Surprising Truths About Jesus: He is More Than Meets the Eye

Pastor Jake Schram

Worship Theme: Surprising Truths About Jesus: He is More Than Meets the Eye

First Lesson: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NIV)
Second Lesson: Titus 3:4-7 (NIV)
Gospel : Luke 3:15-17,21-23 (NIV)

  • CW 294: Baptized into Your Name Most Holy
  • CWS 739: Baptismal Waters Cover Me
  • CW 91: The Star Proclaims the King Is Here
  • CW 89: To Jordan's River Came Our Lord
  • CWS 709: Christ, Your Footprints through the Desert

Message Notes & Growth Group Questions

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Message: Surprising Truths About Jesus: He is More Than Meets the Eye

Pastor Jake Schram

It was the 1970 NBA Finals. The first team to win 4 games would be the NBA Champion. The New York Knicks had a storybook season led by their star player Willis Reed. But he was out with a torn thigh muscle and wasn’t going to play in a must win game 7. It looked like all was lost as they faced the dreaded Los Angeles Lakers led by Wilt Chamberlain. If you don’t know who that is, Wilt is the only guy to score 100 points in one game. Not even Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant could accomplish that. So he was a very good player. The knicks were as good as done. But then as the game started, out came Willis Reed, heroically playing through injury to save his team from defeat. And believe it or not, the Knicks won! A moment can change everything. Today we see such a moment. The moment when Jesus enters his earthly ministry through baptism. There is more to Jesus than meets the eye.

As we discussed last week, the Israelites thought John the Baptist might be the Messiah. It’s not hard to see why. The Israelites had been without a true prophet, in the Old Testament sense, for about 400 years. There was no new Scripture, no one sent directly with the authority of God. Now, here comes John the Baptist. He wears the same clothes as the prophets of old. He’s certainly an interesting character. He’s a dynamic speaker. And he definitely knows what he is talking about. The Israelites are excited by this. They take time out of their busy schedules and travel to go see this guy. The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. Could he be the Messiah? The one that was promised throughout all of the Old Testament? The one who would free his people?

John was a fantastic guy, one of the best that have ever graced the world, but he was not the Messiah. And he would have been the first to tell you that. He wants no one to have any misconceptions about him and so he turns to the Israelites who visit him, telling them in no uncertain terms. 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.”

This is a tough sentence for us to break apart today. Let’s start with the easiest and most important part. John is saying he is not the Messiah. John is saying there couldn’t be a bigger difference between him and the Messiah. He is a sinner. The Messiah is not. John even says he himself would not be worthy to untie the sandal straps of the Messiah. In Old Testament times this is a big deal for several reasons. One is that feet really stunk back then from all the walking around. Dealing with feet was a task reserved for only the lowest of slaves. John is saying he isn’t even worthy to perform the lowest of all tasks in society for the Messiah. The second reason is more obscure. In Old Testament times when a woman’s family members would die off and there was nowhere left for her to go, the nearest relative could bring her into his family. There were some more specifics, but it’s not important right now so I’m just giving you the general idea. If a family member would do this it was called redeeming her (or buying her back). When someone would redeem someone else into the family, part of the ritual involved the redeemer accepting a sandal. If you don’t believe me, go check out Ruth chapter four. John the Baptist's words would have brought this image to mind and perhaps just maybe he is even saying he is not worthy to untie the Savior’s sandal AND receive it as the one worthy of buying back humanity. That job will be reserved for someone other than John.

John makes it even clearer he is not the Messiah by explaining the difference of power. John baptized people in the Jordan river. And his baptism was legit. It was a baptism of repentance, turning people away from sin and towards a Savior. But John could only baptize with water. It’s not that John’s baptism was without the Holy Spirit. Remember the baptism he gave was legit. The Holy Spirit was present. But the Savior would be able to baptize people directly with the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Just look at the day of Pentecost that would happen later. On that day Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit on his disciples with what seemed like tongues of fire resting upon them. As Acts 1:5 states, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was the only one who could do something like that. I couldn’t, you couldn’t, and John the Baptist couldn’t because we can only baptize as servant’s following the master’s orders. Jesus was the master himself.

And since Jesus is the master, he is in complete control. He is the one who saves people from the fires of hell with his own redeeming and purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Those who refuse him end up where he was trying to save them from. In our text, John the Baptist uses the picture of winnowing to show this point. “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Winnowing is kind of a lost picture for a lot of us. We are not all farmers anymore and times have changed. At the time, every Israelite would have understood this picture. Everyone would have seen this happen.

