Sunday 16 December 2018

Bible Book:

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ (v 10)

Luke 3:7-18 Sunday 16 December 2018

Psalm: Psalm 126


John in the wilderness comes across as like an Old Testament prophet, preaching a baptism of repentance. His language is stern and he warns his hearers that it is not enough to claim descent from Abraham in order to be saved; their lives need to bear good fruit. However, his audience is characteristic of the New Testament and we are given his teaching to three representative groups. He begins with the crowd and a general message about sharing with those who do not have enough. Typically we teach our children to share, but that does not mean that this is a lesson easily learnt in childhood – we can still find it difficult to share as adults and perhaps, if anything, we become more protective of our own property as the years pass.

It is interesting that the tax collectors also come to John; note Luke’s telling use of the word ‘even’ at the beginning of verse 12. Tax collectors were often hated and despised as collaborators. The Roman system of contracting out taxation made it easy for tax collectors to overcharge and exploit others, indeed this was encouraged as it was how they made their own living. The appearance of soldiers is perhaps surprising; maybe these are Jewish soldiers in the service of Herod, rather than Roman soldiers. Either way, their job gives them the power to extort money by violence – both soldiers and tax collectors had power that could easily be abused and John warns strongly against this.

The message of John is blunt and to the point, though there is much less depth than we find in Jesus' teaching. However, John addresses the key evils in his society, perhaps as they would have been most felt by the poor. Others at the time probably disagreed with his diagnosis and saw the key evil as the Roman occupation itself. John’s message was all about social justice and that’s something, even now, we struggle to achieve.


To Ponder:

  • What are the social justice issues of our time?
  • Do you see individuals or groups exploiting their power today?
  • Are there any ways we can stand up more for justice?
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