What Jesus Came to Do

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)

It is good that we can meet together today and think and talk about Christ during this Christmas season. We typically talk about His birth at this time of year. It is incredible to think that the existent God, who had always been, would enter into His mother’s womb and be born as a baby. Unlike Him, we came into being at conception and were then born into the world. Christ had already been, and yet chose a path into our world that was like the path that we all took, that is through birth. That was the plan, and the plan was carried out.

And so, it is typically His birth where we center our thoughts during this time. His birth is very important, His birth had to precede His earthly ministry, it had to precede His sinless life in this flesh, His birth had to precede His betrayal, His crucifixion, His birth had to precede His resurrection. His birth is important, that was His entrance into our world.

As we could have expected with such an important event taking place, there were many who made announcements or proclamations concerning His coming. Look at this subtle announcement of the coming of Jesus. In Luke chapter 1 Zechariah entered the temple as a priest before God, it was his turn to go in and offer up incense. While in there an angel appeared to him to inform him that his wife would have a son in her old, very old age. In the course of this revelation from the angel to Zechariah, the angel Gabriel said of this son who would soon be born, John the Baptist as we know him…

14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared. (Luke 1:14-17)

In the phrase, “he [being John] will go before him,” the “him” here is the Lord Jesus Christ. The announcement of John, who would be born as a servant of God, was also an announcement that the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, was also coming very soon!

A more bold and direct announcement perhaps was presented to Mary the mother of our Lord. In Luke chapter 1, the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary…

28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:28-33)

The angel announces again as we read in Matthew 1. This time the angel went to Joseph, whom Mary was betrothed to. This angel went to Joseph with this special announcement. Joseph had learned that Mary was pregnant, and was considering, and in fact planning, to leave her, thinking she had been unfaithful to him, and the angel came with some good news for him. In Matthew 1, beginning in verse 20, we see the announcement of what was to be…

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

This announcement was actually spoken as a prophecy much earlier in history, and we read of it from Isaiah 7:14 as it is quoted also in Matthew 1:23…

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Joseph believed what the angel told him and stayed with Mary to become the earthly father of our Lord. These are just two instances of announcements of our Lord’s birth. A group of shepherds also received a birth announcement. An announcement that caused them great fear and great excitement.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14)

Christmas has to do with the announcement of a baby. The proclamation that a baby came into the world and His name was Jesus. 

Everybody like birth announcements. Around here in our community of faith it seems that we are having birth announcements regularly! With so many young couples here we get to participate in the joy of celebrating new life, new life in the form of little babies being born. There is something about a baby that just warms the heart, it is awesome. It is like with a new baby even strangers just want to stop and stare, a new creation by God. Of course with Jesus, the announcements, the many announcements of his soon to be arrival, or of his actual arrival, were more that just the fact that another child had come into the world. You will have noticed that in these announcements, flowing throughout them all were truths about Him that were not normal, that did not indicate that just another person was to be added to the population of the world. He was not ordinary, but extraordinary. 

We see more of who He would be from others in the Bible. At just forty days old Jesus was brought to the Temple. Still a very young baby, and during this visit more truth was spoken about Him. Already His place in this world was being proclaimed. At the Temple an old man named Simeon was there, and we get to see what happened as Simeon’s eyes landed on this small child. Listen to this account of what happened on that day…

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

Simeon refers to Jesus, this small baby, as God’s salvation, as a light to the Gentiles, and glory to Israel! Simeon even says that while He will be salvation, He will also be opposed, and even His mother Mary will be grieved by the treatment of her son.

There was another there named Anna. She too was old, a widow, a godly lady who served in the Temple, a worshiper whom the Bible says fasted and prayed night and day. She too recognized who Jesus was. In Luke 2:38 we read, “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

The point is that Jesus, though He came into the world in a very modest way among the common people of society, He did not come unannounced. The Father let it be known in a variety of ways that His Son was entering into, of all places, this world, and He would do so as a baby. Many who were looking for Him recognized Him, and others would not help but know He was here because the voice of angels said it was so. This is Christmas, this is the coming of our Lord. Jesus, as a baby, entering into the world.

Many, I think, would like to leave Him right there – that is, as a baby. But He didn’t come just to be a baby. He grew up. By God’s grace, babies do that. In Luke 2:52 we read, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

As Jesus grew, His ministry was established, as was planned from eternity past. He came to the earth to work. He had work to do, specific work. Yes, He came to die for sinners, to save the lost, but there was a process to what He came to do, and we have the gospels and other New Testament writings that help us understand His life leading up to His sacrificial death.

