Sunday

9 December 2018

Luke 3:1-6

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (v 4)

Psalm: Psalm 85

 Background

Today’s passage sets the theme for this week – Messenger of the Covenant ­– as it features John the Baptist. If you have time, read through Luke 1:67-80, the song of Zechariah. This celebration of John’s miraculous birth is full of joy. From verse 76 of the canticle we see what John’s role is to be. The main message is one of hope, forgiveness, light and peace. Today’s hymn from Singing the Faith, Praise to the God who clears the way’, also picks up this theme.

But where this Zechariah (namesake of the Hebrew prophet we’ll consider in the notes as this week goes on) and the prophets referred to in Luke 1 look forward in hope, more is needed. Thus in today’s reading from Luke 3 we are carefully given both a definite time and a place where these words came true. When you read through the list of those in authority – Tiberius Caesar, Pilate, Herod and others – you’ll see that none of them could be thought of as well disposed towards the aspirations Zechariah had for his son. Each of them was a threat to God’s new initiative, but God’s new initiative was, in the end, a far greater threat to them.

John appeared and got to work. As with the other Gospel writers, Luke is keen to affirm that his ministry is fully in line with God’s promise as spelled out, this time, in the words of Isaiah 40. Next Sunday will take us further into the detail of his message, both in its challenge and its comfort. For now we note both the call to repent and the promise of forgiveness.

 

To Ponder: 

  • John the Baptist spoke out courageously even though the rulers of the state opposed him, and eventually executed him. Remember those who take great risks today in being true to God.
  • John’s message could be summed up in the word ‘“repent”, which means “redirect your life in God’s direction”. What actions do you need to take to ensure that your life is aligned with God’s purposes?

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland. He has served as a circuit minister, as a university chaplain, as Senior Tutor in Edgehill Theological College and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission. Donald has been General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland and its President in 2009/2010.

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