“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ And Zacharias said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.’ And the angel answered and said to him, ‘I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.’ And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.”
Like the lyrics from a popular song that says, “I think of you whether I am standing or sitting,” the things we have not accomplished completely yet, the work that we have not yet achieved though we have started, come to mind whether I am standing or sitting now.”
Many negative ion products are on the market these days and they say the negative ion is very good for health. Humans need many kinds of nutrition and elements, and the negative ion is absolutely necessary. Of course the positive ion is also necessary, but it is said that humans need the negative ion even more and it is better for health. All the things that produce heat are positive ions. On the contrary, you can think that humidity is from the negative ion. Put simply, the negative ion is such that when there is lack of humidity, the lack of moisture, the electromagnetic currents from the cell phones and computers accumulate in the body and people get sick because of the lack of negative ions. It is especially like that these days because we are surrounded by many chemical construction materials. The whole house is full of artificial chemical construction materials. There is almost no natural material. Is there any natural element in a house whether it is of yellow earth or wood? No, there isn’t any.
It will soon be Christmas. Christmas is drawing near and it is not even a week away. After Christmas, the month of December will be over in a few days and we will enter the phase of concluding the year. We have the desire to organize the year serenely although we are prone to feel busy and restless during the holiday season. Before we greet Christmas, I want to share with you something about John the Baptist who was the person God had prepared; and when the Christmas comes around, it would be nice if we give praise with thanksgiving in our hearts for how our Lord saved us and blotted out all our sins and give glory to God.
Why Did Luke the Disciple of Jesus Pick up the Pen?
Look at the Word from the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 verses 1-23 that we have read today. I want to talk about this Word with the title, “Jesus and John the Baptist Whom God Prepared for Our Salvation,” and talk about the fact that God prepared John the Baptist for us.
First, we can see through the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 that God prepared John the Baptist in this world before sending Jesus Christ the Son of God. In this chapter, Luke talked about why God had to send John the Baptist, who would baptize Jesus with water, to this world and why God had to prepare him before the coming of Jesus. When we look at the Gospel written by Luke the disciple of Jesus, we know that the reason Luke recorded this Gospel was to tell us in detail about the life of Jesus and His Word that Jesus witnessed amongst us. He also tells us about John the Baptist, and the things concerning it.
It says, “Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us.” It says that many people picked up the pen to write in detail about Jesus Christ who fulfilled our salvation and its account. As such, Luke also had written the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of Apostles from this perspective. He picked up the pen to witness that Jesus is our Savior and that Jesus Christ came to this world and saved us was a true fact, and that the salvation Lord fulfilled was also true.
Not only did Luke pick up the pen for this, but Matthew, Mark, and John also picked up the pen. Peter and John among the 12 disciples as well as the Apostle Paul also wrote to share this blessed fact. So we are able to read the New Testament like this today. Luke also picked up the pen with such heart and he especially recorded the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of Apostles in the form of letter sent to Theophilus. We don’t know if this Theophilus was a person to whom Luke witnessed the gospel personally. In any case, Luke picked up the pen and recorded this Scripture because he thought it would be better to send the written document to Theophilus who must have been a person in quite a high position since he was addressed as the “most excellent Theophilus.”
Simply put, Luke was doing literature ministry. Luke, the disciple of Jesus was doing literature ministry just as we share the gospel overseas through our Christian literature now. Luke did the missions just as you and I do literature ministry these days. We are now writing the sermons and translating them into English and then translating it into the languages of each country.
Luke recorded the Word to send it to the most excellent Theophilus because he felt the need to pick up the pen and record about Jesus in order to keep it and share it with people. Although Luke started to write for the most excellent Theophilus, he proceeded to record the things he saw and heard as the disciple of Jesus Christ personally, and the things he saw and heard following around the Apostle Paul, because he felt such need once he began to write.
When We Look at the Accounts about John the Baptist
Today’s Scripture passage says, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.”
