Made You Look!
Welcome Back! Today, for the first time, we’ll be syncing all four gospels. This is a rare opportunity to observe identical accounts in all of them, so let’s dive in.
(Click here to get a copy of the Gospel Sync document)
The Gospel – Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:2-8, Luke 3:1-18, John 1:6-8
In those days; in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, there came a man who was sent from God. His name was John the Baptist. And the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. John came as a witness, preaching in the wilderness of Judea. He came to testify about the Light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
He went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah. As it is written in the book of his words:
“Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way.” A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’” Every valley shall be filled in, and every mountain and hill made low. The crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth. And all humanity will see God’s salvation.’”
John wore a garment of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region around the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his place of baptism, and the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit, then, in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham out of these stones. “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” John replied, “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Collect no more than you are authorized,” he answered. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He said, “Do not take money by force or falsely accuse anyone and be content with your wages.”
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John could be the Christ. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry or even stoop down and untie the straps. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 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.” With these and many other exhortations, John proclaimed the good news to the people.
Remember playing the game “Made You Look” as a kid? We can’t help ourselves. This is why a simple fender bender on the freeway can delay traffic for hours. Everyone has to slow down and see what happened. And oh, if there’s a train wreck, look out! It seems like God uses this tactic to “make us look.”
It’s true, sometimes God uses strange ways to get our attention. Isaiah walked around naked for three years (Isaiah 20:2-4). Hosea married a prostitute named Gomer to illustrate how God felt about the people’s unfaithfulness to Him (Hosea 1-3). Ezekiel laid on his side for 390 days, playing with little army men to announce the impending doom of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:1-6).
And then there’s John the Baptist, wearing fashionable camel hair with a leather belt, eating grasshoppers and wild honey. Yeah, that would “Make Me Look.” Maybe even twice! His message was one of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. And if I’m honest, his delivery was a little spicy: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Now, I used to think he was only talking to the religious leaders of the day, but this is where the Gospel Sync comes in. He wasn’t just talking to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7), he was also diming out the crowd (Luke 3:7). Yikes! He exhorted them to grapple with their current reality and repent.
In our contemporary culture, we often struggle to discuss opposing views or hear difficult truths. We are so sensitive to criticism and conflict that we often ignore or dismiss messages that challenge our beliefs or behavior. But it’s important to remember that God’s message can come packaged in ways we may not expect or necessarily like. Sometimes, it can be uncomfortable or difficult to hear, but it is ultimately for our own good.
Jesus came full of both grace and truth, and we need both in our lives (John 1:14, 17). Grace provides us with mercy, forgiveness, and compassion, while truth helps us see reality clearly and illuminates our sin. Truth provides a foundation to know what’s right and make positive changes in our lives. As disciple-makers helping people become more like Jesus, we need to exercise both grace and truth. We need to be both shepherding and prophetic.
The truth is that we tend to lean one way or the other. As someone who leans toward shepherding, I hear John the Baptist and want to take him aside and ask him to tone it down a little. Those of you who may lean toward the prophetic may be cheering John on; “Yeah, sic’em brother!” It’s essential to see that both approaches 1) are important and 2) can be overdone. We can’t muzzle the prophet. But that doesn’t give the prophet a license to indiscriminately blast everyone he sees (Ephesians 4:15).
But as the consummate balancer, I digress. The main point here is that we need the truth. As disciple makers we need to hear from and be the prophetic messenger. Like a surgeon using a scalpel under a skilled hand, we may need to do some cutting to heal. This is part of truly loving people. As the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy;
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Lastly, notice the end of the passage:
With these and many other exhortations, John proclaimed the good news to the people. (Luke 3.18)
In other words, the good news, the gospel, came with some bad news. John called the people sinners in need of repentance. These exhortations apply to us just as much today as they did to the people of John’s day. Quite frankly, a lot of the people I’ve shared the gospel with don’t even see their need for a Savior until they acknowledge they have a sin problem. Addressing the “sin problem” is part of sharing the gospel. Otherwise, why do we even need Jesus?
I hadn’t seen Ed for five years. We had been part of the same unit at Fort Campbell, and now we were attending the ten-week-long Advanced Non-Commissioned Officers Academy. I was a young believer when Ed and I had first met, and I hadn’t shared the gospel with him. I had ten weeks to drop the good news on him, and I planned to go slow and just rebuild a relationship with him first.
Eight weeks had gone by, and I still hadn’t found the “right time” to share. We were sitting in class waiting for the next block of instruction when a guy walked up and slammed a New Testament on the table in front of Ed and said, “You got one of these?” Ed responded very matter-of-factly, “No.” To which the guy responded, “Now you do, read it!” I was mortified. I was thinking to myself, “This guy just blew up eight weeks of hard work to win the right to share the gospel!” Jumping in to do a little damage control, I asked Ed, “Hey man, what are you thinking right now?” Ed responded, “Wow, I needed a good kick in the pants. I’m going to start reading this today.”
God not only works in mysterious ways, but He works in shocking, weird, and prophetic ways.
Our Action Plan
What do we need to do in order to embrace the uncomfortable truths of God that may come in some pretty strange ways? Maybe we need to…
- Personally acknowledge that God often uses unconventional and uncomfortable methods to get our attention and the attention of others.
- Practice the appropriate application of grace and truth in the lives of the people we are discipling.
- Train disciples to share uncomfortable truths and confront sin as they share the gospel.
So, let us be open to hearing and delivering God’s message in whatever form it may come, even if it’s through a “strange” messenger like John the Baptist. And let us strive to balance grace and truth in our own lives so that we can fully live out our purpose and calling.
One thought on “The Gospel Sync | #18 | Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:2-8, Luke 3:1-18, John 1:6-8”
Thanks again for sharing these insights!