[John the Baptist] went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins… Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…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… And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.”
Luke 3:3,8-9,18 (NIV)
John preached good news?
I selected a handful of verses from this longer passage that describes John the Baptist’s preaching style. I skipped a winnowing fork and unquenchable fire but you get the idea.
John’s preaching sure doesn’t sound like good news!
You may remember that John prepares the way for Jesus the king. In ancient times, the roads were improved, widened, and smoothed prior to a king’s arrival. It’s the same today as cities are adorned with fresh landscaping prior to an official visit. The nation of Israel is in bad shape, far from how God intends for them to treat one another, so John’s message is demanding and urgent. Jesus is coming!
John exhorts with fiery fervor for a thorough and palpable change.
John the Baptist is God’s advance team always pointing to Jesus. His goal is to remove obstacles that block Jesus’ way, to dig out the stubborn roots and cut down the impeding trees in order to open a clear path. In Luke 3 this means ending the misuse of power, personal gain at others’ expense as well as increasing generosity.
For us this might mean examining attitudes, values and practices on an individual basis, as a family, a church, a community, or a nation. What stands in the way of Jesus taking His place as Lord? Self-examination is hard work. Changing long-held habits feels like bad news. But when we clear the way for Jesus to come it always turns out to be good news.
What obstacles hinder Jesus’ entry into our communities?
What attitudes, practices, and values contradict Jesus’ teaching?