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Second Sunday in Advent

Luke 3:1–20

James T. Batchelor

Second Sunday in Advent
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Dec 6, 2015 

As I said during the announcements last week, we have just begun year C in the three year lectionary.  While we dont completely avoid readings from the other gospel accounts, the Gospel According to Luke provides the majority of the readings we will hear this year.

One of the things about Lukes Gospel that you dont really notice unless someone tells you about it is the symmetry of Lukes Gospel.  Luke begins with the account of Zechariah serving in the temple.  It ends with the disciples in the temple.  The next event is the descent of the Son of God into the womb of the virgin.  The second last event in Lukes Gospel is the ascent of the Son of God back into heaven.  In todays reading from the Gospel account, we heard that John the Baptist went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:3) On the day of resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:4647) So we have Zechariah in the temple matching the disciples in the temple; the descent of the Son of God matching the ascent of the Son of God; AND a proclamation of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins matching the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins.

There are many reasons for this symmetry, but one of the reasons is that neither John nor Jesus invent anything new in their teachings.  Both John and Jesus locate their authority in the writings of Holy Scripture.  This is especially interesting in Jesus case since Jesus actually is God and could base His teaching on His own power and authority.  Never the less, Jesus constantly based His teachings on the Holy Scriptures using phrases such as Have you not read, and It is written on a regular basis.

Johns authority comes straight out of the prophet Isaiah where it is written, The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Luke 3:4) Johns calling is the calling of preparation.  He is to prepare people for the coming of the Lord.  AND, as our Lord instructed His apostles after He rose from the dead, preparation begins in repentance.

The Augsburg confession describes repentance in this way.

Now, strictly speaking, repentance consists of two parts. 4 One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. 5 The other part is faith, which is born of the Gospel [Romans 10:17] or the Absolution and believes that for Christs sake, sins are forgiven. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror. 6 Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruit of repentance [Galatians 5:2223]. (AC: I, art. xii, par. 36)

Before repentance, a human being makes his way through life fairly well pleased with himself.  He may not think of himself as perfect, but he believes he is not that bad.  There are certainly people in this world who are way worse than he is.  He figures that the good outweighs the bad and he will be OK in the end.  Such a person is in denial of his true status before God.

John the Baptist had a rather startling way of shocking people out of their complacent self-deception.  He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, You brood of vipers! (Luke 3:7) This condemnation borrows from the account of the fall of Adam and Eve where the devil appeared as a serpent.  Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1) By calling them a brood of vipers, John the Baptist was calling them children of the devil.

He then continued his warning by saying, Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Luke 3:7) With these words, John was basically warning them that, if nothing changed, they were destined for the eternal punishment of hell.

Although todays text does not describe the reactions to this condemnation, Johns next words give us a clue.  He said, And do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:8) Apparently, some in the crowd objected to Johns condemnation by saying something like, You cant talk to me that way.  I am a circumcised child of Abraham.  Ive got rights.  I find you remarks offensive. John informed such folks that there is no claim to salvation based on biology even if you are descended from Abraham.

The proper preparation for the coming judgment is repentance.  John said, Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8) Acknowledge your sin.  Admit that you have earned both temporal and eternal punishment.  Confess that you would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  Admit that you would remain under the power of your father the devil if it were not for the promise of God to send the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One to come and rescue you.

Johns judgment is still valid today.  We still suffer from the sin passed on to us down through the generations from Adam himself.  The Word of God still teaches us that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We are still lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  As we said earlier in the service, we are poor, miserable sinners who have offended God and earned both temporal and eternal punishment.

We live in the days after the Christ came to save us from the condemnation of sin, but, at this time of year, we try to imagine what it was like for the Old Testament Christians to look forward to the fulfillment of Gods promise of a savior.  Todays text tells us that the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ.  By the power of the Holy Spirit some people responded to Johns warning with an eager desire for the coming of the Christ.  Some people even wondered if John himself might be the Christ.

John answered them all, saying, I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16) John made it clear that He was not the Christ.  He also made it clear that the Christ was coming soon.

John also pointed out the difference between His baptism and the baptism of the Christ who is to come.  John baptized with water in preparation for the coming of the Christ.  Jesus participated in that baptism and then went forward to His own bloody baptism on the cross.  When John baptized Him, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove.  When He hung on that cross, He endured the fire of Gods wrath against our sin.  He has undergone this baptism of water, Spirit, blood, and fire as a substitute for us all.

Those who have received Holy Baptism according to Christs command become joined to Christ as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:36) Through baptism, we are united to Christ.  God considers us baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire.  Christ has taken our sins away and replaced them with His righteousness.

During the season of Advent, we think of Christs three comings.  Christ has already come to take away our sins.  Repentance was the way to prepare for that coming.  Christ has yet to come in order to judge the living and the dead on the Last Day.  Repentance is also the way to prepare for that coming.  Christ comes to us now as we hear His word and take His body and blood into our mouths.  We repent and receive the forgiveness that Jesus earned for us with His baptism of blood and fire on the cross.  Repentance prepares us for His coming.  Amen

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