Today the listed daily readings of the Reformed Churches begin to follow the Gospel of Luke. This blog will use these readings along with headlines from world news
“SCOTLAND WILL NOT FORGIVE LADY THATCHER FOR UNJUST POLL TAX!” M.P. STATES
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Several years later: John prepares the way of Christ
3 1-6 In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius (a year when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip, his brother, tetrarch of the territory of Iturea and Trachonitis and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene while Annas and Caiaphas were the High Priests) the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, while he was in the desert. He went into the whole country round about the Jordan proclaiming baptism as a mark of a complete change of heart and of the forgiveness of sins, as the book of the prophet Isaiah says—‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill brought low; and the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’.
7-9 So John used to say to the crowds who came out to be baptised by him, “Who warned you, you serpent’s brood, to escape from the wrath to come? See that you do something to show that your hearts are really changed! Don’t start thinking that you can say to yourselves, ‘We are Abraham’s children’, for I tell you that God could produce children of Abraham out of these stones! The axe already lies at the root of the tree, and the tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 Then the crowds would ask him, “Then what shall we do?”
11 And his answer was, “The man who has two shirts must share with the man who has none, and the man who has food must do the same.”
12 Some of the tax-collectors also came to him to be baptised and they asked him, “Master, what are we to do?”
13 “You must not demand more than you are entitled to,” he replied.
14 And the soldiers asked him, “And what are we to do?” “Don’t bully people, don’t bring false charges, and be content with your pay,” he replied.
John the Baptist preached that God was coming to his people in judgment and salvation through his Messiah, but that he had been sent in advance to call people to a change of heart. Faced with the approaching judgment people ask John what can be done. Notice he doesn’t tell them they should pray, or wear sackcloth and ashes, or simply fall down in terror; he tells them to act justly towards others in ways that are appropriate to their lives: wealthier citizens should share resources with the poor, tax collectors for the Roman conquerors should collect only the sum agreed with the authorities, soldiers should not abuse civilians.
The way to justice is justice. There’s no reason to delay its implementation. Complete amelioration of society may not be possible but that’s no excuse for doing nothing, John tells people to do the obvious small things that further justice in society.
The present Government in the UK rules in favour of wealthy people and against the welfare of the poor. Doubtless one day it will be kicked out. One day indeed, as perhaps the late Lady Thatcher is finding, we’ll all stand before the judgment of God. But in the short term, every citizen can do the small acts that further justice. Many are already doing this by setting up food distribution depots, making sure their elderly neighbours are warm, and the like. The way to justice is justice. Yes, people should protest; but if they do not also act justly to their neighbours, their protest is a sham. Justice is not given to people on a plate; it must be created by people who do their duty.
Above all, according to John nobody should be in any doubt that God is in favour of justice and utterly opposed to injustice and unjust people. That’s why those who cause injustice should tremble and those who suffer from it should endure in hope.