The Baptist’s Immortal Testimony to the Deity of Christ at Bethany beyond the Jordan

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And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. [John 1:19-28]

The man who knows only homiletical analysis finds this look difficult. He cannot cut it into two or three sections, preaching on each section, in two or three parts of the sermon. The man who knows only homiletical application likewise has difficulty. He will use the pattern: as the Baptist was humble, honest, true, etc., so must we be to-day. He may also compare us with the priests and with the Pharisees also in the text, and teach us not to be like them. Perhaps also may fasten on v. 23, and preach our preparing the way into our. own hearts and then also into the hearts of others, Ilint all of us ought to be people like the Baptist. Yet, I oven this kind of a preacher senses that such an applica-r,► t 13,4'111►11, with such "lessons" from this great text, is weak .1o1 to do justice to its main feature. For the previous already presented the Baptist as a prophet, yes, as "something beyond a prophet," and the obvious fact is that no o►oniv uia 111 anything of the kind. Likewise, in this text he a voice in the wilderness, "as said the prophet and never said anything of the kind about us. II In alltogether incongruous to compare our hearers to the Baptist. The preacher may ignore the incongruity, but that does not remove it. More may be said to the same effect.

The better type of preacher rises higher. One presents: The Preacher in the Wilderness: 1) Who he is, and 2) What he preaches. Another offers: John's Testimony at Bethabara (which should be: at Bethany beyond the Jordan) : 1) Concerning himself; 2) Concerning Christ. Both themes have color. Yet the parts under the first theme are mere categories. The main fault is that in both of these sermons John occupies half of the sermon, and this half becomes either merely historical in telling about John, or when it seeks for more descends again to "lessons" drawn from John. Moreover, it is the Third Sunday in Advent which is intended to deal with the Baptist as the Great Herald of Christ, not the Fourth. It would be strange indeed to have two Sundays' for the same subject.

We are on the eve of the Festival of the Savior's Birth. The object of this text for the last Sunday before Christmas is to impress upon us the Deity of Rim who is Born in Bethlehem, this is why we celebrate his birth as we do. So great is the Savior sent by God into the world, because none less than he could possibly "stand" to perform the work needed for our redemption. In other words, the Messiah had to be the very Son of God, and he was the Son. This is the true burden of the whole text. This is the 1.1aeereeia, "the testimony" of John (v. 19) which John bore when this double committee came to him in the wilderness. It is this "testimony" that the evangelist records, for this testimony stands for all time, for you and for me to this day.

Testimony, true testimony, calls for belief on our part, aims to produce this belief and all its fruits. This is the aim of the entire text. Where faith already exists, this testimony aims to increase, intensify, fortify such faith, lest it decline or grow ineffective. To meet true testimony with unbelief constitutes the most fatal guilt. Such unbelief is unnatural, abnormal, hence damnable (John 3, 18). It ought to be impossible.

This text demands homiletical appropriation, and that not only in one part of the sermon, but in the entire sermon. The sum of the sermon must be: "This is the Testimony" (v. 19) — believe it! Amen. Keep this high level. God knows how necessary this is for our day. The Virgin Birth is ignored, even boldly denied. Divinity is substituted for deity, a noble, divine, godlike man for the Son of God incarnate. Christmas is celebrated in high style without the Son of the Highest. Matthew's and Luke's account of the Nativity are rejected as legendary, as imitations of pagan stories about heathen gods appearing on earth. Who in this whose birth we are about to celebrate on Christmas day? Our very souls depend on the true answer.

The Baptist’s Immortal Testimony to the Deity of Christ at Bethany beyond the Jordan.

  1. This Testimony faces us to-day, because it is immortal,
    • Given to the official committees of the Jews by the Baptist.
    • Transmitted to us by God through his evangelist.
    • Declaring the Deity of Jesus, whose sandals even the great Baptist is not worthy to untie.
    • Declaring that Jesus, the Godman, "stands" to begin the work of our redemption.
    • Justifying the Baptist's work, as the Voice in the wilderness, bringing Israel to Baptism.
    • Destroying all false notions about Jesus and his forerunner the Baptist.
  2. We face this Testimony to-day, because it is immortal.
    • As true to-day as the day it was uttered.
    • Demanding faith in the Deity of Jesus and in his redemption which only he could begin and finish.
    • Producing faith by its power' of truth.
    • Destroying all false notions we and others may still have about Jesus and his redemption.
    • Warning us away from the guilt of disbelieving.
    • By all this preparing us for rightly celebrating the Godman's Nativity.