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
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.”
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 (quickview)  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.