Fruits Worthy of Repentance - Luke 3

Fruits Worthy of Repentance

Luke 3:1-38

In the first two verses of the third chapter of Luke's gospel eight people are mentioned.  The first seven are Tiberius Caesar, the supreme emperor of the Roman Empire; Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea; Herod, ruler of Galilee; Philip, ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias, ruler of Abilene; Annas, a high priest; and Caiaphas, another high priest.  Herod and Philip were brothers.  Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas.  All of these men were well known leaders in Israel.  But there is an eighth person introduced.  His name was John.  We met his parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1.  He was indeed the prophet of the Highest.

"The word of God came to John...in the wilderness.  And he went into all the region around Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."  He was not a recluse or hermit who lived in the wilderness waiting for others to come to him.  He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord.  John traveled like an itinerate evangelist, calling people to repentance.  He preached, "Repent, and be baptized.  Christ is coming.  Be prepared to meet Him." 

John's baptism is not the same as Christian baptism.  The distinction is made in Acts 19:1-5.  The apostle Paul baptized twelve men who had received John's baptism of repentance.

John the Baptist was a fire and brimstone type of preacher.  He warned of a baptism of fire, where God would burn the useless chaff with unquenchable fire.  He spoke out fearlessly of the wrath and judgment of God.  Many people came from Jerusalem and Judea to hear this prophet.  Not everyone was received with a smile and a handshake.  "He said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, 'Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?'" 

This prophet, who called the people to repentance, wanted some evidence of their repentance.  Before he would baptize them he wanted to see "fruits worthy of repentance."  What nonsense to baptize those who are unrepentant!  John demanded proof of their change of mind and heart.

Fruits worthy of repentance?  This led to a question from the people.  "What shall we do?"  John replied specifically addressing three groups.  The first group was the people in general.  To them he said, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."  In other words, he was telling them to share what they had with the poor.  Next he addressed the tax collectors, who were despised by the people.  He said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."  He was saying, "Be honest."  The third groups were soldiers.  To them he said, "Do not intimidate (or shake down for money) anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages."  Apparently the soldiers received low wages, which motivated them to resort to intimidation.

There may be a temptation by some to compare John the Baptist with today's preachers.  Instead, let's ask ourselves the question, "Do we bear the fruits worthy of repentance?"  Are we kind and generous toward those less fortunate?  Do we cheat on our income taxes?  Are we honest?  Are we content with such things as we have?  How would John the Baptist address us, if he saw us coming?

 

Lord, we realize that true greatness is not found in many of our world leaders.  Bless those who fearlessly preach your Word today in the power of Your Spirit.  Teach us to abide in you, that we also might bear fruit to your glory.  In Jesus' name.  Amen! 

 

Rejection at Home - Luke 4

 
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