As I look to the lectionary selections for the third Sunday in Advent I am taken by Luke 3:7-18 with the account of John the Baptist. Here I found in the opening verses the image of garden with water, snakes, fruits, stones, trees, axes, wheat and its chaff, and fire. Admittedly I have not grown wheat in my garden and zoning restrictions prevent the use of fire in fall clean up, yet perhaps this was an invitation by the familiar to look deeper in the text.
As I looked at the Luke text I found it could be separated into at least three separate thoughts with a conclusion at the end with verse 18 in “So with many exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.” The “he” was John the Baptist, but were the people that came to be baptized and were called “vipers” then possibly relevant to today? I reflect on who can claim Abraham as ancestor and am saddened recognizing how this is often forgotten today. Reading on the inclusion of tax collectors and soldiers coming to be baptized and wanting to know “what should we do?” raises question in me as to the voices of secular authority looking for guidance. Their question is one of preparation. Yet John’s response is one of monetary regulation to them and one of charity of food and clothing to the crowd. This part ...
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...elf. John therefore, was a source of meaning for Jesus. And the meaning was structured around John’s preaching of the apocalypse.” His use of the 1998 scholarly work The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide by Theissen and Merz supported his image of young Jesus as a follower/disciple of John. This was pointing to the connection of John “preparing” Jesus for his “coming.”
Another thought that Carroll reminded me of was the prominence of John the Baptist in the recordings of the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus in the first century. The questions of the crowd in the text asking John if he was the Messiah is easily understood when looking at his reputation and possible longevity as preacher. Carroll offers a persuasive narrative of the relationship of Jesus and John and yet it comes down to the question is it possible or even probable? Yes, is it for certain? No.
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