4 Dec. Luke 3:1-16

4 Dec. John prepares the way for the Lord

"It was the fifteenth year of the rule of Tiberius Caesar [26AD]… At this time, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert. He went all over the area around the River Jordan preaching a baptism of changed hearts and lives for the forgiveness of sins."

"[He preached] as it is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet:
This is the voice of one who calls out:
'Prepare in the desert the way for the Lord.
Make a straight road in the dry lands for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
and every mountain and hill should be made flat.'"

"'The rough ground should be made level,
and the rugged ground should be made smooth.
Then the glory of the Lord will be shown,
and all people will see it'.
The Lord himself said these things." [Isaiah 40:3-5]

"To the crowds of people who came to be baptised by John, he said, 'You are all snakes! Who warned you to run away from God's coming punishment? Do the things that show you really have changed your hearts and lives...'"

"'If you have two shirts, share with the person who does not have one. If you have food, share that also.'"

“Even tax collectors [who collected taxes for the Romans] came to John to be baptised. They said to him, 'Teacher, what should we do?' John said to them, 'Don't take more taxes from people than you've been ordered to take...'"

“Since the people were hoping for the Christ [the 'Messiah' or 'anointed one'] to come, they wondered if John might be the one. John answered everyone, 'I baptise you with water; but there is one coming who is greater than I am... He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'"

          (Luke 3:1-16)

 


 

We've moved on 32 years to the start of John the Baptist's ministry on the banks of the River Jordan in 26AD.

When John's birth was announced, the angel Gabriel said that John would "go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah... to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord." (Luke 1:17)

Here we find him, years later, preaching from the book of the prophet Isaiah: "This is the voice of one who calls out: 'Prepare in the desert the way for the Lord... Then the glory of the Lord will be shown, and all people will see it.'" (see Isaiah 40:3-5)

People ask what he's doing; and John says he’s fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy as he is the voice “of one who calls out: 'Prepare in the desert the way for the LORD.'" (Luke 3:4)

Jews in the crowd then ask John if he’s God's promised 'Messiah' – the 'Christ' or ‘Anointed One’ foretold in the Hebrew scriptures. John replies that he’s merely preparing the way for another. “I baptise you with water… He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

John taught that people must turn away from their wrongdoing if they wished to be forgiven by a holy and righteous God. He baptised them by immersing them in the River Jordan, to show symbolically that their wrongdoings had been ‘washed away’ by the running water.

Unfortunately, we do not always recognise today that ‘John’s Baptism’ was seen by the crowds as a form of Jewish ritual cleansing, by which Jews believed they would become holy and acceptable to God by ritual washing (see Exodus 30:17-21, John 3:25 & 11:55).

By John’s day, many wealthier Jewish families had their own mikvah (a bath for ritual cleansing), while Jews visiting the Temple in Jerusalem ceremonially ‘cleansed’ themselves in ritual baths located, for example, just outside the Hulda Gates on the south side of the Temple Mount.

And we tend to overlook the fact that John and Jesus both made a point of contrasting John’s 'Jewish' form of baptism with the baptism about to be initiated by Jesus (‘Christian Baptism’) (see Luke 3:16 & Acts 1:4-5).

In John’s Baptism, the water itself was believed by his Jewish followers to bring about cleansing from sin; in Christian Baptism, the water is only symbolic, and it is Jesus’s death on the cross that actually brings about cleansing from sin (see John 1:29 & Romans 3:23-26).

In John’s Baptism, believers were ‘baptised’ (Greek meaning ‘drenched’ or ‘filled to overflowing’) with water; in Jesus’s version of baptism (‘Christian Baptism’), believers are ‘baptised’ or ‘filled to overflowing’ with the Holy Spirit (see John 1:33, Acts 2:38, Acts 19:1-7 & Acts 10:44-48).

The photo shows the River Jordan emerging from springs at Banias (called 'Caesarea Philippi' in John's day).

You can read more about John's message @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/the-bible-journey/2-john-the-baptists-journeys-b/johns-message/


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