Saturday, December 16, 2017
Scriptures: Psalm 126; Habakkuk 3:13-19; Matthew 21:28-32
from Carl Schartner
As we consider, in particular, the Matthew 21:28-32 passage from today’s readings, we will focus particularly on a most curious and interesting person about whom Jesus stated,“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” The Baptist, as he was sometimes called, had a privileged, nearly impossible, and incredibly important role in Jesus’ life and journey toward the cross. This prophet was so remarkably well known in his day that Jesus can refer to him simply as “John” and nearly every Israelite knew precisely who this was. The advent story of John’s encounter with Jesus in utero is an awe inspiring signpost of John’s significance in the life of Jesus. However, the reference to John in today’s passage carries with it the heaviness of condemnation and judgement. A key focus on John’s ministry was to preach repentance; a message pertinent to all people, believers and nonbelievers both in Jesus day and in our present world. However, when Jesus states that “John came to you to show you the way of righteousness”, he is not referring so much to John’s message of repentance, but rather, John’s purpose as a preacher of messianic hope and as the forerunner of the Messiah. Jesus was actually referring to himself as “the way of righteousness”, but in a manner in which only those with ears to hear would understand.
John the Baptist lived a somewhat strange life in the desert and with insects and wild honey as food. He wrapped himself in a garment that he probably made from a dead camel that he found abandoned in the desert wilderness. John lived a very simple life with no home and a serious lack of possessions. However, beyond all this, John’s life had a singular, amazing purpose - to prepare the way for the coming Christ. In Luke 1:17, we learn that the angel Gabriel told Zacharias, John’s father, that John would fulfill Malachi’s prophecy stating that he would go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” John was God’s messenger; he was to “clear the way before (the Messiah). And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” (Malachi 3:1)
Imagine yourself peacefully fishing by the Jordan River 2,000 years ago and, surprisingly, this man dressed in scruffy camel’s hair appears and begins shouting for all to hear, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He commands your attention with his conviction and sincerity, but how would you have responded to this message? Would you have doubted that God’s Kingdom truly had come? How also do you respond in this current day and in the busyness of your current life?