|John in the Wilderness - Alexandre Bida|
TO CHEW ON: "Now as the people were in expectation…" Luke 3:15
We don't know whether the intense supernatural activity that surrounded Jesus' birth continued on through His growing up years. Both Luke and Matthew gloss over those years to the time He began His public ministry. But the supernatural was clearly present in His introduction to the crowds by the remarkable John the Baptist.
We read about John's beginnings in Luke 1. Now at 30-ish— he was a few months older than Jesus—he was quite the spectacle. A desert-dweller who dressed in clothes made of camel's hair and lived on locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4), he left his life of seclusion to preach repentance and baptize converts in the Jordan River.
He may not have cut as odd a figure to the people of his time as he does to us, though. There was a desert sect called the Essenes who lived in Qumran, a few miles to the south of John's baptism site. There were many similarities between John and the Essenes. Bible commenter Dale G. Robinson compares the two:
- Both John and the Essenes were of a priestly line.
- They both practiced baptism.
- Their teaching had a similar theme with Isaiah 40:3 foundational as a text for both.
- They preached to an audience.
It was in this audience department where Robinson points out one notable difference between John and the Essenes. While their audience was limited "… to an external fringe… John … came to prepare the ordinary person for the end times. He spoke to soldiers, Pharisees, and ordinary people alike" - Dale. G.Robinson, "Was John the Baptist an Essene?" He even managed to offend the king (Luke 3:19,20)!
John's hearers came out, not to ridicule his oddness but to hear from God. They sensed there was something different and real about his preaching. It was supernatural. Under it, conviction came leading to changed lives. This led to the spiritual climate described in the verse fragment that is our focus today: "The people were in expectation..."
Fast forward to us today. As we watch world events playing out especially in the Middle East (compare Matthew 24:7), as we experience the accelerating moral slide in our society (cf. Matthew 24:9-12), as the alarm cries about the state of our planet become ear-splitting (cf. Matthew 24:7,29) I feel the expectation rise in me (cf. Matthew 24:30,31). Don't you feel it too?
Let's listen to and heed John's warning to repent and live righteously as we wait in expectation for the curtain to rise on the next act in God's drama for planet Earth.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for way-preparers like John the Baptist, who are unafraid to be Your messengers. Help me to be alert to my times and living prepared and in expectation as Your plans for Earth unfold. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.