Summary: Even in this day and age, the voice of hope has not been silenced. The cry still comes to each one of us in the wilderness of our lives, to repent and reconcile with the one who is holding the door to the Kingdom.
Luke 3:15-17; 21-22
15. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not;
16. John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:
17. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
21. Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
22. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
A couple of children went to the beach one day and began collecting shells. By the time they were ready to leave they had quite a collection. But as they were driving back home, they found that many of the shells began to move. They actually had a collection of hermit crabs. Thinking they would make good pets, they put them in a fish bowl. But the next day, a lot of them were dead. The children cleaned up the bowl and put in fresh water, thinking that it would solve the problem, but one by one they continued to die. A few remained alive but unless there was a way to take them back to the beach which was a 3 hour trip by car, they too were destined to deteriorate and die. To put it bluntly, it was a hopeless situation.
Many living in this world today face a situation similar to those hermit crabs. Everyday, we are deteriorating, dying and the sad thing is not many of us know what is going on. We are bogged down with worries, concerns about worldly things and indulge in the pleasures of this world without knowing that in the process, it kills us...spiritually. We
have been separated from the presence of the Lord for so long that we do not know what it is like to live a holy life nor do we know enough to look for it. We are satisfied with our jobs, our family, our friends but we forget about our spirit. Yet this spirit is the one who will live on later, in eternal joy and peace with our Lord or in eternal pain and misery in the darkness of hell.
The people of Israel in Jesus’ day were also in much the same situation. Even though they were battered and scared, many lived in the hope that “the Kingdom of God” would soon come with the advent of the Messiah. Their long winter of disappointment hadn’t vanished. Even when the voice of prophecy as echoed through the ages about the Savior’s birth had ceased and remained buried deep under ground, layer upon layer; much like the ancient remains of Jerusalem whose desolation of many generations remained layer upon layer, there remained a faithful few who longed to see the day when their redeemer would come. There was a flickering hope rooted deep in the soil of their hearts, that the long sought after Kingdom would soon come.
About this time, a cry of hope had suddenly been raised. It was the voice of John the Baptist who cried out in the wilderness saying “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. The voice of John awakened echoes throughout the land, and brought from city, village, and hamlet the strangest hearers. Pharisee and Sadducee, Soldier and Publican, rich and poor, men and women, all of them, met on common ground in anticipation of a deliverer who would come and fight for them.
John’s cry was heard in the wilderness of Judea, which was only a few hours distant from Jerusalem. The voice also traveled upward, along the winding Jordan, which cleft the land of promise. Rapidly the tidings spread from town to village and distant homestead. Swelling numbers flocked to the banks of the sacred river. Some came to inquire, some came to see, while others remained to be baptized. This is where we enter the scene with our reading for this morning. Vs. 15 says:
And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered them saying “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than me is coming!
How many were baptized by John and how many went away disappointed in their hopes of ’the coming Kingdom,’ we do not know because their expectations were shaken. The Kingdom that was to come was not going to be an armed resistance or military coup, as they expected, but a call to repentance. The hope which John the Baptist held out was not of earthly possessions, but of purity and holiness. John was neither rich nor famous, nor did he seek to be. His clothes were made of camel’s hair and his food was locusts and honey. In the humility of his lowly service, he discarded all claims of fame and pointed away from himself to the one who was to come, who he as yet did not know.