The Gospel of Luke

A voice in the wilderness

This devotional is written by Sammy Gilbert. Sammy loves filter coffee.

Luke 3:1-20

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

"A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'"

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

10 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked.

11 John answered, "Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same."

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"

13 "Don’t collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"

He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

Reflection

Today's passage gives an insight into John the Baptist and his passionate message: The times are changing, we're in a crisis, get off your backsides!

Messages like this aren't always received well. While the political leadership were living comfortably, God was speaking to John in the wilderness. So John had the right words, for the right people, at the right time.

John was authentic and he made sense. The crowd thought he might be the long-awaited Messiah. Of course, he wasn't, he was one of many people sharing God's simple truth. He was telling them to be honest with themselves and turn to God.

John was brave enough to speak the truth to the people in charge. And their angry response betrays a fact of human nature, that it's hardest to trust the truth if we have something to lose by it. And maybe it's easier to hear God if we can find our own metaphorical wilderness.

Some questions

When I've needed to deliver a difficult message, how did God help me?
How can I prioritise God, when life can be distracting?
Is there a crisis in my life that I need to respond to? Do I need to ask for help?
(Visit our Pastoral page for more info)

Prayer

Lord, we're so glad that you're always close to us, even when times are hardest. Thank you that Jesus gave us your spirit, and we ask that your spirit would guide our words and actions, so that we would live as messengers of your love. Let your wisdom guide our church and government, as well as our mentors and loved ones. Thank you for the ultimate truth, that Jesus came to give us fulfilled lives, and peace with you and one another. Amen.

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