God, may I hunger for what is real, and may all else lose its appeal.
 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar-when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.  And all people will see God’s salvation.'”  John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”  Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.  Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-be content with your pay.”  The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.  But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done,  Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
Reflect:HOW WAS JOHN PREPARING THE PEOPLE FOR JESUS' COMING?
John certainly doesn’t mince his words. He’s very clear about the kind of lifestyle he expects from those who come to be baptized (11-14), and he’s very clear about his opinion of those who don’t live that way (7-9).John’s message is repentance (3), but he does not want people simply to agree with him. He expects their professed desire to repent to actually produce change in their lives (8). When the people wonder what that might look like, John offers some practical examples. Perhaps the examples need to change a bit for our modern lives, but not much. They basically come down to generosity (11), honesty (13,14), and being content rather than complaining (14). Repentance means more than regretting the wrong things we’ve done. Just because repentance leads to forgiveness (3) doesn’t mean we’re then free to keep on sinning. No, John is saying that if we are truly sorry for the wrong that we’ve done, we will seek to live differently from now on. Baptism is a picture of this: we die to our old ways, and are raised to a new life and a new way of living (16).
Ask the Lord to help you live out the new life you have received through your baptism in Christ.
Jesus, thank You that You gave Your life so that I may have life.
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