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So far, Luke has dealt with the births of John and the Lord Jesus and one incident when Jesus was twelve. Now he turns his attention to John as an adult. As at the beginning of his account and with the birth of the Lord Jesus, he again roots the narrative in recorded history and informs his readers just when John’s ministry began, between August AD 28 and August AD29 according to Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary.
If we could somehow go back in time and take some sort of opinion poll in Israel in AD29, I suspect most people would see the Roman occupation as the major problem facing the nation. Israel were God’s chosen people living in a land given to them by the Lord and yet they lived under the control pagan gentiles, were forced to pay them crippling taxes and every time they saw a Roman soldier it would have been a reminder of their own powerlessness. Surely God would deal with the Romans first? Strangely, the subject is largely ignored by the New Testament. God is not interested in ‘sticking plaster solutions’ that address the symptoms of the illness, whether that’s corrupt leaders, social injustice or religious hypocrisy. He is interested in dealing with the root cause of the problems; human sin, John’s message centred on the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3).
John’s preaching called for repentance (Luke 3:3), as did the preaching of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 4:18), Peter (Acts 2:28, 3:19) and Paul (Acts 17:30, 26:20), in fact you could argue that repent was the first word recorded from the preaching of both John and the Lord Jesus (Matthew 3:2, 4:17) and the key theme of Peter and Paul’s first sermons (Acts 2:38, 26:20). In the Old Testament there are a great many rules and regulations regarding worship and central the point is, when we come to God, we have to come on his terms. God’s prescribed response when confronted with the reality of our sin is repentance. It is preached a lot in the bible but sadly rarely from our pulpits. It means to not just to be sorry for our sins but to change direction, to have a change of heart.
John’s message also reveals that God is capable of wrath, he is rightly angry with sin. So often we like to think of our sins as small sins, our lies as little white lies and the sins of others so much more serious than our own. When we think like this we are fooling ourselves, God hates all sin.
We thank you Lord that you have dealt with our most serious problem. Thank you for the forgiveness that is freely available through Jesus. Help us to live lives that are truly repentant, with changed hearts and changed minds and a change of direction to walk with you.