On December 16, Pastor Jim preaches on Luke 3:7-18.
7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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. 9 Even now the axe 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.”
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
Okay, I’ve gotta be honest, John the Baptist wears me out. He’s a bag of downers. He preaches fire and condemnation. He wouldn’t last a week as a Methodist preacher.
And yet, maybe I’m being hasty. Maybe there is some hope in his message. Beyond the name calling and the threats and the, let’s face it, animosity, maybe John does indeed speak for God to us.
The passage ends with John describing Jesus as standing on his threshing floor with a winnowing fork in his hand ready to separate wheat from chaff; the wheat destined for the granary and the chaff destined for “unquenchable fire.”
And then in the very next verse, in the ultimate non sequitur, Luke wraps up the passage this way: “So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”
I’m going to hang on to that. I hope to see you on Sunday. We’ll think together about what this “good news” could possibly be.