It is the part about God explaining the reason for sending John the Baptist to this world through the house of Zacharias. God also explains later why He had to send John the Baptist to this world and through whom He sent him. He was talking about Abijah, a grandson of Aaron the High Priest. Priests only came out of the house of Aaron the High Priest, and they were divided into 24 divisions at the time of King David because there were many descendants of Aaron. For example, there were many descendants of the High Priest and many matured to the required age. If three sons were born to one of the descendants, then more descendants were born through those three sons and so on. Because the number of the priests became exceedingly great when King David was ruling over the Israelites, he divided them into 24 divisions to resolve this problem.
But only one person out of the descendants of Aaron could become the High Priest. For example, in Korea, the house of the eldest son takes authority over the ancestor worship and keeps the house together, right? The house of the eldest son takes full authority over everything in Korea because of the deeply ingrained Confucianism from the past. Anyway, as the eldest sons have such right, the male born from the lineage of Aaron the High Priest had the privilege to go before the presence of God and manage the sacrificial ritual as priests when they had received the proper education necessary and became 25 years old. But the descendants of Aaron prospered and there were too many of them. Therefore, they established the lineage in that manner during the time of King David because at that time there were disputes between families. They managed the order of the priesthood by establishing 24 divisions. They all appear in the First Book of Kings and the Second Book of Kings, but I will just leave it at that because we wouldn’t have enough time if I dealt with that matter exhaustively.
Anyway, the Bible says that John the Baptist will be born to the house of Abijah from the lineage of Aaron the High Priest. It’s not an uncertain legend or a fictitious tale, although it was old history, and the Scriptures point to a historical event to explain its truthfulness as it says, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.” The Account of the birth of John the Baptist is not a legend or a fable; it is a true story that has historical evidence. A legend or a fable does not have any historical evidence.
For example, we Koreans believe that our nation was originated from King Dangun’s rule based on the legend of Dangun. The legend says that a bear and a tiger went into a cave to eat garlic for 100 days. The tiger could not endure this and ran out of the cave, but the bear endured this and became a woman who became the mother of King Dangun. Therefore, if that had been the case, we Koreans are all offspring of a bear. There isn’t any realistic and historical basis to such stories.
For another example, you also know the legend of Park Hyukgeosei, don’t you? This legend tells us that Hyukgeosei Park came out from a large gourd and became the ancestor of Park’s family. Such stories are made up by the families with surname Lee, Kim, Park, and so on, to make their ancestors look good or to make the ruling over the people easier. They are fabricated stories that were handed down through the word of mouth that are not verified.
But All the Accounts Recorded in the Scriptures Are Historical Events
John the Baptist was born to the house of Abijah; this is a historical fact. Abijah was a grandson of Aaron the High Priest. From the days of Aaron and Abijah to the coming of Jesus, about 1,500 years had passed. Therefore, there were many people from the house of the High Priest at the time when Zacharias performed his duties of priesthood. Think about how great the number of descendants of Aaron must have been born through thousands of years of lineage in Israel. We Korean people joke that if we go up to the mountain and throw a stone with our eyes closed, there is a great probability that we would hit a person with one of three surnames of Kim, Lee, and Park. All of these three surnames are of the kings who ruled for a long time in Korea. Like this, there were many descendants of Aaron like that.
God especially took Zacharias who was born to the house of Abijah among many descendants of Aaron. God made John the Baptist born to this world through the house of Zacharias. Today’s Scripture passage proves the fact that Zacharias and Elizabeth were the descendants of Aaron the High Priest and the High Priest is the representative of the Israeli people in the eyes of God.
These two people lived very faithfully according to the Law of the Old Testament before the presence of God and did not have fault in the eyes of God. They did not have blemishes according to the Law. So it says, “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Actually the Law at the time was so complicated that it would be impossible to say that someone had no fault no matter how fervently he had kept the Law. It’s impossible because there is no one who can keep it perfectly. One may be able to keep it one day but he may offend it on the next day. That’s why we need Jesus Christ.
Anyway, that God sent John the Baptist through this couple, through Zacharias from the house of Abijah who was in the lineage of Aaron the High Priest, means that God already prepared for us the salvation for you and me. When Jesus Christ came to this world and said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” the Lord did not do the work alone and He needed the representative of humanity that would turn the sins of all humanity over to Him, a representative that would transfer all the sins over to Jesus Christ.
