Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Hairy Mantle of John the Prophet

It takes time for a plan to come together. God had been planning for some time but now was the time to act. The Gospel this week (Mark 1.18) tells us that his Gospel is the foundation of Good News for the entire earth. Why? Because Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God has come to us; the timeless Son of God enters human history. God took the opportunity to enter human history to affect our exodus back to him through himself. And why is this Good News? Because it is what we were created for – to know God and to enjoy him forever. Jesus’ coming is the beginning of the shinning of the resurrection light into human existence. Jesus is going to be revealed as the Christ, the Son of the living God by who he is and what he does.

Jesus is here for us and to draw us back to the Father is news that needs to be shared because it is a big deal. We are coming to the Feast of the Nativity or the Feast of the Incarnation – better known as Mass of Christ or Christmas. How do we let people know that there is something important that is going to happen and that it is not fake news?

Consider John the Baptist – he came to do two simple but powerful things: to baptize people in preparation of the revelation of the Christ (Messiah) and to proclaim the need for people to get back to God because the kingdom was coming to them and was very near. It is through Jesus that we will learn to know and call God, “Father”. Jesus will reveal his own relationship as a Father-Son relationship. He will reveal God as “Father, Son and Spirit”. Jesus will call people to follow him in discipleship – to undergo a baptism not just of cleansing but also being drench in pain and suffering. Jesus is going to call everyone he meets to repentance and to faith because the kingdom of God is coming near to them. John proclamation was a call, a demand for people to return to God so that they could be led back to him.

It should be made clear that confession of sin both in public and in private was common in First Century Judaism. Jews were well acquainted with purity law as and baptism could happen anytime a person wanted.  Those converting to Judaism were baptized only once for conversion – not unlike Christian baptism which is imposed once, for the forgiveness of sins. Historian Josephus once pointed out that “God is very easily reconciled to those who confess and repent” There is a need to know the Truth in the Christian faith and then to live it. Faith and repentance are at the core of who we are as people of God.

People when from all over the South of Israel to hear John preach and to be baptized in response to what they were hearing. Why? Because they were getting ready for the kingdom and for something else that is important for the Church, even today: revival. What did they go out to see and to hear? What God was asking of him. When I went to General Synod the first time, more than 25 years ago now, the Synod was covered by both the Church and secular media because people wanted to hear what God was saying. They may have disagreed with what was being said but they were still interested in what needed to be heard. The people of John’s day heard a message that called them to immediate repentance and faith in God because God was coming to them. People responded to that because they became aware of the fact that they were separated from God and wanted to reconnect. People needed God because they desired hope and were searching for something that the religious leaders of the day could not offer them: renewal and revival. The time was right for revival in the Land. People were hungering and thirsting for God and what God could do for them.

We are called to proclaim the Good news too – calling people to repentance and to faith because the King and his kingdom are coming to them. Like John, we are not bound by our surroundings. People will respond when they are called. We need to live what we preach then and preach what we live. We must do both because faith without works is dead and works without faith are empty gestures. And just as importantly we need to proclaim the kingdom with power. It is not necessarily doing the extraordinary thing every day but rather with extraordinary love, hope and trust in God.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, come soon. 


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