Tag Archives: John the Baptist

Second Sunday of Advent

The Root of Jesse

Judah was in darkness. They had not heard from a prophet of God for four hundred years. They were no longer in control of their own government, having been conquered by Rome. Although Rome allowed them to have some freedom in practicing Judaism, they were heavily taxed by Rome. The Jewish people had little hope for the future.

The question is: Was there any hope for things to get better? Without hope, despair can take over. This is especially true for those who feel cutoff from God. The devout Jews knew that they were cutoff from God, because Judah had not kept the Mosaic Convent. They had not properly observed the Commandments of God, Although the Jewish religious leaders went through the motions to demonstrate that Judaism was still surviving, the devout Jews knew it was essentially dead.

Suddenly, things changed for Judah. Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet wrote:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?   (Malachi 3:1-2)

This prophecy referred tp John the Baptist. He would be the messenger of the New Covenant. His ministry was to prepare the people for the coming of their Messiah. But, as foretold in Malachi, not everyone was able to “endure the day of his coming.”

Reading from Today’s Gospel:

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”   (Matthew 3:1-3)

John preached a baptism of repentance. His ministry was to prepare the people to receive their Messiah. Reading from today’s Gospel:

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.   (Matthew 3:4-10)

Many of the religious leaders were not able to receive John’s message. They thought of themselves as children of Abraham by birth. How many of us today see our Christianity as a birthright?

In today’s prophecy from Isaiah, we read about a tree that was cut down, but still was able to produce fruit. This tree was Judah. They had rebelled against God and he had struck them down. Nonetheless, God, in his mercy, would  restore it. It would require the birth of the Messiah and the establishment of new covenant. Reading from Isaiah:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.   (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Only the Messiah would give the people hope. Devout Jews longed for their Messiah. They looked for a signal from God. The sign was the root of Jesse

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.   (Isaiah 11:10)

Jesus is the root of Jesse. He was born in the ancestry of King David, Jesse being his father.

Today, many of us may need a sign from God. Do we need a “root of Jesse?” Perhaps we may feel abandoned by God. Many of us may feel this way about our nation, or even our church.

The stump figuratively represents this feeling. But out of the stump grows a small root. It may not be noticed at first. But God is not trough with us. He is not trough with our nation.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

and again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse shall come,
    the one who rises to rule the gentiles;
in him the gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 15:12-13)

Now is not the time to lose hope. Is our focus on circumstances or on Jesus. The circumstances may be difficult, but Jesus is greater than them. Jesus said:

In the world you face persecution, but take courage: I have conquered the world!   (John 16:33)

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, homily, Jesus, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

Christ the King

Track 1: The Lord Is Our Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Luke 1:68-71
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today we celebrate “Christ the King” Sunday. Jesus is King of King, and Lord of Lords. But his earthly ministry had very humble beginnings. That was necessary. The Hebrew people were not ready for his message.

John the Baptist needed to be the forerunner of Christ, to prepare them to hear the message of the Gospel, and the coming New Covenant. Zechariah prophesied over the infant John:

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.   (Luke 1: 76-79)

John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Although we are reading about him in the New Testament, the New Covenant had not been established at this point. (That would take the cross).

Jeremiah prophesied that this New Covenant was coming:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”   (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

What was new about this covenant? God would do what humankind was unable to do, fulfill the righteous requirements of the old one. Jesus, the King of Kings, was also the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of this world. Again, Zechariah prophesied

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.   (Luke 1: 68-75)

Do we worship Jesus as King? He is not our King; he is not our Lord, he is not our Savior, unless we honor him as the Lamb. The Apostle wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

Has Jesus rescued us from the powers of darkness. He has if we have acknowledged our sin and laid it before the cross. We have no righteousness, except by faith in the saving act of Jesus. As prophesied through Jeremiah: The LORD is our righteousness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christ the King, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Path of Peace

When John the Baptist was eight days old he was brought to the temple to be circumcised as was the Jewish custom. His father the priest then prophesied over him:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:75-79)
The path of peace theme is also echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.   (Isaiah 40:1-2)

There is only one way to peace and Jesus is that way. He is the Prince of Peace. Today, we are hearing about another peace. It is said that a peace will be provided by a new world order and a one world government and a one world religion. How much should we trust this peace? Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica:

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.   (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

When John grew into his ministry he preached that we must repent of our sins and seek the real Messiah. John prepared the way for Him. Jesus has prepared the way for us to approach God the Father.

Thomas, the disciple of Jesus was confused about the identity of Jesus:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:5-6)

There are no alternative ways of peace? John the Baptist’s message was very simple. Repent and seek Jesus. His whole ministry was to point us to Jesus. Nonetheless, in the world today there are many distracting voices. These distractions lead to dead ends, literally. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

The world promises peace but delivers persecution. Again Jesus said:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

Peace will only come to the world during the millennial reign of Jesus. The message of John the Baptist was quite simple. He was not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah and true path of peace. All we need to do is repent and believe.

2 Comments

Filed under Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, John the Baptist, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

The Baptism of Our Lord

The Holy Spirit and Fire

Baptism can be a controversial subject. Whole denominations are separated over their understanding of baptism. This is not something new. The baptism of John the Baptist was quite controversial. Baptism was required only for Gentile converts to Judaism. Circumcised “children of Abraham were already members of the faith. They were born into Judaism. John the Baptist command was: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Only then could Jews say that they were children Abraham.

John said that there was more to come. Repentance was just the first step. He spoke of the coming one more powerful than he:

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Luke 3:15-16)

Holy Spirit baptism is the controversial one in the church today. What is this baptism?

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus also talked about a a spring of living water:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   (John 4:9-14)

Jesus, on the day of the Festival of Booths in Jerusalem, further explained this living water:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus was glorified on the cross. He purchased for us forgiveness for our sins and salvation. He also purchased the right to baptize us in the Holy Spirit with fire. Do we have the fire of the Holy Spirit inside us today?

Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit merely a theological subject to be debated? Isaiah wrote:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.   (Isaiah 12:3)

This baptism is to be experienced. Jesus said that it would be like a spring of water gushing up within us.

Is that our experience? Maybe not if we believe that we were born into it. The Christian faith has to do with a new birth. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Are we thirsty for more of God? Do we desire to experience the refreshment of the Holy Spirit flowing within us?

Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

How many of us need this living water today? Jesus is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit.and fire. Do we know him? Do we know the gift? And are we willing to ask for this gift?

The gift of the Spirit comes when we fully embrace Jesus as our Savior. He took our place on the cross so that we might take our place in him.

After Jesus was baptized by John, we have this remarkable account in Luke:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”   (Luke 3:21-22)

What God the Father said to his Son he also says us: “You are my beloved son and daughter, with you I am well pleased. He is pleased with us because when he sees us he sees Jesus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C