Reports of Guinefort’s courageous bravery and hasty death spread throughout the town. Almost instantly people revered Guinefort as a saint. Villagers built his gravesite into a shrine. Women brought salt to the shrine as an offering. Mothers left their sick children on the grave overnight, hoping this deceased hero would heal the child by morning. The elderly hobbled out to the memorial and prayed to this hero, asking for healing.
These people treated Guinefort as a god— which is quite foolish. After all, what can the dead do for the living? Nothing, right? Still, what makes this behavior even more absurd is the fact that Guinefort was not a man. He was a dog. Women brought offerings to a dead dog. Mothers relied on a dead dog to heal. The elderly prayed to a dead dog for strength. An entire village worshipped a dog. (http://mentalfloss.com/article/91855/st-guinefort-dog-venerated-saint, see also http://assets.cambridge.org/97805211/08805/excerpt/9780521108805_excerpt.pdf)
This story presents a very grim, but real truth: the heart is capable of worshipping anything. That is the reason these words stand open before us today. The Father shines a spotlight on Jesus so that you can clearly see who to follow and who to trust. Wonder No More, Jesus is Your Christ! The Holy Spirit anoints him. The Father approves him.
This is who the people are looking for: the “Christ.” Now, remember, “Christ” means “Anointed One.” To be “anointed” means that you are “set apart” for a specific mission, or purpose. Isaiah prophesied that God would “set aside” his chosen Servant. This Servant would execute the single specific purpose of bringing God’s justice— his declaration of forgiveness— to the nations (42:1).
People know the “Christ” is coming. That’s why you read in [Luke chapter 3] verse 15: The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. Now, John the Baptist certainly stood out. After all, he lives in a desert. His plain, camel-hair clothing and his honey and locust diet catch attentions. His powerful preaching penetrates hearts in ways no one had done since the time of the Old Testament prophets. Not to mention, John baptizes people; he brings God’s forgiveness into many lives. So, when the crowds see John, they wonder if he was “set apart” as God’s great Rescuer. If so, then they would want to pay close attention to his words. They would want to put his instructions into action. They would want to put their trust in his ability.
Isn’t that what every heart searches for? “Who is the Christ?” Every single heart “sets apart” some object as G/god. An object that shapes your decisions. An object relied on for help and safety. An object to adore. Every heart cradles something above all else.
That heart could cradle ego. That little god proudly boasts how no one holds authority over you! No one tells you how to behave, how to act, how to think. Only you can tell you! So, you insult teachers because you feel superior. You can ignore the pastor— the messenger of the Word— and his encouragements because you are older, you have more experience. Keep God’s Word from sinking into your heart because you have determined that… God’s commandments are unreasonable in today’s society. …that God does not know the trauma you are going through. …that God does not understand the difficult emotions in life. That little god, ‘Ego,’ can become your ‘christ.’ Your pride tells you to do whatever you want. Pride arrogantly assumes no one holds authority over you. No one has the right to tell you “No.”
If Ego does not rule the heart, ‘Reason’ can sneak in. You know, relying on what feels fair and makes sense to you. You follow ‘Reason’ when you start sentence with: I think… or I feel that… You intentionally step outside God’s marriage instructions because… what? You think you have a unique situation? Your feel that your dalliances don’t hurt anyone? Your patience finally ran out with your spouse? You deliberately attack someone… why? She made you mad and that was unfair, and so you think it fair for her to taste unfairness too? He stole attention from you and you do not want to leave the spotlight yet, and so you feel justified flaunting your might? That little god ‘Reason’ is nothing more than elevating your own opinions over God’s Word. You follow those opinions instead of God.
Every heart craves some ‘christ,’ some object to follow, be it ‘Ego,’ ‘Reason,’ ‘Pride,’ or a dog. As mighty as Ego, Reason, and Pride appear, they all lack one thing: the ability to save you. Only one Person holds the power to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn. [B]ut he will burn up the chaff— the arrogant, the stubborn, the proud, the jealous—everyone who follows anything that is not God-- with unquenchable fire.
