December 6, 2020 ~ John the Baptist

Readings for Sunday, December 6

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Mark 1:1-8

 

John the Baptist:

Each year, on the second Sunday of Advent, we read the story of John the Baptist. We read of this strange character that came onto the scene preaching repentance to the hordes of people who came out to see him. With his camel hair clothing and leather belt, his long hair, and his diet of locusts and honey, John seems quite strange indeed.

          Each of the gospel writers presents John the Baptist in their own way. The writer of the gospel of John is the most unabashed of the four, having John the Baptist twice confess that he isn’t the Messiah (just in case anyone was confused). John also makes it clear that John is not Elijah. Luke offers the most background, naming John as Jesus’ cousin, whose birth was foretold to Zechariah and who would, “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17) and “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke3:3). Matthew presents John in a forthright manner. His characterization of John’s preaching is notably severe, in a fire and brimstone way: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

          Mark, whose gospel was written some ten to twenty years before the others, somewhere around 70AD, presents the repentance John called for as the appropriate preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John is to be seen as the prophet who prepared the way for Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.

Although each gospel writer presents John the Baptist differently, all see him as the one who stands at the beginning of the gospel story, so that the new Word of the coming of Jesus Christ can be heard.

 
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