Going Deeper 12.11.2020

The Gospel reading for Advent 3... John 1:6-14, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

In that final verse, John, the Gospel writer, adds an important detail to the story of John the Baptizer not included in the other three Gospels: "This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing."  Why is this geographical detail important?  Because these descendants of Abraham had to leave the "Promised Land" in order to be baptized.  

This was a radical message, similar to what Luke quotes John proclaiming in his telling of the story: "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?  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.  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.'"  The repentance John was calling for a whole new way of thinking... and of living!

Being a child of God is not simply about having our name on a roster of some kind or pointing to our being followers of Luther (or someone like that).  It is not about performing a certain set of religious rituals which have been passed down from generation to generation.  It is not an organizational thing, a family thing, a religious thing.  It is about a radical change of understanding and behaving, recognizing and repenting of our sins, coming to Jesus for the "washing of regeneration" in His blood, and reorienting our lives, turning from serving ourselves to loving and serving others.  That is the "good fruit" John calls for.

This is the repentance which prepares us to receive the coming Christ!

With You in Him,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"