For Open Hearts. In a world where dark and terrible events threaten to harden our hearts daily, don’t we all? This is the Second week of Advent 2016. As we at the Coop walk through Advent this year we’re focusing on hope because of the hope brought with Jesus’ birth for the world, hope of forgiveness and salvation. Hope of renewal, peace and love. This week we walk with Luke seeking to keep our hearts open.
Scripture: Luke 3:1-6
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
Background on the Text:
- One of the challenges for the gospel writers was to put John the Baptist into context and relationship with Jesus. JB was a prophetic figure who lived at the same time as Jesus and had his own followers, and also had a similar message to that of Jesus. The solution that the gospel writers came up with was to make John a forerunner of Jesus and a person who predicted the coming of Jesus.
- Luke draws a straight line from Isaiah to JB to Jesus, thus once again suggesting that God’s plan for salvation was in place for a long time, and Jesus was part of that plan from the beginning.
Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:
- Luke wants to write an “orderly account” of the life of Jesus, and thus put the story in the context of history and make it trustworthy on that basis. So every time he gets a chance, Luke mentions other historical people. He mentions both Roman officials and Jewish leaders.
- JB was baptizing people, a practice that may have been connected with introducing converts to the Jewish faith, or just a common ritual of “cleansing” associated with new beginnings.
- JB baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, an idea that the early Church will take up.
- Verse 4 is an example of the importance of commas. In Isaiah 40:3, the quote is, “A voice cries out, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.” In Luke, the quote is “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” So Luke changes the text to make JB the one who is in the wilderness, and not the Lord. This matches his portrayal of JB.
- The quote from Isaiah is referring to the return of the Israelite exiles from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem and Israel. Isaiah is proclaiming that God will make a smooth highway for the exiles to return, and that God will lead them home.
- Luke also adds, “the salvation of the Lord” to the Isaiah text.
Questions the Text Asks of Us:
- JB is asking people to see the world as a place that God is actively rearranging. Do you see God actively interfering with human destiny?
- What does salvation mean to you?
- What are some of the things that cause you to “close your heart?”