That is why God prepared the representative. We need to know these facts correctly without any question. How much do we need such knowledge? We need it absolutely. The thing that is dealt with first in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is the account about John the Baptist. The Gospel of Mark talks about this at the very beginning of the Book. We have to look at the Bible as a whole instead of clinging to the unessential issues. Then we can realize whether the account of John the Baptist is really true and important. All the Gospel writers wrote about this as an important matter and recorded in detail. Given this, we should also regard John the Baptist and his ministries as very important, just as the disciples of Jesus who wrote each of the Four Gospels considered it with great importance.
The thing we need to think about here is the fact that God the Father prepared the birth of John the Baptist 6 months before sending His own Son to this world. This is very important. The people who do not really understand the true gospel say that Jesus saves them unconditionally when they just confess that Jesus came to this world and saved them from all their sins. They say that Jesus has saved them without requiring anything. They insist that the Lord said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and therefore they say Jesus has saved those who believe in Him somehow. They are saying that Jesus saved us as Jesus came and died on the Cross.
How much preparation do we have to do whenever we are going to do some kind of work? For example, when we try to do even a little thing like a flower arrangement, we have to prepare a calyx to fix the flower and make some designs, and we have to think about it beforehand and have the flower ready before we actually fix the flower. We also need to prepare the necessary tools such as scissors, flower basins, and some string to fix the flowers. We need to have an idea before we go and buy the flower. We need to put an effort into preparing everything. We need to buy these things and actually execute and express it according to the way we planned and prepared. It becomes a flower arrangement when it goes through all these processes.
Every work is like this. Not only in matters of life, but God also fulfilled the work of saving us from the sins of the world by preparing all things in detail. God already prepared and planned in Christ the salvation of all human beings even before the creation of the universe.
But what sort of works did God prepare beforehand to fulfill such work of salvation? First, God had to send John the Baptist to this world as the representative of humanity, and God had to do the work of transferring over the sins of us human beings to His Son Jesus Christ. God showed this as a special work. God did not take this work lightly as His ordinary works, but instead considered it a special work and appeared to Zacharias beforehand through the angel and spoke of this and fulfilled this according to what He said. God made John the Baptist baptize His Son Jesus Christ and transfer the sins of all humanity over to His Son when He became 30 years old. God prepared all this beforehand.
When we do something, preparation is half of the work. It’s like that with any work. There isn’t anything that gets done just by starting it. Even a little thing like eating three meals a day takes a lot of preparation. You may think that cooking rice is as simple as just adding some water, heating it up, and the rice just cooks by itself. But when we really look into it, there are so many processes of preparation for us to eat one meal of rice. People have to grow rice in the farm, and they have to save the seed in order to grow rice, and we finally can have a meal of rice through all these preparation processes and hard work. But we see ourselves jump into things without any preparation like that at times. What do we call such a person who just jumps into things without preparing anything? We call such a person who just jumps into things a foolish person. An ignorant one! That’s right. Trying to live in this world without any preparation is really foolish.
But there are many foolish people these days. Some hospitals don’t even have the surgical equipment ready and they haven’t even washed or sterilized them, and they just sit around doing nothing. Then when a patient comes in, they say, “Have a seat first. Where are you hurting?” Then they try to get the feel of the hurting spot by pressing it and then they tell someone to bring a knife and cut the patient’s stomach with a knife that has germs all over it. The knife that was used to slaughter cows, pigs, and so on. If someone performed a surgery in such a manner as this, the patient would just die due to infection from germs.
Therefore, the salvation of the Lord needed as much preparation as this; actually even more. God had to prepare incomparably more things than the doctors sterilizing everything beforehand. God the Father prepared much to save us in this manner. God prepared John the Baptist. As such, God the Father also had to prepare John the Baptist, the representative of all humanity, who would transfer the sins of the world over to Jesus Christ to save you and me from sin. That’s why preparation is so important. He really prepared in detail.
Most pastors these days proclaim, “Your sins are forgiven,” when they hear someone confess Jesus as his Savior with faith in His blood. Such pastors are those who do not prepare the spiritual work. We could call such pastors as spiritual swindlers. We can compare such a person as a good-for-nothing fool. Isn’t that so? When you and I think about this and see the process of God preparing John the Baptist to transfer over all our sins to Jesus, how precisely did God prepare all this?
