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, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,[a]
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
7 He said therefore 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 in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to 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 shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics[b] is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content 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 Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[c] with you I am well pleased.”
Straighten Your Life Out!
To prepare the way for Jesus, John the Baptist comes to tell the people to straighten their lives out. Note: This is before they know Jesus. If we can not hold non-Christians to Christian standards, what is the point of going to Jewish and Gentile people and telling them to get their lives in order. John speaks to the high and the low and leaves no-one out. He goes out into the wilderness and tells people to live better lives – without Jesus. This is important, because I have heard many times that in this world people who know Jesus will live good lives and people who don’t will cuss, watch pornography, and drive like lunatics in traffic and we should just pity them and let them be because they don’t know Jesus. How could we possibly expect them to live life rightly. What do we also do with the fact that many Christians cuss, watch pornography and drive like lunatics.
In Matthew 7:11 Jesus states that evil people (people who are not sanctified by Jesus), can do good things. John seems to be going further and seems to be helping people understand exactly what good things God requires of them. Many go away and put those things in practice, and some become angry and even persecute John. To understand what is going on, we need to go back to Genesis.
When God made the world it was all very good. The whole created world gave glory to God wand was in harmony with God. When sin entered the world it fell. The road God wanted mankind to travel became twisted. The way forward was obscured by mountains of sin and valleys of despair. Through Abraham and his descendants God communicated how to be called out from the lost masses of humanity. Through Moses, God clearly showed how to live in a way that was once more in harmony with him. However, the Jewish people thought they were right with God because they were descendants of Abraham, chosen by God, and their lives reflected complacency and entitlement.
John is reminding the people that they know how life should be lived and they should live that way. they will align their lives more with how God wanted them to live and so they will be attuned to the Messiah when he comes. The path to him will be straight and the mountains will be leveled so that he will arrive to open arms. God’s plan of redemption will run on tracks of right living. However, the desire to live a perfect life in harmony with God will fall short of the reality. They will see that they need a change of their hearts to be the person that God has called them to be. Others will have their hearts revealed because they do not want what they know to be right. Herod is the pinnacle of this. did he really think living with his brother’s wife was a good thing? I think he did not. However, he had chosen dark paths which were crooked and obscure. He rejects Jesus because he rejects righteousness. Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled when they follow him. That hunger is being awoken by John and suppressed by Herod and the leaders of Israel.
Today, there are those who insist we are born good. We are born the way we are meant to be. There is no straightening out to be done. However, many in our society know that we are born into something profoundly wrong. We can see in God’s law the ideals of how it should be. However, our hearts and actions are far from those ideals. Evil people can adopt God’s laws, and in so doing they will enter a path that leads to one who perfectly fulfills all God’s expectations. In our society Christians must communicate the ideals that God has laid out. God has laid out righteous principles for living which are true for all. To be a blessing we need to communicate the ideals of home life, work practices, and education. We have isolated God to a church life and a private hobby. If we are to prepare the world for the gospel like John did, we need to preach a straight path in politics, we need to communicate a healthy view of exercise, we need to communicate Old Testament morality. The moral laws of the Old Testament show us our hearts. Some will have hatred for God revealed in their heart, others will have a desire for straighter living which will only be satisfied in Christ.
We are to be consecrated. Like John, we are set apart by God to live a different kind of life. this life is a model for those who observe us. Kelli and I find ourselves as part of a group who long for deeper connection with God. If God wills, we will be set apart. We have to clean up our act and encourage others to do so. Not in a desire to damn the lost, but with a desire to help them. Sam, in our group, was extremely overweight but desired fitness and health in line with God’s design for the body. God touched him and now he communicates godly health and fitness to others. May they be led by their health to the God who governs health. Kelli submitted her writing to God and surrendered her sabbatical to him, now she writes in a way that inspires me and others. As we see more clearly the way that life is to be lived, we see more clearly how we are set apart for Jesus. Just like at the end of this passage, Jesus beaks in on the scene.
In evangelism, Jesus, we do not prepare people as John did in the gospels. We do not hold up a standard of righteousness and guide people forward by it. Help us to see how lives around us need to change and avoid arrogance in holding up a standard so that all people might see that they desire the peace of God that comes through You, or that they truly hate you and the righteousness that you desire.
- What is John’s message?
- Why is it necessary?
- Why do the leaders and Herod respond so negatively?
- What are some key ways people live in crooked and depraved ways today?
- How can we challenge those around us to align their living with God’s blueprint? What will be the affects?