Luke 3:1-6 (ESV)
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, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked [road] shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Luke spends a lot of time here explaining who was whom in Israel at the times these things were happening. He tells Theophilus that he had done a thorough investigation of the stories about Jesus from the beginning. So he is clarifying for any who would doubt the people who were notable in the public eye at the time.
The important part of this passage, is that John the Baptist, son of Zechariah, was directed by the Holy Spirit to begin preaching his message of repentance. This was in preparation for the active ministry Jesus was about to begin as well, in accordance with the prophecies by Isaiah. John challenged the people who were coming to him to be baptized. “Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?” Then he continued to preach. He told those who would listen how to behave, how to treat others. He clearly told people that he was not the messiah, yet that is still what they kept asking.
So what should we do? Jesus said the work of God, is to believe in the One God sent. He cares about how we live, but our thoughts, our desires, our motivation more than our actions. The actions we do are the result, but the reasons are what God cares about the most. Jesus said that our words coming from the inside shows what our hearts have in them. What comes into us from the outside does not corrupt us. We are corrupt, and our actions and speech demonstrate this corruption.
As we prepare to celebrate the coming of a new year, let us all resolve to find better ways to serve the Lord, and our fellow man. We should think of others first, and seek their welfare. By focusing more on others and less on ourselves, we will please God. Our service to others is a form of worship to honor God.
by Virgil Stripes
photo: Baptism of Jesus, from the Church of John the Baptist in Israel.