The High Priest, the representative of humanity, had to be a descendant of Aaron. It had to be a descendant of Aaron and it had to be a person that God approved to set him up as the representative of all humanity and entrust him with the role of transferring over all the sin to Jesus. Then he would have the qualification to transfer all our sins over to Jesus Christ.
God the Father had to prepare these things. That’s why He sent the angel. Zacharias went into the Holy Place of the Tabernacle where the altar of incense was. On the outside was the altar of burnt offering and the water basin of bronze. Priests went into the sanctuary everyday to manage the lampstand or burn the incense at the altar of incense. Zacharias was doing the work of burning incense to Jehovah God and he saw an angel standing next to the altar of incense. How shocking it must have been.
Have you ever seen an angel? Maybe you have never seen an angel before, but angels actually exist as the messengers of God. The Scriptures say that the angel that God sent at that time was the angel called Gabriel that.
The angel appeared and said to Zacharias, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard.” We could know that God prepared like this to fulfill His will. Zacharias and Elizabeth did not have a child between them. The angel said that his prayers were heard because the couple waited and waited for a child earnestly because the couple did not have a child between them, even though they had good relationship. Zacharias prayed earnestly. Zacharias was old enough already and his wife already reached the age of a grandmother. They waited more and more for a child and they became older and older without a child. It is a natural human desire to yearn for a child as a person becomes older. Therefore God heard this prayer. God did not choose a representative of humanity among the people who were born through the natural ability of some human being. Instead, God answered the request of His people through the special power of God, and at the same time He manifested Himself in human history and planned to use him for the work of fulfilling His will with His power. Who is that chosen person? It’s John the Baptist.
The Scriptures say, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” Zacharias received God’s will through the angel like this. The angel said his name shall be called John and he will be great before the presence of the Lord. This person, John the Baptist, is the greatest before the presence of the Lord. He is the greatest representative of humanity among all human beings.
Let’s read the verse 17 again as it says, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
It is written that he would turn the hearts of the fathers to the children with the spirit and power of Elijah. Who is such representative of the humanity? It’s John. Which John? It’s John the Baptist. It’s not John who recorded the Gospel of John. Then, who is this person who is much bigger than them? It’s John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the greatest. John the Baptist is the greatest person who really played an important role in fulfilling our salvation. The Bible says this person does not drink wine or strong drink. It says that he will be clothed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit even from conception in his mother’s womb. This is telling us that he is a person especially sent by God. God gave John as a son to Zacharias through His abundant power.
Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth did not have the ability to conceive a child. Her menstruation had already stopped. Is there any woman who can bear a child after the menopause? No, there isn’t. It is impossible naturally and biologically. We must understand this. We must understand who the person that turns back so many sinful people to Jesus Christ is. It is John the Baptist who was born out of the Lord’s will, not through human power. John the Baptist is that important.
How important is he? The Scriptures tells us about John the Baptist, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” It means that he worked with the spirit of Elijah. It tells us that he did the work that brings so many people back to God. John the Baptist is the spiritual father that leads us to God. John the Baptist is the one even greater than Moses. This fact appears when we continue reading the Bible from now on. He is the one God had prepared.
John the Baptist is the person God prepared for our salvation, and Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that God prepared to save us from all the sins by taking all our sins and receiving the judgment in place of our sins as the sacrificial offering. John the Baptist is the representative of all human beings. He is the representative of humanity who would transfer all our sins over to Jesus the Lamb of God, the sacrifice. These two persons, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, were prepared especially by God the Father for our salvation. One Person was the Son of God who was prepared as the Lamb of sacrifice, and another was the person who would transfer over the sins to Jesus as the representative of humanity as a creature, a human being just like you and me. Do you understand this now? You must understand how important this is.
Christmas is coming soon. John the Baptist was born 6 months prior to the birth of Christ. Jesus was born to the world 6 months after this incident. So, John the Baptist was born first and Jesus was born 6 months after John the Baptist. John the Baptist came to this world and asked people to repent crying out vehemently, “Repent! Children of serpents.” He performed the work of transferring the sins of the humanity to Jesus Christ by baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River. Therefore, Jesus was able to become our true Savior through that baptism when He became 30 years old. He could become the true Savior from the moment He received the baptism from John the Baptist. Up until the age of 30, His life didn’t have much significance because He had not yet taken our sins upon Him even though He had come as our Savior.