So I want us to fast forward from His birth to a passage in Matthew 3, verses 11-12. John the Baptist, who was born just before Jesus was born, came as one who would announce the Christ. He would come, the Scripture says, to make the path known, to prepare hearts for the coming of Jesus. And John did that. John was a faithful servant. John was out baptizing people with what he called a baptism of repentance. People were coming to him, hearing his message of change, and wanting to repent of their sins, and so he was baptizing them as a sign of the repentance that they were embracing. 

Some Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to him to see what was going on, and he took this opportunity to call them out as hypocrites. They were supposed to be the religious leaders, yet they were self-centered and not true followers of God. John did not mince words with them to say the least! He tells it like it is and calls them out in Matthew 3:7-10…

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-10)

He is getting after them here. Strong words! They are words of judgment for sure, but they are also words of hope! There is hope for sinners, aren’t you glad about that? Jesus came to change the world, and His work did and will affect every person who will ever live, one way or another. Everyone will answer to Him someday, everyone will be affected by His life, no one is exempt.

In verses 11-12 we see, at least in part, what Jesus will do. John says this…

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)

John’s baptism, water baptism, was one of repentance. Baptism was a ritual that was often used to demonstrate a profession that one would make of an inward repentance. When a Gentile converted to Judaism, they would sometimes be baptized to show this change. It would show that they wanted to walk in the ways of God.

Paul spoke of this in Acts 19:4, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” This is what John was doing, this baptism of repentance prepared the people for the coming of the King, the coming of Jesus. Repentance is a key component to coming to Christ. A change in heart leading to a change in living.

So John speaks of this baptism of repentance and then in humility says that there is another coming (another announcement) who will be so great that he (John) will not be worthy of even carrying His sandals. Taking off one’s sandals and washing feet were the lowest of low jobs in John’s day. You may think your job is lowly, but to remove a person’s sandals and clean their feet, that was lowly. John is saying even that is above him when it is Jesus’ sandals that are being removed and carried. Do you see him lifting up Christ in their eyes, elevating Him, rightly so, before these people? John had been gaining popularity, that is why these religious leaders came out, they wanted to see what the draw was, what was going on. But John was quick to say, “Look, I am nobody! I am nobody compared to the one who is coming.” Later John would say of Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Here is why. Jesus will be the one who will make clear distinctions between those who will live with Him forever in paradise, and those who will be forever damned. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

The baptism with the Spirit is a reference to salvation. This was huge for the people to hear! Salvation was near. Salvation talked about since ancient times was near. In Joel 2:28 they had been told…

And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
On the one hand then Jesus came to save! (Joel 2:28)

On the other hand though, He also came to baptize with fire. There is some disagreement about the meaning of this, but I believe this fire is a reference to judgment, those who will be judged, those who will not believe and come to Christ.

In the Bible fire is most often a reference to judgment. John had just used it that way in verse 10 – “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” He uses fire again as judgment down in verse 12, “but the chaff will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So one is baptized in the Spirit or baptized with fire. One is to eternal bliss, the other to eternal punishment.

He illustrates this further with an agricultural example in verse 12 – “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” The picture here is of a farmer who has harvested his wheat. The wheat is placed on the ground, rolled over by a wheel, stone, or another heavy object. This separates the wheat from the chaff, or the outer casing of the wheat. The wheat is loosed from the chaff, but it is all still on the ground together. So the farmer would take a fork, like a pitch fork, and he would throw both the wheat and the chaff into the air, and the chaff, being lighter, would blow in the wind, away from the heavier wheat that would fall back down to the ground. It was a simple way to separate what was valuable and to be kept from what was not needed.

There will come a day when our Lord will permanently separate His children from those who are not His children. Some to salvation, others to eternal punishment. This is what Jesus came to do. He came to save, and He will judge.

He came as a baby, and we celebrate that. But His work included so much more. His work is the final authority over all mankind. 

Here is the hope for you…

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16, 18)

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)

Today is the day of salvation. I would urge each of us to go to Christ, to call upon His name, to ask Him to save our souls. Repent of your sins and follow Jesus for life. 

He came to live a perfect life that we could not live, He came to die for us as a sacrifice for our sins, He came so that we can live forever with Him.

Let’s celebrate His birth together, and let’s celebrate His work together as well!

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)