The Preaching of John
(Mark 1.1-8; Luke 3.1-18; John 1.19-28)
1Years later, John the Baptist started preaching in the desert of Judea. 2 He said, “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”
3 John was the one the prophet Isaiah was talking about, when he said,
“In the desert someone
‘Get the road ready
for the Lord!
Make a straight path
for him.’ ”
4 John wore clothes made of camel's hair. He had a leather strap around his waist and ate grasshoppers and wild honey.
5From Jerusalem and all Judea and from the Jordan River Valley crowds of people went to John. 6They told how sorry they were for their sins, and he baptized them in the river.
7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees also came to be baptized. But John said to them:
You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? 8Do something to show you have really given up your sins. 9 And don't start telling yourselves that you belong to Abraham's family. I tell you that God can turn these stones into children for Abraham. 10 An ax is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn't produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into a fire.
11I baptize you with water so you will give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in a barn and burn the husks in a fire that never goes out.
John the Baptist was both the fulfillment of prophecy (v 3) and a prophet himself (v 11). His attire, diet and lifestyle link him to Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) and his words to the Pharisees and Sadducees, – “You bunch of Snakes!,”” – link him to Jesus (Matthew 23:33).
John’s call to repentance was heard and heeded by many. He seemingly spoke his message without any fear of stepping on people’s delicate toes. He spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees directly, using the imagery of an axe poised to cut any tree that didn’t repent and produce good fruit. Being descendants of Abraham was not enough.
In saying he was not good enough even to untie Jesus’ sandals, John placed himself in a subservient position to Jesus. He knew that, unlike him, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He spoke of Jesus having a threshing fork with which he would separate the wheat from the husks. John’s picture of Jesus was not a gentle one – axes and threshing forks are involved here.
John spoke these words knowing that someone more powerful was coming. He understood that Jesus came bringing with him the kingdom of God into this world. He also understood that there will, in the future, be a time of judgment when the kingdom comes in its fullness. As Christians we are all declarers of the kingdom, all voices in the wilderness pointing to the one who is coming, and preparing people to accept Jesus.
Lord God, as John the Baptist knew the importance of repentance may I too know when to repent and when to call others to repentance. Thank you that in repenting there is the assurance of a relationship with your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray, Amen.