John the Desert Teacher (Hunch 6)
Chapter 1: 4-8
And so John came, baptizing in the desert
region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The
whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.
Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore
clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate
locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more
powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and
untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In a Nutshell:
John told the people what God required. He also told them the
most important person ever was coming and there would be big changes.
Why do you think John decided to go into the desert to
tell God's message?
There never was a time in his life when John
wasn't being reminded he was special. He felt special and others knew it too.
It started even before he was born.
Even though his father was a priest he hadn't
believed it when one of God's messengers told him a baby was finally 'on the
way'. Zechariah was supposed to believe in the God of Abraham and Isaac and
instead started arguing with the angel who had visited him in the temple. Of
all the times and places to have an argument with an angel. The story goes that
the angel told Zechariah that because he wanted to argue with God about what
was possible, he wouldn't speak again until after the baby was born. That was that!
So while John was in his mum's tummy, his dad had to write notes to Elisabeth
his mother. When John's mum gave birth to a baby boy all the friends and family
gathered for the baby-naming party. They had decided what the baby's name was
going to be - Zechariah after his dad. Logical. That's what they thought! The
baby's dad was getting old and grey and probably this was his last throw of the
dice. The baby would be Zechariah, son of Zechariah the priest. But then there
was another argument. Zechariah got really agitated and it seemed like he might
blow a fuse until they realised that the baby was going to be named John.
"Sure! " the people said. "John may be a nice name but you're
Zechariah and …" Then they saw that Zechariah meant it. They backed off. And
then, as much to his own surprise as anyone else's, Zechariah's voice returned
for the first time in nine months. "His name is John!" he shouted.
"His name is John!" "OK. OK already. Quieten down. You'll upset
the neighbours, it's getting late." What a story to start life with! That
was when the wider family circle and the friends of Zechariah and Elizabeth,
including her cousin Mary, who was also expecting a baby, realised that they
had become part of something big happening in their neck of the woods. This
baby was very special. In a few years he was a lively boy. The lad grew to
become known as a teacher and a preacher.
has a task from God. But John's parents taught him that his work had been
defined by Isaiah the prophet years and years ago. As it is written in Isaiah
the prophet: “I send my messenger ahead of you, who
will prepare your way”-- “a voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the
way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’" John wore
simple clothes of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. And for
food he ate whatever was nearby - the word locust in our dictionary can also
refers to a fruit but here, I guess, it means an insect. He also ate wild
honey. His message was all about being cleansed in preparation for the One God was
going to send. He didn't expect the people to eat grasshoppers and wild-honey,
but he put it to them straight. He’s coming any day! To enter His kingdom, wash
your sins away. Now. Today. Don't hesitate. Admit it. Clean up! Get ready!
you didn't think you needed to wash your sins away you would might not have
gone out to listen. And if you did go out, and decided you didn't want to hear
that you were a hypocrite, you probably left early. But some went out because
they wanted to show how religious they were to the crowds that were going. The
religious leaders didn't support John but they made the trip, and when they
entered the water to show how religious they were, John let them have it. He
recognised fake repentance when he saw it. You
religious leaders are nothing but a nest of snakes! Give up your hypocrisy -
you don’t fool God, you know. Show repentance - not just by being washed - but
by doing good. Trees that have no fruit get cut down! God's fire burns out all
the dead wood!
What do you think about John? Mark tells us he made a big
difference for lots of people by getting them ready for Jesus, by teaching out
in the desert, away from the towns, away from the synagogues, away from the
places where people's lives were organised. John knew that people who lived,
worshipped and listened to God's law together could also be hypocrites
together. So, out into the desert he went to teach about repentance and he also
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