“The Word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness” according to the Lord’s good plan to unveil the good news of redemption to Israel. The final Old Testament prophet “went into all the region around the Jordan,” bringing an uncompromising message of repentance to many who were eager to hear him.
John insisted on more than a simple confession of sin from those who wanted to be baptized. A verbal admission of guilt coupled with a return to old patterns of transgression is not a worthy plan for anyone. God was ready to judge Israel. “The axe” was already at “the root of the trees,” and the people needed to change their ways. “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Many of those who heard John wondered whether he “might be the Christ.” The spokesman for the Almighty knew that there was a far greater Man coming after him. One day a descendant of David would judge the earth, gathering “the wheat into His barn, but the chaff” would face “unquenchable fire.”
While such a proclamation might seem unusually harsh to those who imagine a god without wrath, Luke called John’s message “good news.” Herod the “tetrarch of Galilee” would not turn from his own sin and even “locked up John in prison,” but Yahweh spoke the truth from heaven about Jesus: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
The first man, Adam, was rightly called “the son of God.” Jesus came as a second Adam, not only to remove from us the guilt of our trespasses, but also to make us children of God who would one day hear the Word of the Lord and “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Adam plunged all his progeny into death and despair, but Jesus identified with us in our desperate need and saved us.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Sovereign Lord, we need You. Our record of sin is offensive to You. We seek the gift of holiness. Show us Your salvation. Cause us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Make us trust in Christ alone and not in any lesser association. Teach us to share our food with the hungry and to rid ourselves of every abusive or oppressive impulse. Your Son has come, and He has baptized the church with the Holy Spirit. He will return again in judgment. We must be found in Him on that day. Wicked rulers will use their power to pursue their own desires, but they will be disappointed. Many would try to silence the Word that is spoken by Your servants. They will not be able to win in the end. Their kingdoms will be swept away, but Jesus lives forever and ever. He is the second Adam, the promised seed of Abraham, and our eternal hope. Have mercy on us, and grant to us great consolations in the glory of the One who is Your only-begotten.