We must not just say we believe in the Word blindly because it is the God’s Word. Instead, we must think firmly about what we believe and what the Scriptures say about John the Baptist. We must ponder on the process of how God planned our salvation and how He fulfilled this plan. Do you know what happens when we don’t think about these things? We come to see that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, became a mute. He became a mute because he did not believe the Word of the angel. He did not believe the Word the angel told him personally. Therefore, he became a mute as the angel had warned. He believed this only after John the Baptist was born. His wife conceived and had the child just as the angel told him. Only then did he finally believe. His mouth and tongue were finally loosened after he named the child John.
Like this, you cannot say that you believe in Jesus or preach the gospel of Jesus if you do not believe in this fact. It means that we cannot evangelize the gospel. As Zacharias had become a mute, we cannot do anything when we do not believe in God’s Word of Truth even after hearing it. We can do so if we believe: We can evangelize the gospel and we can receive the salvation too when we believe in God’s Word. On the other hand, we cannot even receive salvation if we do not believe. When we look at the things people do, we can see how so many people believe in Jesus wrongly, believe without any basic knowledge of the salvation the Lord had prepared in detail for us. They just believe arbitrarily without even following the Word that tells them to evangelize the gospel. Because of this, they still have sin, and they can’t even receive the transformation of their hearts and so on because they believe wrongly.
“He Will Bring Back the Disobedient to the Wisdom of the Just”
It says that John the Baptist would make ready a people prepared for the Lord. It is John the Baptist who brings you and me back to the presence of God. It is John the Baptist who fulfilled the role of turning you and me back to Jesus. You and I could not know and believe in Jesus if not for the ministries of John the Baptist. How could we have known? Could we believe in Him blindly just confessing that Jesus died on the Cross to become our Savior without understanding the reason? Maybe we could believe it, but we should really know about it specifically. Consequently, believing in Him without correct understanding is like a one-sided love because it is believing without even knowing how the sins were transferred over. Such people consequently will be cast away.
Therefore, we must understand the historical fact, the Word of the Truth, and what God says and what God has done for us. It is that important. Zacharias became a mute because he did not believe God’s Word. There must have been people waiting outside of the sanctuary, right? They must have thought, “It’s strange. Why isn’t he coming out?” Then Zacharias came out after a long while. He came out, but he had become a mute. He could not speak. He just used hands and feet to try to communicate. He was using the sign language. Then people realized, “Something must have happened in the sanctuary.”
God sent angels to Zacharias. God often sent angels before Jesus came to this world. The Archangel Gabriel was the angel messenger of God’s good news, while the Archangel Michael was the angel of war. That’s how the priests knew what was going to happen. When we read the Word, we could see specifically that John was born exactly according to the Word.
The scriptures show to us that John the Baptist was prepared for you and me; that Jesus took all our sins and received the judgment in our place as the Lamb of God for our salvation; and that He consequently is the sacrificial offering prepared to blot out all our sins. You and I could receive salvation because of the sacrifice offered by these two prepared persons. God the Father prepared His Son and also prepared John the Baptist, the representative of the humanity. I am speaking to you about the love of God. Do you understand?
We can receive the true faith and true salvation by knowing this Truth firmly. We now know well about John the Baptist, the person God prepared, and Jesus Christ the Son of God. But of course, we cannot compare John the Baptist with Jesus because Jesus was God Himself and John the Baptist was the creature of the Lord just like you and me. Jesus was God who became a Man. By the way, we have come to know John the Baptist. They had to come in that manner and they had to be prepared that way to take all our sins upon Him and save us. We must understand this, think about it deeply, believe it sincerely, and see whether you and I have such faith. I want you to believe with the realization of whether you just believe because people urge you to believe or whether you really believe with correct understanding.
John the Baptist rebuked the disobedient, “You, children of serpents!” We were really sinners. We were sinners eternally, but all our sins were transferred over to Jesus at once through the baptism Jesus received from John the Baptist. Therefore, you and I were able to receive salvation by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We were able to receive the salvation through the faith in this Truth.
Do you now believe in this Truth?