1In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’ ”
4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
I had a parishioner in Pennsylvania who was homebound. I loved going to visit him because he was just such a unique individual.
I really think he thought I came to visit to cheer him up, however, for me it always felt the other way around – He had a way of making me laugh and smile and when I would leave his home, I always left in good spirits.
He loved telling me jokes. So, this joke I will tell in memory of him…
Three pastors in a small town would get together every so often… A Catholic priest, a Baptist preacher, and Lutheran pastor.
They decided that they would go out on the river and go fishing together. And, so they did.
As they were in the boat together, the Catholic priest said to the other two – “Since we are out here together and no one else is around – this would be a really good time for us to Confess our Sins.”
And, so they all agreed and began to confess their sins.
The Catholic priest said, “I will go first since I made the suggestion. And, so the confession begins…I confess that I have an issue with gambling. With every chance I get, I go to the casinos or the machines and gamble. – I now owe quite a bit of money.”
The Baptist preacher then says, “I’ll go next…I drink too much. In our tradition of faith, we are not supposed to drink at all; but I just cannot help myself. My congregation drives me to drink!”
And so, as the confessions continued and there was discussion among them, there became a great silence. The Catholic priest looks at the Lutheran pastor and says to him, “It’s your turn. What is your confession?”
The pastor looks solemnly at the priest and the preacher and finally confesses, “Well, I have a problem with gossiping. And, honestly, I cannot wait to get off this boat!”
Repent, says John the Baptist. Confess your sins!
(You just might want to be careful who you confess your sins to!)
Repent – we often think about “saying you are sorry – or to be sorry.”
The word “Repent” is not a good English translation for the Greek. The Greek word for “Repent,” is “metanoia.” But, the problem is that there isn’t a good translation. When translating into the English, we lose the real meaning – which is:
I think the best translation out there: A RADICAL RECOGNITION OF GOD!
And so, this begs the question: How do we do that!?
John the Baptist “Makes his appearance.” And, he does so in all four of the Gospels. He is an important dude.
He is indeed, that I’m thinking, if we were to actually meet him, we would never forget him!
He is wooly and wild. Wears clothing made from camel’s hair, a leather belt around his waist, lives in the wilderness where his food is locusts and honey.
You and I would not give him the time of the day. I feel certain of it.
But, he makes his appearance – comes out of the wilderness – preaching loudly and boldly –
Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near!
Prepare the Way of the Lord!
People from everywhere come to hear and witness this new preacher in town.
And, I mean EVERYWHERE – from all of Judea, the city of Jerusalem, and all along the region of the Jordan River.
Something really big is about to happen here! This isn’t just about going fishing and confessing our sins to our friends…
This isn’t about just saying we are sorry.
This is huge! There is a guy here who has made his appearance from out of the wilderness – “OUT of the BLUE” – “Out from the WOODWORK.”
There is a great urgency here!
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. In other words:
TURN YOUR LIVES AROUND BECAUSE HERE COMES THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!
Ready or not…Here He comes. Change the direction of your life! Turn around. Turn towards God!
Turn around and face it! Here comes God’s new world!
John’s message of Repentance is a “RADICAL RECOGNITION of GOD.”
In other words, It’s about our relationship with God and our need for the ONE in whom we are not even worthy to carry His sandals.
I had been to the eye doctor and picked up my new glasses. I was now running late for work. I had a meeting to get to and was a good 10-15 minutes out. I was so focused on getting to work and thinking about what I needed to do next, that I didn’t even notice that I flew by a police officer.
Of course, it was just moments after that I saw the blue lights in my rear -view mirror. I pulled over and as he came to my car door window, I admitted that “I must have been speeding.”
That’s when he informed me that I had passed him speeding. Obviously, not a good thing.
He asked me where I had been and where was I going. I explained to him that I had just picked up my new glasses, and in my nervousness, I asked him, “Do you like them?”
He ended up just giving me a warning.
But, meanwhile, I was convicted of the Law – I didn’t mean to speed. I wasn’t even paying attention to what I was doing wrong.
John the Baptist is like that police officer. He calls us to be convicted of our sin. He points to our need for forgiveness.
Just like the police officer is the Law of our Secular World, John the Baptist is the LAW of GOD!
He sets the stage for the coming of Christ! Christ’s Kingdom is set up!
TURN YOUR LIVES AROUND BECAUSE HERE COMES THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!
And, so the question: How in the world do we do this?
And, then John even tells us how– Be baptized and bear fruit.
But, there is one problem here and John the Baptist knows it!
“I can baptize you with water – but, I cannot forgive your sins.”
Repent: A Radical Recognition of God!
And, to recognize God is to recognize God’s Son, Jesus Christ!
Jesus Christ – the One and Only who can liberate us from our sin!
It is only through our relationship with God…Because God towards humans, our new turn – our new beginning…our new way of life to turn towards God is possible!
Our relationship doesn’t depend on whether we are Lutheran, Catholic, or Baptist – but depends on our acknowledgement of sin!
The Law and the conviction of Law- the conviction of our sin is the threshold of the Gospel!
We…you and I heed the message of repentance! We prepare the Way of the Lord and turn towards the Kingdom of God when we admit how hard of time it is to change and that we want to change.
God’s wrath does not contradict God’s love for us – It proves it!
God sends Jesus Christ into our world to redeem us and save us from the Law – the Law that is impossible for us to follow and get right every single time.
The LAW cannot give – but Jesus can, and He does.
This message of telling us what to do, telling us to change, telling us to even live a good life and to love – can only show us our need –
Our need for Jesus Christ to come –
Come Lord Jesus…