Lectionary Year C : 9th December 2018


This week we move from the teaching of Jesus back to the one who alerts us to Jesus’ importance. John the Baptist is the one who ‘cries out’. He is the fulfilment and embodiment of the ‘voice’ in Isaiah 40. He lies in a tradition of prophetic utterance, and is himself a sign that this is a ‘hinge’ moment when history will change for ever. Luke introduces chapter 3 with a suitably portentous historical statement, locating this moment in relation to both Roman and Middle Eastern officials and leaders. Because of the detail Luke gives here, we can date this to AD 28–29. John appears and preaches repentance to all the people, offering them baptism in the Jordan river as a sign of their commitment to turn their lives around. In 7.29-30, Luke underlines how important this was: all the people who received John’s ministry and baptism were able to welcome God’s purposes. The Pharisees and the lawyers, on the other hand, had done something much more serious than simply reject John’s ministry. By refusing to be baptized by him, they had ‘rejected God’s purpose for themselves’ (7.30). It is important not to miss the moment, the invitation, the challenge, the opportunity. John’s message was a call to be part of preparing the way of the Lord. There is an element of that message that still awaits fulfilment: the transformation of the whole world and ‘all flesh’ seeing the salvation of God. And so the challenge still comes to us to heed John’s call.

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