This is why John gives the answer he does. He directs attentions away from these worthless objects and centers them on the Christ God sends. “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” John calls himself a slave! Slaves deal with the dirty, sweaty, smelly feet of masters. The master’s dirty, grimy foot has a status greater than a servant! If so many already consider John the Baptist great (Luke 7:28), then just consider how great Jesus must be! [O]ne more powerful than I will come… And he has.
In plain view, in the sight of many Jesus was baptized too. [H]eaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. Can you imagine the sight? Who of you watched the Holy Spirit descend on you as a dove at your baptism? …No one? Yet, he appears here in order to “anoint” Jesus. The Holy Spirit sets this one Man apart from every other person in the world; he identifies Jesus as the Son of God.
Wonder No More, Jesus is the Christ! The Holy Spirit anoints him. Every other object we might possibly trust does not even compare to him. Only Jesus is “set aside” to bring you comfort, peace, and take away sin. Wonder No More, Jesus is Your Christ! You can be certain he is reliable because the Father approves of him.
Luke writes: [A] voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” God shines a spotlight on Jesus. This Man standing in the water, this is the Son of God. This is God’s Servant who wipes out our misplaced trust. This is God’s Chosen One in whom God delights! Only Jesus is mighty enough to carry away our sin. Only Jesus’ innocent is capable enough to bring God’s justice into our hearts. Only Jesus makes you sure that you are forgiven.
You can be completely certain that Jesus is enough. God himself says, “…with you I am well pleased.” If Jesus had sinned, then the Father would not be pleased. Jesus would become an object of wrath. Instead, the Father identifies Jesus as blameless and without sin. Since he is without sin, he is loved by the Father. Since he is loved by the Father, we can be sure the Father also loves us because Jesus has brought us to the Father. Because the Father points at Jesus, you can point at Jesus. You can point at the cross and say, “You forgave me, Jesus. God, you accept that life in place of mine.” There is your confidence.
Then God does something even more. He puts his approval on you. When Jesus is baptized, he stands where we do. He stands in the waters of the Jordan River; you (and I) stand at the baptismal font, a place where water is present. The Triune God— the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— appears. At your baptism the Triune God appears and puts his name on you— just like a work shirt puts your name next to the company logo. You work for the company; the company identifies you as an associate. God identifies you as “disciple.” Jesus hears the Father call him “Perfect.” In baptism you hear the same thing: “Perfect!” The sinless Son of God dresses you with his life in baptism. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus… You hold the inheritance of heaven. How do you know? …for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).
Your heart has been handed the only true God there is. Be sure, the sinful nature will fight for the reins of your heart. You will still feel the pull to hold grudges—for no other reason that you have determined it is fair. You will feel the push to deliberately do what is wrong— to step outside the relationships God expects of you. You will feel the desire to gripe about your teachers, to stroke your ego, puff up your pride, to arrogantly believe that you can do no wrong. These are not your gods. You are not your god. Only Jesus is God. Only Jesus proves himself mighty and capable enough to follow. Jesus is your God, your Christ.
Which means, you have someone actually powerful working in your life. When the day of trouble rises, do not ask how you might save yourself. Turn to Jesus. Turn to the Word and see the self-sacrifice you give in order to strengthen relationships. Turn to the Word and see the Almighty bend his ear to your anxiety. Turn to the Word and see how God powerfully rules all things now, for your good. Anxiety melts away. Fear dwindles. Comfort swells. Wonder No More! Jesus is Your Christ! The Father approves him.
That is why God has preserved these words for centuries. The heart is capable of treating anything as God—even if it is a dog.
A dog! Do you know the saddest part of Guinefort? The worship of Guinefort had been occurring for about 100-years. A friar named Stephen of Bourbon identified this local hero as a dog. He exposes the worship as pagan. He tells the villagers of their error. And the people continue worshipping the dog anyways. In fact, this worship continued until the 1960s (about 600-years). So many people knowingly and intentionally rejected Christ for a dog.
God has handed you knowledge and wisdom to know better. The Holy Spirit marks Jesus as the Anointed One. Only Jesus stands as you Mighty Savior, your Object of Trust. Jesus is worthy to follow. After all, the Father approves of him. Wonder No More! Jesus is Your Christ!