3-Week Series: Double Blessing


Summary: Year C. 3rd Sunday of Advent

Year C. 3rd Sunday of Advent

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

Web page http://lordofthelake.org

By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor

E-mail pastor@southshore.com

Lord Jesus thank you for John’s message that whatever our state in life, we are to live it honestly and fairly, being the best, at whatever we do. Amen.

Title: “Being the best at what we do.”

Luke 3: 10-18

John answers ethical questions from his followers and stresses the superiority of the Messiah’s baptism over his. There was a general revivalist movement afoot in John’s day, a movement, impossible for us to determine just how widespread, away from offering sacrifice in the Temple for sin, (Lev5: 14-6:7) toward ritual washing, baptism, as the preferred ceremony to express repentance. It was not unlike the revivalist movement in the Untied States, still popular today, where crowds are attracted to preachers who conduct their services in tents, auditoriums or convention centers rather than in churches. John preached in the desert, not in the Temple or synagogue. The personal attractiveness of the preacher was and is more important than the conventional, rather impersonal rituals of worship. It was a movement away from established religion toward following reformers, especially Baptists. John was one of many such “Baptists.” As an indication of how influential he was Matthew tells us in 3: 7 that even many Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to play it safe and be baptized, maybe as extra insurance, so that they would be on the right side when the Day of the Lord came according to Luke 3:7 which lumps them together with the “crowds,” however. In verses 7-9 we are given a sample of John’s eschatological preaching. That is preaching that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind. Apparently some thought they could be baptized without the requisite repentance. To which John replied, “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.” Others thought that being of the lineage of Abraham gave them an edge. To which John replied that it is one’s life not one’s lineage that will matter. A bad life “will be cut down and thrown into the fire” like a barren tree. His baptism was no mere religious ceremony. It was to be an outward expression of an inward change of heart leading to a change of life.

Verses 10-14 give samples of the ethical teaching of John applied to concrete situations. Verses 15-18 give a sample of his Christological teaching, distinguishing between himself and his baptism and that of the Messiah’s. One would expect John, either a former or present Essene, to require people to leave their former occupations and adopt a more stringent, self discipline and self denial life-style. To prepare for the next world, one should leave the present one as much as possible. To this John says “no.” His message to the three different groups of people is the same underlying one: whatever your state in life, live it honestly and fairly, being the best at it that you can. You do not have to be “a religious person” to be “religious.” It is how you live your life, not how you “style” your life that matters. The three groups – the crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers – were all looked down upon by the Pharisees, the religiously-correct people. The crowds were “unwashed,” sloppy in the observance of the Law; the tax collectors were dishonest and traitorous; soldiers were unreligious weapons-bearers and mercenaries. Instead of calling these folks to change their jobs and life-styles, John simply says change your ways and do what you ordinarily do extraordinarily well.

In verse 10 the crowds: To all he said, “Share.” Whether it be food, clothing or any necessity of life, the one with the surplus should give to the one with the need. There is nothing specifically religious about this. This is just good humanism, but it is uncommon, extraordinary humanism. To be acceptable on the day of the Lord one need not live a life of self discipline and self denial, like John. It is a matter of how one lived one’s life, in whatever lifestyle. The besetting sin of all people is to keep for one’s self even what is surplus to one’s real needs and neglect or refuse to share it with the truly needy, as “insurance” against a rainy day. One day God’s wrath will rain down upon the earth and insurance policies or “back ups” will not provide umbrellas against judgment.

In verse 12 tax collectors: To this group, unlikely repenters to be sure and an indication of John’s attractiveness, he said, “Be honest.” When tax collectors bought the right to collect tolls, customs, etc. they had to turn into the Roman authorities a set amount. Anything above that they could keep. So, they extorted a lot and everybody knew it, but could do nothing about it. If someone balked the tax collector would bribe a soldier to come and intimidate, threaten prison, or testify falsely in court. It was not just the Pharisees who hated the taxman, a fellow Jew who worked for Rome! John said for them to keep their jobs, but be honest about it. The besetting sin of people who collect or handle money is to pocket some for self. No more said John.

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