Today’s scripture starts with an interesting historical setting. Luke mentions Tiberius, Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas, and Caiaphas in whose time a small child was born to a small town priest and his barren wife.
Some of them will be mentioned in the later writings of Luke as people who beheaded John, Proclaimed a sentence on Jesus, persecuted others and more. But for now, they are leaders into kingdom, region and time John appears speaking of repentance.
A prophet is born to an insignificant man compared to others and an impossible woman when it is about child bearing. Natural law is broken to call the world for change.
The word repentance makes people stiff. Repentance is about change and that is not pleasant as we grow older. We are used to certain ways of doing things and don’t like anyone telling us to change.
Do you think these seven people mentioned here liked the ideas John brought to their attention? I don’t believe it. I am sure they had spotted John and he was under surveillance the moment he started talking about change of hearts and minds.
There is a very funny YouTube video named “Family Survival kit”. When you get a chance please watch it. It is putting out a solution for people who ask us to change, children who disturb us, a mother-in-law who won’t go from behind us, a mother who is too affectionate. Some of us can take this path. For others:
I am sure you all have heard the story of the mule that fell into the well. But for those who haven’t here is the gist. The farmer whose mule fell into the well decided to bury him as he found no worth in saving him. He calls the neighbors and friends and says, let us bury him and close the well at the same time. As he began dropping the dirt into the well he had an idea and he said it aloud, “shake it off and step up”. The mule who was petrified of what was happening heard it and did as the farmer said. By the time the well was closed up the mule stepped out triumphantly. He took into his hands the control of his destiny.
This is the story of John here. He calls the leaders of his time, the seven powerful men and their followers of the time, to shake it off and step up. Let not the dirt of your past or present bury you down to your death. Let not the dust of the old make you filthy. Shake it off and step up. It is easy to shake it off and but not easy to step up.
Repentance is stepping up. It is not easy. True repentance consists of four things.
1. A true sense of one’s own guilt and sinfulness. (Against you have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. – Ps 51: 4)
2. An apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ. (Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. – Ps 51: 11)
3. An actual hatred of sin. (I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way – Ps 119: 128)
4. A persistent desire to lead a Holy Life. (For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret. – 2 Cor 7:10)
The true translation of the Greek word for repentance – Metanoia – calls us to three things.
· Change of mind
· Change of Purpose
· Change of life.
This is what John is calling the people to. He was unpopular because he called to change their way of living their faith. They were used to their old ways of doing things. He calls them to shake it off and step up. Change the status-quo.
Surely you have heard these expressions.
This is how we did it for so long.
Yes we are surrounded by powerful people, social status, history and place just like John who was surrounded by the impossible realities.
Advent is a time for us to make the impossible in us to happen. It is a time that calls for the barrenness of our hearts to give way to the life of a prophet. Advent calls for removal of status quo and shifting of power. It calls us to ‘shake it off and step up’ to a new era of truth and justice when the path to God will become straight and smooth.
And “All flesh shall see the Salvation of God” and no one is exempt.