It wasn’t that long ago that the authorities around the Carolinas were telling us to prepare for a hurricane and now we’re all stuck inside for snow-mageddon 2018. It is interesting the see the different responses people have to these warnings. Tons of people rush to the store for bread and milk...even if they are glutton free and lactose intolerant! Some scoff at the warnings because, “it is never as big of a deal as they make it out to be.” Others take to social media to mock the voices crying out to prepare people, “Where is this snow you warned us about?!” One of the saddest realizations I had during the hurricane came when one of my friends sent me a message from Oklahoma asking why people didn’t leave their houses when they knew the storm was coming and they were warned about it. My sad realization was that many people hear those warnings but have no one to help them because they don’t have reliable transportation. Others simply refuse to leave their homes and would rather chance it.
John the Baptist is the voice crying out pointing to the storm. Immediate danger needs urgent action and John is calling for the people to respond. The people respond to John and go to meet him in the wilderness. His message about the chaotic storm around them is one of repentance. Luke provides a list of names and places to not only place the reader within a specific context but also places us within the story of oppression and misery that has built up to an exploding point. Rome has ruled for 100 years and has had puppet rulers in the area for a short time. They all rule in the same way, fear and oppression. The high priests at the time weren’t much different. Something had to be done!
The people were enslaved in their own land and John brought a message of liberation that reconnected Israel with her ancient story. Those who are enslaved in Egypt are brought redemption. They were baptized when they passed through the Red Sea. The next generation came through baptism again when they came to the Promised Land through the Jordan. This is where John stands, on the banks of the Jordan, calling the people to repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of their sins. He is echoing the last prophetic message God’s people heard, “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Malachi 3:7).
This baptism of forgiveness of sins is just a small glimpse of the baptism that Christ will bring. We pass through water from chaos and into peace. This week of Advent is focused on peace. Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace, shalom, in the Bible carries the idea that all has been made right. The baptism that Jesus offers us is one of peace where all will be made right in the end.
When you hear the voices crying out warnings about the storms that are coming, what kind of response do you tend to have? What chaos do you have in your life that needs redemption? What do you need to repent of so that you might find peace?