Sunday

"He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (v.3)

Luke 3:1-6 Sunday 6 December 2015

Psalm: Psalm 85
 

Background

Despite the Gospel of Luke's detailed background in verses 1-2we are not able to date this passage precisely, but it does revealthe messy and complicated political and religious situation of thetime. The Romans had been around in the region for about 100 years:they exercised direct rule in some areas (including Jerusalem)while others had weak but vicious local rulers reporting to Rome.There had been uprisings, some of which had been brutallysuppressed.

Into this, John the Baptist appears proclaiming the word of God.Luke has told us lots about John in earlier chapters to show usthat he is going to be special, but what John does here is intendedto shock us. It probably doesn't - baptism is not consideredoutrageous in our culture even if Christians do not always agreeabout it. For Jews though, the shock was that baptism was notnormally for them but for Gentiles (non-Jews) who wanted to convertto Judaism.

By baptizing Jews, John is telling them that because of theirbehaviour and their situation they need to seek to become Jewsagain. They need to accept that they are separated from God'speople and they need to rejoin Judaism. For John that means theyneed do what gentiles do when they want to be accepted by Judaism -that is repent, be washed clean and then show radical changes intheir behaviour.

This passage is highly challenging for Christians yet we rarelytalk of the key challenge. Instead we get caught up in the detailedprocess on who, how and when we baptise. So we miss the point,which is about what needs to be challenged in our society. Howshould it happen and what is the role of the Church andChristians?

During this season of Advent it is easy to become sentimentalabout preparing for Christmas and easy to hide in the busyness. Butwhen we read this passage in that way we can miss the impact. Thisis not simply the preparation for the nativity. Advent is not aseason for soppy decorations, but for hard challenges. Where aretoday's John the Baptists bringing us back to God?


To Ponder

  • If John the Baptist were to appear in your road today whatwould he be saying?
  • How does a demand that you repent and seek forgiveness make youfeel?
  • If suggesting Baptism to Jews was outrageously shocking, whatdo you think might be expected of you today that you would findequally shocking?
Next Page Monday