On this second Sunday in Advent the readings remind us how the prophets prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah.
John the Baptist was a contemporary of Jesus, and in many ways he was the last of the Old Testament style prophets. He told people that all those prophecies were about to be fulfilled – both the prophecies of judgement, and the prophecies of hope. The reign of righteousness was about to begin; but evil must first be dealt with. His message therefore was above all a call to repentance: God is calling you to put him and his laws first in your life, and to stop going your own way! Make sure you are on the right side! Don’t be one of those who face judgement for your rebellion; become one of those who receive the promised salvation!
John also offered something new: if you really wanted to make a new start with God, be baptised! In his day baptism as a sign of purification: objects were purified by a ritual washing, and when a Gentile was converted and wanted to become one of God’s people, he not only received circumcision but also baptism. John gave baptism to Jews too, as a sign that they had repented and that God had forgiven them. They were ready for God’s coming king.
What John did not know was that the Messiah was coming to plant the seed of the kingdom, rather than to reap the harvest. The latter will happen when he comes in his glory at the end of this age. Now is the time for salvation, so that when he comes for judgement and the new age there will be a harvest of all nations ready for the king. That harvest could not be ripened by John’s preaching and his baptism of repentance. Not many of those he baptized ended up as followers of Jesus. What is needed is not simply turning over a new leaf, but new life.
1) How is the message of John relevant to today?
2) How does this passage add to our knowledge of who Jesus was?