Sunday

“So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people” (v. 18)

Luke 3:7-18 Sunday 13 December 2015

Psalm: Psalm 126

Background

This passage follows on from last Sunday's Gospel reading in which theministry of John, the son of Zechariah, was introduced as"proclaiming a baptism of repentance" (Luke3:3).

In this passage, Luke gives us the content of John's preachingin three sections.

  • There is a stark warning of forthcoming judgement. The imageryof trees chopped down and burned (verse 9) would have been familiarto those schooled in the prophets (eg Isaiah10 or Malachi 4). The message for Israel is that theycannot hide behind racial or religious identity; the chosenpeople's identity is utterly dependent on God. The idea thatlifeless stones might replace the chosen people graphically makesthat point (verse 8).
  • John spells out what "fruits worthy of repentance" (v. 8) mightmean to different groups of people. The inclusion of soldiers(verse 14) probably indicates members of local militia, possiblythose loyal to the Herods. Like the tax collectors, they werecollaborators with the Romans. The message to both is simple - theyare not to abuse their position. And the same, startlingly, isapplied to the people generally - in a time when some are withoutclothing it is exploitative to have more than one needs.
  • The final section sees John dampening the excitement. It isimpossible to assess how common the expectation of Messianic rulerwas during the Roman occupation. But it is clear there was somehope that the prophecy of Nathan to David (2Samuel 7) would be fulfilled with the restoration of anindependent monarchy in Jerusalem. John is adamant that he is notthe one in whom that hope will be realised. There is another comingwho is so great that John is not fit to be his servant (verse 16).It is he who will exercise the promised judgement. Because of this,for all its graphic imagery of condemnation and destruction, Lukecan assert that the preaching of John is "good news".


To Ponder

  • How easy is it to understand harsh words that challenge us tochange our behaviour as "good news"?
  • In what ways might your actions or lifestyle might beexploitative?
  • Are you aware of the temptation to hide behind a religiousidentity as if that were more important than faithful actions? Whatcould you do to counter this?
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