Out of silence came hope, and this week’s Gospel reading we hear news of love rather than law. John’s voice resonated out in the wilderness and along the shores of the Jordan, inviting us people to a new life, a new way of being, while preparing them for the one to come – the long awaited Messiah.
Collect: Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,1¯2 Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,3
1 In those days, John the Baptizer came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,
2 “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.”4
4 Now John himself wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him. 6 They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
2 As it is written in the prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you:
3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord! Make his paths straight!’ ”
4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.5 5 All the country of Judea and all those of Jerusalem went out to him.[/note]The message how ever confronting, is comforting, liberating. indeed, love readies the heart for much joy.[/note] They were baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins. 6 John was clothed with camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
3 He came into all the region around the Jordan,6 preaching the baptism of repentance7 for remission of sins.8 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight. 5 Every valley will be filled. Every mountain and hill will be brought low. The crooked will become straight, and the rough ways smooth.9 6 All flesh will see God’s salvation.’ ”1011
- What forms of governance rule your life?
- How have your own sins wrinkled your path and taken you into valleys dark and cold?
- What does Jesus teach about our obedience and interaction with God, groups, and governments?
- What experiences and lessons have most influenced the attitudinal, behavioral, and spiritual changes in your life?
- If you were baptized, share the experience with the group and how it has that transformed your way of being, thinking, doing?
- What’s it like to feel the forgiveness and grace of God with regards to the sins you’ve committed since your baptism (commission/omission)?
Learning objectives: allow and encourage deep transformation, affirm the value of baptism, grasp the power of God’s grace and forgiveness, learn repentance, walking the walk.
Image: This is the second image in our advent mini-series.
- He was the Emperor of Rome. Third in the succession of Caesars, following Julius and Augustus (who was Emperor when Christ was born), Tiberius was the son of Livia, who was the wife of Augustus.
- In 63 BC, Judaea became a protectorate of Rome. Coming under the administration of a governor, Judaea was allowed a king; the governor’s business was to regulate trade and maximize tax revenue. While the Jews despised the Greeks, the Romans were a nightmare. Governorships were bought at high prices; the governors would attempt to squeeze as much revenue as possible from their regions and pocket as much as they could. Even with a Jewish king, the Judaeans revolted in 70 AD, a desperate revolt that ended tragically. In 73 AD, the last of the revolutionaries were holed up in a mountain fort called Masada; the Romans had besieged the fort for two years, and the 1,000 men, women, and children inside were beginning to starve. In desperation, the Jewish revolutionaries killed themselves rather than surrender to the Romans. The Romans then destroyed Jerusalem, annexed Judaea as a Roman province, and systematically drove the Jews from Palestine. The Diaspora.
- Caiaphas was the High Priest at this time (and will be until some time just after the death of Chirst) but his father-in-law. Annas, sat in the office just before. He was the patriarch of the family and was much regarded among the Jews, the priests and Sanhedrin.[note]That is the Judean wilderness (see the Harmony Bible Map) where John had been brought up and lived
- CR Malachi 4:5-6 ; Isaiah 40:3.
- John’s message of repentance, forgiveness and holiness confronted the popular posture then (as is common among all people) to blame others for our fate and malaise. Blame, anger, resentment have no place in the life of those who follow God, nor those who call themselves Christians.
- Sometimes John was preaching near Bethabara, and sometimes at Aenon, near Salim. See the Harmony Bible Map.
- The Jewish people in John’s day were familiar with both the sacramental washing observed in the Qumran community, and also that which Gentiles accepted when they converted to Judaism. As the word here denotes metanoia called for a change of mind, heart, and behavior – the entire sense of being and doing which will most certainly produce visible fruit (CR: Gal 5; Luke 3:10–14)
- The Greek word here is aphesis – which Jesus also uses when pronouncing his mission (CR Luke 4:18).
- When a person is truly humbled one’s expectation and hope in the Messiah can be raised. Faith is fueled in the furnace, and serves to encourage the hearts of others as their spiritual joy lights the way for others to see the Savior, and the power of God.
- CR Isaiah 3:10; 40:5. There is nothing more the soul ants more than to be assured of such eternal peace, release from our guilt, freedom, authority and power to be and do more than live this brief moment on Earth.
- In Luke 9:31 we read about Jesus coming down from the mount with Moses and Elijah.