he would be the One who would announce that their long-awaited Messiah, Rescuer, Deliverer was coming.
You may say, “How does this mean anything to these religious leaders to whom Jesus is talking?” Simply put, they were waiting for John the Baptist almost as much as Jesus. There is a passage in the book of Isaiah in the OT, from chapter 40 which says:
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 40:3-5)
This comes at a part of Isaiah where comfort would be granted to God’s people and that the people of God would find rest–but this “voice crying out in the wilderness” would be the sign that this comfort from the Messiah was about to be inaugurated.
This reference may not mean much to our ears, but it’s interesting how often we ignore clear signs, much like that pilot who wanted to land that plane safely, but refused to listen to the signs and the testimony of those whom God has sent.
But notice that, as great a man as John the Baptist was, Jesus makes it clear that “the testimony that I receive is not from man, but I say these things that you may be saved” (v.34). He said these things exclusively for the sake of his hearers, for the witness of the Baptist would serve them and aid them in believing. As far as Jesus was concerned, as long as He has the witness and affection of the Father who sent him, that was satisfactory. And what more did he need?
So why did the Father send John the Baptist or any other Christian preacher? As a witness! In Colossians 1:28-29 (my favorite verses in regards to ministry) says:
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (Colossians 1:28-29).
To proclaim and magnify Christ so that we would be mature in Christ. How? By warning them and teaching them with all wisdom. This was all of where Paul expended himself–drawing on the power that Christ worked in him. Why? Not because Christ needed this to happen, but that he uses weak human vessels like us to display His glory and his saving work!