Scripture Focus: Luke 3.10-14
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 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.”
Reflection: A Rebellion of Repentance
By John Tillman
John the Baptizer was considered a prophet by the people, even though he did no “signs.” The only signs anyone ever got from John were the tongue-lashing of his teaching, his testimony about Jesus, and his sacramental baptism of repentance.
John was so outside the norms of his society that enemies said he “had a demon.” (Matthew 11.18) He rejected the cushy religious establishment and embraced radical asceticism, rejecting the typical comforts people associated with being blessed. He even rejected the comfortable teaching that, as children of Abraham, the Jews could smugly rely on God’s continued blessing.
If John’s person and message were so discomforting, how was he so popular? Why did the sinful, like Herod, like to listen to him? Of course, he had enemies, but even after his death, the religious leaders didn’t dare to slight him. (Mark 11.31-33)
John’s teaching had barbs of uncomfortable truth but also had hope. John acknowledged that the world was full of snakes but the snake-crusher was coming. (Genesis 3.15) The orchard was stricken with blight, but the axe was about to swing and the fruitless would be cut down.
People wanted to be on the side of the snake-crusher, not the snakes. They wanted the axe-swinger to notice their fruit and spare them. “What should we do?” they asked.
We might expect this crazed, desert preacher to recommend they quit their jobs, flee the city, and live in the desert eating bugs and honey. We expect him to tell the tax collectors, “Your job supports a corrupt empire’s financial system! Quit!” We expect the soldiers to hear, “Stop enforcing the evil laws of the empire!” We expect the downtrodden crowd to hear, “Rebel against the government! Join the uprising!” Instead, all John’s commands are financial in nature and they all involve staying IN the world.
“Don’t cheat. Keep working, even as part of the empire, but with integrity. Don’t steal. Keep bringing order to chaos through the law, but without abuse of power. Be foolishly generous. Be near the impoverished and help them.”
The repentance John describes is a rebellion more radical than violent insurrection. Rebellion out of hate only destroys. John’s rebellion of repentance is motivated by love that longs to restore what is right. The snake-crushing, axe-wielding one is coming. Allies of the snake-crusher will show fruitful repentance that brings justice, fairness, and abundance to the needy.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Turn from evil, and do good; and dwell in the land forever.
For the Lord loves justice; he does not forsake his faithful ones.
They shall be kept safe forever, but the offspring of the wicked shall be destroyed.
The righteous shall possess the land and dwell in it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and their tongue speaks what is right.
The law of their God is in their heart, and their footsteps shall not falter. — Psalm 37.28-33
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Exodus 21 (Listen 4:44)
Luke 3 (Listen 5:24)
This Weekend’s Reading
Exodus 22 (Listen 4:44) Luke 4 (Listen 5:27)
Exodus 23 (Listen 4:44) Luke 5 (Listen 5:04)
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