But Wait There’s More
Grace mercy and peace, from God our father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Do you know the name, Ronald Propeil? If you say, no that’s fine but you probably know his work. He was a manufacturer of small kitchen appliances. Still not ringing a bell? Maybe you will know him by his products; the “veg-o-matic”, the chop-o-matic” or the now famous show time rotisserie, with the tag line “set-it-and-forget-it”. If you are still not sure, Ron Propeil is the originator of the direct response marketing company, Ronco. Ron Propeil has made millions of dollars selling various kitchen products that he produced from the early 1960’s until today. This direct response allowed him to track sales based on specific commercials. One thing that has made Ron Propeil memorable is the tag line, which many advertisers attribute to him inventing, “but wait there’s more”. The marketing world agrees that Ron Propeil coined that phrase in selling his products. However, I submit that the words have been used before by someone that you do know right away, John the Baptist.
In Mark 1.8, John the Baptist says, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”.John the Baptist was saying what Ron Propeil said 2000 years later: “this one is good but the next one is better”. People came from all over, from the Judean countryside and from the city of Jerusalem, to confess their sins, and be baptized. The people came out to the wilderness because they recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah when he wrote, “A voice cries ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’’. John the Baptist was also dressed like Elijah. We read in 2 Kings, King Ahaziah sent messengers to inquire about his injuries to the prophets of Baal; Elijah met them and told them the king would die. The king said, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”Elijah, like John the Baptist, wore distinctive clothing to set himself apart for the Lord. The people would know this was a sign. People at that time were expecting a savior to appear, so they would be looking for these signs. We read in the text that John the Baptist was baptizing and the people were confessing. They were preparing for the coming Messiah.
Then John the Baptist says, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie”. The mightier one is the one spoken about by the prophets Elijah and Isaiah. He is mightier because he is the Son of God. It is not that John the Baptist was physically unable or he did not know how to tie sandals; in the culture of the time, a Rabbi would have his disciples do most everything for him, but a slave would tie and untie his sandals. What John the Baptist is saying is that Jesus is so Holy that John the Baptist was not qualified to do the most humble and menial task for him.
All of this takes place in the wilderness. The wilderness was looked at as a place of sin and desolation. The wilderness was looked at as a place that you did not want to be, to be in the wilderness is to be in constant danger. At that time, the cities were the safe place. In the city if you are attacked, you can scream and call for help (and someone might hear you). In the wilderness, there is no 9-1-1 to call and summon the police. A good description of this is provided in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable, a man is walking in the wilderness between, Jerusalem and Jericho. The man gets attacked; because it is so desolate, only a few people walk by. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Sometimes, we create a “wilderness” in our own lives today. We may find ourselves struggling with a particular sin; like pornography or alcohol abuse. We may find ourselves, “accidently” surfing the internet for images and come across pictures or videos we shouldn’t be looking at, by mistake. Or, we might go to the bar because we want a burger but what’s a burger without a few bears. These types of wilderness’ we create ourselves, and they can be far more dangerous.
The Israelites knew that they sinned too; they had the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The term Yom Kippur comes from, Yom for the Hebrew word day and Kippur meaning to atone. This day was set up in Leviticus to atone for the sins of the people; it was the most important day on the Jewish calendar. In Leviticus we read, ‘And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel”.Azazel means to remove, but can also mean Satan. Therefore, the Lord was instructing the people to put their sins on the scapegoat and send him back to the wilderness, the place of sin and the devil.
John the Baptist is out in the wilderness baptizing people and they are confessing their sins, the wildernesses near the Jordon River. What is the most important community in the desert? Water. If you don’t drink water for three days, most likely you will not survive. He was baptizing with the most important substance to sustain life in the desert. The Jordon River was very important to the Israelites. After wondering in the wilderness for Forty-Years, the Israelites crossed the Jordon River to the “Land of Milk and Honey” the Promised Land. It was to the river that Naaman, the servant to the king of Syria was sent to cure his leprosy in the Old Testament. It was the main source of life for the people of Israel.
When John the Baptist was baptizing in the Jordon in anticipation of the coming Messiah he said, this is good but there is a better one coming, with the Holy Spirit. We first read about the Holy Spirit in the second verse of our Old Testament reading, the second verse of genesis, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters”.The Holy Spirit was there at the beginning of everything. In Genesis 2.7 we read, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature”. God gave man his image by using the Holy Spirit. The animals weren’t treated this way; they were just made and named by man. Man is special; God breathed life into him. We receive gifts from the Holy Spirit, in 1 Corinthians we read, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills”. These gifts from the spirit can all be used in the kingdom of God and they are all given because we are part of the body of Christ.
In the book of Acts, Jesus tells us the same thing that John the Baptist told us when he says, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”. The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and enabled the apostles to spread the church throughout the world. What does the Holy Spirit do now? He gives us understanding of scripture. When we read the bible, he reveals its truths to us. What else does the Holy Spirit do for us, we read in 1 Corinthians, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”. He brings us faith and enables us to live Godly lives. He also directs us and empowers us to lead Godly lives. As we learned in Catechism class: we cannot through our own reason and strength believe in Jesus, but only by the Holy Spirit calling us through the Gospel. The job of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Jesus, and him alone.
We have a Yom Kippur. Jesus did not need to be baptized; he had no sin to confess. He took the peoples sin, everyone’s upon himself. Jesus became our scapegoat. In verse 12, the verse immediately following our reading, it says, ‘The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness”. Just like the scapegoat in the Old Testament, he took our sin out to the place of desolation, the land of the Azazel.
One of the hallmarks of a Lutheran sermon is “Law and Gospel”. You may or may not remember catechism class; the law is when pastors or I tell you not to sin. When we sin we break God’s laws and there is nothing we can do to fix it. The gospel is when we tell you what God has done for you; he has given the gift of grace. The Holy Spirit gives us that faith. In the Fourth century, 1100 years before Luther was born the church Father Jerome said about John the Baptist in this passage: “he says ‘I baptize you with water,’ that is law ‘but he will baptize with the holy spirit’ that is the gospel”. The law is our sin, Jesus, our scapegoat took our sin, then he went into the wilderness was tempted by the devil, and unlike us didn’t fail. Then to take this atonement further he took the punishment for our sins and was crucified. Finally, to show his power over death and the devil, he rose on the third day. Since you are baptized into Christ, you will live forever with him. Because, through the spirit, you have the gift of salvation. The Holy Spirit gives you faith in Christ, and therefore gives you salvation.
In the name of the One that came to take our sin