In those days a farmer threshed by having his oxen first of all step on the grain on a threshing floor. Then he forked away the loose straw. Finally, the farmer used a large shovel or basket to toss the grain mixed with chaff up into the air. The wind blew the chaff aside, and the grain fell to the floor. Thus, the Messiah would also separate thoroughly the wheat from the chaff, the believers from the unbelievers. His judgment would be thorough.

Now, we’ve learned a lot today in this sermon already. We’ve learned about John the Baptist. We’ve learned about how dealing with shoes was reserved for the lowest in society. We’ve learned about redeeming with sandals. We’ve learned about the baptism John offered. We’ve learned about a baptism through fire on Pentecost. We’ve learned about winnowing. But through all that there is one thing we’ve learned the most: There is no one like our Savior. For him to be able to redeem his people, to be able to baptize with fire, to be able to thoroughly judge correctly and still save his people. This Savior has to be pretty special to do all that. It’s not John. The people kind of think it could be him because he looks the part, but John can’t even hold a candle to the Messiah. No one can. This section hasn’t even introduced the Savior yet, and still the anticipation grows to see who he really is. There will be more to this Savior than meets the eye.

Ahhhh, but the time is now to introduce the Savior to the World. The next day after John had said all these things (John 1:29), Jesus was standing among the crowd. No one noticed because he didn’t look any different from anyone else. He seemed to be just a normal guy until he came forward to be baptized. Then things started happening. Our text tells us as soon as he was baptized (and was still praying), heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The Savior has arrived. This reminds me of a dodgeball game. On one side you have the Devil and his demons chucking sin after sin. On the other side you have us get pelted by those sins one after another and getting taken out of the game. But suddenly the true champ comes in. The Savior dodges sins left and right, saving people and bringing them back in. It’s a silly picture, but it works. Think of how scared the demons must be at Jesus' arrival.

Who else could this be but the Savior? We are left no other option of who it could be. When’s the last time you’ve seen the heavens open? Yeah, me neither. When’s the last time you’ve seen the Holy Spirit descend like a dove on someone? It’s gotta be Christ here. And if you have any doubts whatsoever, they are dispelled in the next sentence when God the Father says to Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus may look like just an ordinary human, but he’s more than meets the eye. He is the one true God! And the implications are huge!

Jesus is perfect, yet he is standing among sinners. He is choosing to get a baptism he doesn’t need (because he is perfect and does not need the forgiveness of sins that comes from baptism). Jesus is drawing a line in the sand. And he’s on the side of sinful humans like us. At the age of 30, which was the age a man was considered mature in those times, Jesus begins his earthly ministry to save his people.

Earlier we talked about a winnowing fork and how the useless chaff will be blown by the wind to the side, reserved for the fires of hell. Now I’d like to think of myself as the important part, the grain, the wheat, and pretend that God needs me to survive. But the Bible tells us differently. We are born sinners, we live as sinners, and we would have only the death that sinners deserve to look forward to. In our lives we stray from God’s Word, like chaff that is blown away from God’s Word by winds that aren’t important. Perhaps, it’s the wind of trying to please the people around you at the expense of pleasing your God. Perhaps, it’s the wind of hidden desire blowing you closer to the flames. Perhaps it’s simply the wind of selfishness or indifferences and you just don’t care to push against where the wind is blowing you. Whether it’s one or a mix of them we go along with winds of sin and are blown so far off the course of salvation we would never find our way back again.

But our text today shows us Jesus is on our side. He is the Savior, the one who saves. And he does. The Father told Jesus he is pleased with him. And if God is pleased with Jesus, then because of Jesus’ life and crucifixion, God is pleased with us. Jesus was our substitute for sin. The baptism we saw today signifies everything that Jesus was going to do for us. Because of Jesus’ baptism, now God’s favor rests even on little babies through their baptisms. Because of Jesus’ baptism we drink deep of forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper. Because of Jesus’ baptism we are swept away from the fires of hell and brought into his heavenly storehouse.

With this news, God makes the hearts of all the world laughing and happy as we are filled with sweetness and comfort. Because if Jesus is really the Son of God, and he is, then I am certain of all the words and works the beloved God-man carried out. Nothing, including saving us, is out of his reach.

Now there will be some people tempted to say Jesus is just a man. The last verse of our text shows us this. “He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph.” People thought he was just the son of a carpenter. But we know better. And God’s Word shows us the truth. There is more than meets the eye to Jesus. He is the Son of God, our Savior. And the baptism of our Lord shows that he was on our side and came to save sinners like you and me. Amen.