Summary: 2nd Sunday of Advent Year C

2nd Sunday of Advent Year C

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father empower each of us here today to be an example of John the Baptist to other people in our lives. Amen.

Title: “Second Coming.”

Luke 3: 1-6

John the Baptist is presented here in the third chapter as though we had not read about him in chapter one. Chapters 1-2, are called the “infancy narratives” because they relate the announcement and birth of John and Jesus. Luke has artfully sewn these chapters into the entire fabric of the gospel. Nonetheless, revealing his dependence on Mark and another source (called “Q” by the scholars), Luke begins with the adult contribution of John to the history of salvation. He sees salvation history composed of three periods: the Period of Israel, from Abraham to John; the Period of Jesus, from John to the Apostles; and the Period of the Church, from the Apostles until the Second Coming. John, then, is a bridge from the old to the new, preparing the way for Jesus’ first coming into the world as its savior. The Apostles provide a similar bridge for the transition to the Period of the Church. Luke’s perspective is the whole world and everybody in it, past, present and future. He takes world history into account as he shows the injection of Jesus into the world, changing, over time, the destructive direction of world history into one having the intention or power to bring about salvation or redemption, ending in a total reversal of reality as humans have come to know it.

In verse 1: in the fifteenth year…: Only this first phrase, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” is necessary to give the date of John’s appearance in the desert. The remaining information gives a kind of compressed survey of the political scene at this crucial moment in history. Luke wants to show that the “transcendent presence” of God enters history, so he situates the gospel in its setting within imperial and thereby “world-wide” and local history. The dating of John’s appearance follows the manner of ancient Old Testament prophets like Isaiah (1:1) and Jeremiah (1: 1-3). The scene is now set. The word of God came to John: This is a standard Old Testament way of describing the way prophets got their message. John is “called” by God to be his spokesperson. John is the last of a long line of prophets, heralds of God’s news flashes.

In the desert: There is a very good possibility that John once belonged to a monastic group called the Essenes. They lived in the desert area in the neighborhood of the Jordan River, living a life of extreme asceticism, that is self-denial, studying the scriptures and preparing for the priestly, kingly, prophetic Messiah, who would inaugurate the New Age by destroying the present one. If John did not actually belong to this group, he shows signs of being very influenced by them and their thinking. There is one big difference though. The Essenes kept to themselves and believed salvation was only for them. John preached a salvation open to all who would repent, not just a select few. For him, repentance did not require a monastic life-style, but a life of integrity, no matter what one’s occupation.

In verse 3 proclaiming a baptism of repentance: Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke says nothing about John’s appearance and dietary habits. He goes straight to the message. “Proclaiming” or preaching a baptism does not mean that John delivered sermons on the theme of baptism; rather he proclaimed a baptism much as a king at his accession might proclaim an amnesty. This means a baptism that follows repentance and is a sign of it, an external expression of an internal event. Thus, baptism is to be understood as a ritual washing having a religious connotation.

The Jews used baptism as a ceremony to cleanse converts, Gentiles, from their defilement. The notion that Jews needed that kind of cleansing was an offense to many of their officials. The Essenes, that Jewish monastic sect, practiced baptism (which they self-administered) on a regular basis as a sign of purification. They understood that this symbolic action was ineffective without the appropriate inward attitude of repentance. John preached along these same lines.

In 3: 16 Luke will make clear that John’s baptism was an effective anticipation of Christian baptism but different from it. Christian baptism causes forgiveness as well as expresses repentance. It stresses what God does in the matter, more than what humans do. Yet, since forgiveness is unthinkable without repentance, John summoned the people to express their repentance in baptism.

Repentance: This translates the Greek word “metanoia,” an “after thought” or “second thoughts.” After a person has thought about something, first thoughts, first impressions, change. Emotion has faded, perspective has risen and a person can think straight and see things better. That’s what is meant by “metanoia.” It means a change of mind, heart, outlook and attitude that expresses itself in a change of behavior. That’s conversion, repentance, reform of life. “Repentance” and “forgiveness of sin” are Luke’s favorite ways of summing up the effects of Christ in a Christian’s life. For Luke it is clear that repentance, metanoia, leads to the forgiveness of sin. Humans can be summoned to a change of heart. They can decide to change. When they do, forgiveness follows. The interest and focus here is not on John as a baptizer but as a herald, a runner, a messenger, a prophet appealing for reform in preparation for the King/Savior’s visit.

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