John The Baptist, Coming Up
For the next two Sundays we’ll be hearing about, and from, John the Baptist. His fierce appearance and fiercer message seem so out of place in our time, when we approach Christmas with “holiday cheer”. So the lectionary reminds me that the we do not prepare for Christ the same way we prepare for Christmas, and that it’s the Word of God not the Word of Walmart that defines that preparation.
This Sunday’s reading is Luke 3:1-6. This is Luke’s description of John (John’s message itself will be the subject of the December 13 sermon) and here’s what struck me about it:
- Luke piles on the historical markers: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…” Luke could have more simply said “in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign” and left out Pilate, Herod, Philip, etc. But instead he piles on the historical markers. Why? I’ll say more about this on Sunday, but for now I just want to point out that Luke is doing something here. This piling on is intentional. What’s the intention?
- Luke continues: “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah” – something about this rang a bell with me, but I had to do some research before it became clear. I think this is an instance where a reference can go completely unnoticed in our culture, while it would have set off alarms in the ears of at least some of Luke’s hearers. So here’s some homework for you – compare Luke 3:1-2 with
- Jeremiah 1:1
- Ezekiel 1:1-2
- Hosea 1:1
- Joel 1:1
- Jonah 1:1
- Micah 1:1
- Zephaniah 1:1
- Haggai 1:1
- Zechariah 1:1
- what parallels and echoes do you see?
- Luke continues to describe John by quoting Isaiah 40. Question about “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”: is this a command to all who follow Jesus, something we should be doing this time of year? Or is this a description of John the Baptist, a unique preparer for Christ?
- In Luke’s quote of Isaiah 40, who’s doing what? Who’s the subject of these verbs?
Good stuff. Let’s see what He’ll make of it for this Sunday!